The idea of running to music is nothing new. Every second person you meet running is wearing headphones. What if there was a real purpose to the music? What if the music you were listening to exactly matched your planned running session? Well a company have started doing exactly this – Audio Fuel.
Firstly, the name is great – Audio Fuel – it’s energetic and does exactly what is says on the tin. I was like a kid in a sweet shop when I first went in to download the music. I was particularly lethargic that evening – looking for an excuse to avoid getting out. Was I procrastinating by downloading music when I should be running? Perhaps, but the end in this case was worth the means.
I started off with the ‘3 Step Intervals’ session with voice coaching by Martin Yelling (Liz’s husband). After a brief introduction it was into a 155 beats per minute (bpm) track with voiceover ‘Feet to the Audio Fuel beat 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4‘. The warm-up track translated into about 4:20/km pace for me. Unfortunately the warm-up was only 5 minutes, but I went with it as the session was a gradual build-up in intensity. The session was essentially 3 cycles of 3 x 3 minutes off 3 minutes (i.e. 9 x 3min) with increasing intensity with each rep. The three intensity step increases were 160 bpm (approx 4:10/km), 170 bpm (approx 3:55/km), and 180 bpm (approx 3:40/km). Pretty tame session – more akin to fartlek running than a session, but it was enjoyable and I returned home feeling positive. I particularly liked the voice over coaching – similar to what you’d expect in an aerobics class, so particularly good for those starting out or making the transition from the gym to the great outdoors. Typical coaching voiceovers were:
My first dabble with Audio Fuel was enough to grab my attention. The ‘3 Step Interval’ workout didn’t feel like a session, but perhaps that’s the beauty of this music. Some researchers suggest that music can help athletes increase endurance by 15%, but don’t believe that hype. It’s simply a way of making running on your own easier. My main criticisms of the ‘3 Step Interval’ session is that intervals are too tame and the recovery times are too long. But it’s ideal for someone starting out or for the seasoned athlete on a relatively easy day.
Next up was the long run sessions – ‘Run Free’ and ‘Run Wild’. Now these are really designed for the marathon runner. Each are 2 hours long, with ‘Run Free’ averaging 160-165 bpm (about 4:10/km for me) and ‘Run Wild’ averaging 165-170 bpm (about 3:55/km). Again these are available with coaching voiceover, which personally I like. Getting feedback on run form and progress within session is useful.
There are several other Audio Fuel workouts. I’ve also tried ‘Adrenaline Junkie’ (with voiceover coaching) and ‘Full Tilt’ (without voiceover coaching) and they are both useful for tempo sessions or high-intensity mid-week runs. I’ve also tried the ‘Sennheiser - Thru The Gears’ – it starts out at walking pace, so designed for the complete novice – a waste of time to anyone comfortable with running 5km or more.
In essence, I’d recommend Audio Fuel to anyone into both running and music. There are some negatives (a) the music is good, but the trance style may not to everyone’s taste; (b) the interval and tempo sessions are on the novice side – both in terms of intensity and recovery times, and (c) there currently aren’t enough session options. Where Audio Fuel need to get to either have a long list of session options or even better to give athletes the ability to dynamically build and customise music sessions. Can you imagine if they could utilise popular tracks in doing so? Software based mixing is possible (e.g. MixMesiter DJ software), so it’s only a matter of time before this is achieved. In the meantime, Audio Fuel is something I’ll use on a weekly basis on solo runs. It’s certainly a useful running tool. Thumbs up!