by Amanda MacMillan
CN Digital Studio Running and music go together like peanut butter and bananas -- but it's gotta be the right kind of music. There's nothing worse than when you're feeling great and zooming along to Rihanna, and then Johnny Cash just like jumps in with some slow, sad country ballad. (Can you tell my husband and I share an iTunes subscription?) And yes, playlists can -- and do -- solve the slow-jam problem, but sometimes, you just want someone else to do all that curating for you.
(Speaking of music, our annual music issue launched this week -- check out this interview with cover star Ke$ha.)
To attempt to solve the problem of my not-so-runner-friendly music selection, I tested out two brand-new iPhone apps that claim to pick and choose the best running songs from your playlist, or beyond. (Sorry, no Android version for either, yet.) After a couple of workouts with each, here's the skinny on both.
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For $2.99, Tempo Run will analyze your music collection and categorize your songs by beats per minute, on a scale of 1 to 10. The setup is super fast and easy, and to get started, you just select your preferred tempo -- 1 for walking, 5 for jogging, 10 for sprinting -- and get going. Most of the songs that came up during my Level 5 and Level 8 run sessions seemed to match up pretty well. The ones that didn't are easy enough to tag for manual re-categorizing, too.
If you get tired of your own music, you can log in to SoundCloud -- the "largest community of artists, bands, podcasters and creators of music and audio" -- and stream from an enormous collection of music in whatever genre you choose. Just a heads up, though, you probably won't hear too many songs or artists you actually know; Soundcloud is based in Germany and is designed for indie and emerging artists to get their work out there. I skipped through about 10 songs before I even recognized a band's name. (For the record, I like FitRadio's curated BPM playlists a lot better.) Still, it's a cool way to switch it up if you're really tired of your own tunes or are looking to discover new talent.
Cruise Control: Run
Cruise Control: Run is a little more complex, hence the slightly higher $4.99 price tag. But with it, you get a lot: Four different modes, including Run (just turn it on and go; the app matches the music to your pace), Pace, Heart Rate and Cadence (pick a target goal and the app will adjust your music to keep you on target). Pace and Cadence works well enough without an external sensor as long as you have GPS enabled, but for Heart Rate you'll need a heart-rate monitor, either ANT+ (with a phone key) or bluetooth.
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I tested out the Cadence and Pace (GPS) modes, and I'll admit that it did take a while for the app to really get to know me. But by the end of my second run, I felt like we were starting to really work well together. The app really does speed up or slow down the tempo of your music -- I noticed this especially in Cadence mode -- but without the weird chipmunk-sounding effect. And if you start ignoring the music and going at your own pace, a metronome chimes in to get you back on track. When your run's over, you can even share out your results over Facebook and Twitter, or email yourself a file that you can then upload to programs like Runkeeper. Pretty sweet.
So both apps offer something pretty unique when it comes to music curation, and they also both track your pace and distance via GPS, and keep a history of your workouts -- not bad for just a few bucks in the App store!
Do you have a favorite music and running app?
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by Amanda MacMillan