Sunday 27 August 2017

A Soundtrack For Life

I can honestly tell you, that without exception, my favourite part of riding the bike, is at speed listening to my favourite song of the moment. There's nothing more uplifting than hitting a downhill, wind in your hair, while your favourite song is playing. Personally, it's the one thing, more than anything else in life, that makes me feel alive.

Music isn't just an important part of my life though. It's also a hugely important part of my riding - it's a massive performance enhancer. The mix of the two can become a fine art, in the case of Spinning. It's always a challenge to find a playlist for a Spinning class that works for everyone in the room, but part of the reason I find that you become a regular with a certain Spinning Instructor is that their choice of music, clicks with you and makes you want to ride harder.
It's a great pacer as well. You can tell yourself, "okay so just the last verse to go, I can do this". Then you get the riff of another epic song hitting you as it comes on and you go again. You may even find yourself in a lull, finding that certain songs you've maybe just heard too many times, lose their effect on you. But you know that there will be a song, that would make you want to just get up off your seat and dance under normal circumstances, that makes you dance on your pedals in the case of a bike.

I find that music has the power to make me approach my riding with more grit and determination as well. There are songs like Tove Lo's 'Scars', that's lyrics are so close to home, that they feel they were describing my situation at that point. Then there are those songs that have the power to make you feel connected to someone. In one case, Swedish House Mafia's 'Don't You Worry Child', given the effect my mum has on me when I ride. Seeing her pride makes me want to ride faster and at a point during the 12 Hour Indoor Track ride, I remember vividly, seeing my mum beaming at the side of the track as that song played.
Maybe it was a release of all the tension from waiting to hear from the UMCA about the result of my record attempt and finding out I out I had picked up four records, the day before I saw two of the three DJs that made up Swedish House Mafia play together at a festival I was going to... but the moment Axwell /\ Ingrosso played that song, their song, I was in tears. Of course, I chose to play that song during my 12 Hour ride, so I'm not sure if it's the association I now have with the song, or the song itself, but the one thing I know is that music has a real power to move anyone.

Usefully for someone with epilepsy, it has the power to de-stress me, just like my bike. When stress could be a potential trigger for seizures, you know that's a really really good thing.

One of my fondest memories of being a patient in the Edinburgh Sick Children's Hospital, was phoning up Radio Lollipop to request a song and for the DJ to give a shout out to my ward - Ward 7. It seems very funny looking back on it now, but when you're 9 or 10, you felt like you were famous, hearing your voice on the hospital radio, even if it was only playing to a couple hundred people... thinking about it, many of them were probably sleeping as well! But it helped cement our sense of comradery with fellow patients who were in the beds next to you too.

For those that are curious, my Spinning love transferred into my record attempts as well.
Because I have the ability to analyse song's Beat Per Minute or (BPM), I deliberately made up a playlist of music to either ride just above then just below, or right on hitting my pedal stroke, or Revolutions Per Minute (RPM). I knew that I could ride hard for a period before recovering and then go hard again. So as long as my average BPM was the same as my required RPM I needed to hit to be on schedule, I knew roughly, how I was doing with regard to my targets. Of course, there were certain songs that I had ready for when I was in periods of feeling great and in charge of the ride, in the same way, that there were songs ready for me to dig myself out of a mental hole of feeling like I'd never nail the ride.
Each song was a trigger to help me zone in on what I needed to find to improve or maintain my riding.

If you need to find something that will make you feel stronger in yourself, or even just keep on the high that you're enjoying... you can guarantee there's a song for that!

And finally, particularly while talking about Dance music, I know a lot of people question those of us with epilepsy, asking if I can go to festivals, gigs and clubs, because of the lighting. I can assure the majority of the gig, club, festival going public that don't know much about epilepsy...

...that actually 94% of us won't be affected by any kind of flashing lights at all, and we may even come back from listening to music healthier.

(As long as we get plenty of sleep! Zzzzzzz......)


  1. Great article Katie,I really enjoyed reading it and totally agree with you how music helps in many different ways. I love music and always uplifts me and when I used to bike to work listening to my mp3 player, certain songs always made me dig in harder and go faster, especially riding up a small hill. :-)

  2. Katie, you are very inspiring. I created a playlist on Spotify to help keep my ultra-cyclist husband motivated on his looooong training rides. It features almost 200 songs about cycling and the adventure and spirit that fits the ultra scene. If you can access it, you might find more songs for your playlist. I just added some of your faves to it, so thanks for sharing! I think you need to log in with a free account to listen.