Clear the Mechanism Running List

Josh Waitzkin’s the Art of Learning is a phenomenal book. Personal story. Chess Master. Bobby Fischer movie tie-in. Learning process. I really need to go back and give it another look/take better notes. Flow State is a trendy word these days. Waitzkin addresses this in his book. How do you get into a high performing state when writing? Throwing the fastball of lore? Shooting clay pigeons? Knocking that important presentation out of the park? Developing perfect code?

I’ve been reading Ethan Hawk’s Rules for a Knight with my kid of late. There is a chapter on Courage about a third through the book. In it, the virtue is defined as practice combined with thinking about doing incredible feats for someone other than yourself. The free throw. Hundreds of fans screaming your name. And yes, the player is all alone at the line. As the ball bounces, the players who thinks about winning the game for their teammates are more likely to make the shot than those who are out for the glory. Those looking for personal glory are more likely to freeze up. At least, that’s the argument. In the book, the Knight runs down the hill, gets into position, and shoots an arrow to save the kingdom. Practice. Repetition. Nobility. Saving others. It all comes together. The Knights finds a flow state of sorts in practice and then applies his learnings to save the known world. But how do you get into said flow state? Some argue that song is the answer.

For my early morning run, I roll out of bed in the morning, get geared up, and go on my way. I do the same routine almost daily. Saturday’s not included. Sometimes, I listen to a pod cast, especially if a long run is on the schedule and I’m not concerned with my goal time. I have several favorites including the Tim Ferris Show, Hardcore History, and Startup. But now and then, I want to clear the mechanism Kevin Costner style and get into the zone. So, here is my honed music playlist. And yes, genre of choice is mostly 80s music. My kid is not a fan. Sigh, he just doesn’t understand. I feel sorry for his generation in 20 years. I have Axl, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Nirvana, etc., to fall back on. He’s going to have Taylor Swift and all of her pretenders.

No more waiting in anticipation, here is my list:

  1. Simple Man, Lynyrd Skynyrd. Beats Per Minute (BPM): 121. I start slow and try to build from there.
  2. Sweet Child O’ Mine, Guns N’ Roses. BPM: 128 to 135 depending on the version. A little faster.
  3. Walk, Foo Fighters. BPM: 135. This song is a runners best.
  4. Interstate Love Song, STP. BPM: 85. Rest in Peace Scott Weiland.
  5. Carry on My Wayward Son, Kansas. BPM: 135. I love this song. I’m also a fan of the series Supernatural, specifically seasons one through five. It’s been a bit mixed since then. They always play Kansas before the season finale starts.

It used to stop here but I’ve rolled in a few to extend the run (as the playlist caps at about 30 minutes). Here are a few of my later additions:

  1. Sympathy for the Devil, Rolling Stones. BPM: 116. “Please allow me to introduce myself … “
  2. Time for Change, Motley Crue. BPM: 135
  3. The Sound of Silence, Disturbed. BPM: 107. Slow closing song but if you double the stride per beat you can finish strong. Why did I add it? You see, nobody sings like this anymore. A true homage to the gods of rock.

Steal and enjoy.

Note, I did add the Beats Per Minute after the song. I didn’t used to but I listened to a podcast that wants the BPM for a song to average in the 180 to 190 range. Supposedly, this makes for the optimal run. There is an article that backs this up. But note, BPM only helps with this. Stride length probably matters more for output.

This playlist doesn’t hit 180 but I did rearrange the order so it builds and comes back down again. And really, it’s my Clear the Mechanism play list. It gets me going in the morning. I may build a new one that hits the magical 180 to 190 range and see what that does for my pace. But that’s not the purpose of this post.

Oh, and there is one song I listen to for a quick fix to get me into the game winning free throw mode. Can you guess it? It’s one of the above.