A clarification

"Almost all human actions have at least one unintended consequence. What ever you do, it will have additional side effects that you did not intend."
About SPM (Steps Per Minute) versus BPM (Beats Per Minute).

A common misunderstanding about this music paced running hobby of mine and others seems to be that it is about syncing the heart beat with music BPM. It's not. It's about syncing leg cadence with music BPM. That's why I have come to prefer the term SPM (Steps Per Minute) over other alternatives.

Partly it seems to be a grammatical problem, getting people to quickly grasp the concept of music paced running through text explanations seems to sometimes go wrong because the word "beats" in Beats Per Minute automatically leads thought in a cardiovascular direction, and it doesn't help that BPM in itself is such an established acronym for both music pace and pulse rate, and it further doesn't help that pulse zone training by itself is an established concept since at least a decade back.

It is my experience that some people who first encounter the idea of music paced running through text rather than someone telling them about it face to face are likely to make that mistake, at least until they've tried running with verified music themselves and through their own feet experienced a sync between beats per minute and steps per minute.

To complicate things further the difference between a running person's heart rate and number of steps per minute isn't necessarily that big. During many of my own long slow distance runs over the last year I've used a heart rate monitor and again and again found that when warmed-up and a bit into the run my number of steps per minute (already in sync with the BPM of the music thanks to my mp3-player) ALSO suddenly goes in sync or very near sync with the other BPM - that of the heart rate.

Having now also been told about this from others and guessing we're not alone I must speculate that it's more than just a coincidence, and to the list above I can therefore add the qualified guess that someone who has a heart rate monitor on while trying out music pace running for the first time might actually get close enough numbers on his/her monitor to strengthen such an original misunderstanding.

This is of course not a downside or an actual problem for the running itself, a three way sync instead of a two way sync might actually be quite the opposite. Maybe it's just a funny coincidence that messes up written communication about this form of running. Or is it more to it than that?

Well aware that I'm doing it from a medical/historical/evolutionist layman's point of view I'll dare to speculate that there might be a biological reason for such a sync or near sync between heart rate and number of steps. I think there might be some small yet important stamina saving benefit to sync between heart rate and feet pace while running long and slow, originating from early mans long hunting trips and nomadic way of life. It's not too hard to imagine such a correlation, surely our ancestors must have gained some sort of stamina benefit from lessened total physical strain if (when they were out running/moving around for days) the heart pace synced up with the leg pace over longer periods of travelling by feet. Sort of a more beneficial "flow" within the whole moving system, at least compared to situations without such sync when forced to move and near exhaustion.

And even if it was just a very, very small energy conserving benefit it might have been the difference between life and death in the long run (no pun intended) back then. Hence such a correlation could have remained a part of us until this day and age. Even without a total sync it is after all a fact that both heart rate and leg pace move in the same numerical area during exercise, most running takes place with a cadence of 140-190 steps per minute and the heart generally goes at 140-190 beats per minute during such running. Is that a coincidence? Maybe it is, maybe it's not, but it's most definitely an intriguing phenomenon.

Additional July 2011: It has recently been pointed out to me that the possible three way sync I talk about above might have a fourth synchronizing factor in it, or maybe we should call it a third natural combining Darwinian factor if you prefer to think music out of the equation like the suggester. It's the lungs. The expansion and decreasing of the lungs during running might be in tune too.

It was actually kind of a duuuh moment for me, it's a well know phenomenon among runners that often when you hit the so called second or third wind you start to breath in and out in tune with your footsteps, whether it be on every second turnover or every third or any other number depending on how fast you push at the moment and your current oxygen needs. Some very good/fast runners (i.e not me) actually use that to stay concentrated and too stay in flow when they run hard, that's how they know they are at their desired threshold level.

This phenomenon has been known since long before drum beat aided running came along. With that taken into account it makes perfect sense to reason that heartwork sync belongs in there too when feetwork and lungwork team up in mid-flight to smoothen their coordination, take down the overall strain, save what little energy possibly can be saved and prolonging the remaining time before you hit the wall (if ever so little benefit it's still a possible make-it-through-the-day-alive advantage over the other hunters-gatherers for a human body from an evolutionary point of view).

© Peter Andersson 2007/2011