I wrote this entry in September of 2007. The instructions still work, but you might want to check out this more recent post that gives some easier alternatives. It also contains a link to a new-and-improved version of the Visual Basic script mentioned below. -- Dan, 7/26/09
Today's blog entry is a bit different. I'm not going to post about my Couch to 5k run for Week 6 Day 3 (it went well. No spiders or snails to dodge, no sprinklers to avoid - what more could I ask for?).
Instead, I've decided to post some detailed instructions that explain how to make your very own C25k running music, including interval notifications. I'll boil it down to two simple steps. (Each step has 37 parts). Note that you can do either step, or both steps. If you do step one alone, then you'll wind up with a playlist of good running music. If you do step two alone, then you'll wind up with a playlist of maybe-good running music that contains interval reminders. If you do steps one and two together, you'll wind up with a playlist of good running music that contains interval reminders.
The steps, in brief:
1. Create a playlist on iTunes that consists just of the running music that you want. You can make this a regular old playlist, if you like, but why not mix things up and make it a "smart" playlist instead? Below I explain how to do that.
2. Add interval notifications to your playlist. You'll have to make a different playlist for each week of C25k, because the intervals change each week (and in weeks 5 and 6 they change by the day, too). If you are lazy, and like Robert Ullrey's choice of techno-heavy music selections, then use his podcast and your work is done. I suggest that you use his podcast, but when week 6 rolls around and you start doing the uninterrupted runs (and thereafter, continuing on after "graduation"), ditch his music and use the method described below.
Okay - here we go with the more detailed instructions:
A. HOW TO CREATE A SMART PLAYLIST USING iTUNES:
(These instructions created for Windows iTunes version 184.108.40.206)
1. From the File menu, choose "New Smart Playlist" (Cntrl-Alt-N).
2. Select the tick box up top, to say "match ALL of the following rules"
3. Down below, select "Limit to 25 items selected by RANDOM" (or more, or less, depending upon how long you want your list to be).
4. Select "Match only checked items"
5. Select "Live Updating"
6. Now add your conditions, to indicate to iTunes which songs in your library should be chosen. I have the following conditions, but your mileage and taste may vary:
- Playlist is NOT Slow Songs (This, for me, is key. I have a separate non-smart playlist called Slow Songs. If I hear a song from my list that I think is not suitable running music, I put it in the Slow Songs playlist. iTunes will exclude any songs found on the Slow Songs playlist when randomly selecting songs for my Smart Jogging playlist).
- My Rating is ***** (Common sense reminder: If you are going to use ratings (you should), you need to actually rate your songs. If you don't rate anything, but you require your smart playlist to include only four- and five-star songs, you'll get a playlist with nothing on it).
- Podcast is FALSE
- Kind IS NOT Audible File
- Genre IS NOT Audiobook
- Genre IS NOT Children's Music
- Genre IS NOT Easy Listening
- Genre IS NOT Jazz
- Genre IS NOT Spoken Word
- Genre IS NOT Inspirational
- Genre IS NOT A Capella
7. Give your new Smart Playlist a title. I use "Smart Jogging"
B. ADD INTERVALS TO YOUR NEW RUNNING PLAYLIST
Taking the following steps will add audible "DING" chimes within your new smart playlist (or any ol' dumb playlist, for that matter), in the intervals you specify. For example, I wanted to prepare an interval playlist for a 25 minute run with a 5 minute warmup walk at the beginning and a 5 minute cooldown walk at the end. To do so, I created a script with intervals of 5, 12.5, 7.5, 4, 1, 5. This puts an audible DING after the first five minutes, after 12.5 minutes (the half-way point of the run), another 7.5 minutes later (20 minutes into the run) to signify there are five minutes remaining, 4 minutes after that (to signify one minute remaining), one minute after that (to signify that the run is done and the cooldown walk should begin) and finally 5 minutes after that, to signify the end of the cooldown walk and workout. I take no credit for making the script that does this - all credit goes to Jeff Welch. His Team in Training page is where I found the instructions that follow with regard to the DING intervals. Pay his site a visit and follow the instructions on it to set up the iTunes DING script. As per his instructions:
- Download his script file. (Or, download Scott Gould's improved version. Scott improved the script to allow for an initial playlist of any size. The improved version starts adding songs to the running playlist from a random location, randomly selecting a start song from the playlist so that you don't have to hear the same music again and again. If the start song is at the end of the list then it loops back to the start of the playlist. - Dan, 7/26/09)
- Unzip to your desktop.
- Add the "Ding.mp3" sound file to iTunes.
- Create a playlist that you want to use (or select an existing one, like the smart playlist you created following the guidelines listed above).
- Inside the "iTunes Runners Playlist" double click the "CreateRunnersPlayList.vbs"
- Give it the name of the playlist you just created.
- Give it the pattern you desire.
Example, for week 1 of C25k, which consists of a 5 minute walk, 8 repetitions of 60 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking, and then a 5 minute cooldown walk:
After running his script, you'll have a new playlist called *Smart Jogging (assuming the playlist you were working from was called Smart Jogging).
With both of the above examples, five minutes into the playlist the song then playing will stop, you'll hear a DING, and the next song on your playlist will begin playing.
Of course, all of these dings are ridiculously hard to keep track of as you are running. So I took it a step further, and I have created spoken voice prompts to accompany each ding. These short spoken MP3s can be manually added to your playlist after each DING Jeff's script inserts. The spoken MP3s say things like "5 minutes remaining", "half-way point", "begin your cooldown walk", "one minute left," etc. A much easier approach would simply be to use the Nike+ system, but Nike+ works only with an iPod nano, and these instructions don't require a nano (or even an iPod for that matter - any MP3 player will do).
The spoken-voice files I made are:
BEGIN WARMUP WALK - "Begin your warmup walk now"
WARMUP OVER - "Your warmup walk is over"
HALFWAY POINT - "Half-way there"
5 MINS LEFT - "Five minutes remaining"
1 MIN LEFT - "One minute remaining"
BEGIN COOLDOWN - "Begin your cooldown walk"
DONE - "All done - congratulations"
Plus a few more generic ones:
BEGIN WALKING - "Begin walking now"
STOP WALKING - "Stop walking now"
BEGIN RUN - "Begin your run now"
STOP RUNNING - "Stop running now"
You can download them HERE. Sorry about the funky computerized voice. My microphone wasn't working well, so I used a text-to-speech synthesizer. It sounds better than Stephen Hawking, and worse than HAL. It is fine for my purposes. Hopefully, for yours too. I actually kind of like it.
Next, import these spoken cues (or make your own, if you don't like mine) into iTunes. Import them by selecting "Add File to Library..." (Cntrl+O) from the File menu of iTunes. There are 11 voice files, plus the DING file you previously added. Once you've imported them into your library, select and drag them over to your *Smart Jogging playlist.
Once you have them in your *Smart Jogging playlist (they'll all be down at the bottom), just drag each one to put it after the appropriate DING. See the picture below for an example of how I have my 25 minute run set up.
Note that the files are of very short duration, just a few seconds each. If you have "crossfade playback" enabled in your iTunes preferences you may find that they bleed together a bit too much for your liking. Adjust to taste. I turned off crossfade playback entirely, and that seems to work best for me.
Please be aware that Jeff's script changes the stop time of some of the songs on your playlist. If your first two songs have play times of 2:30 minutes and 2:40 minutes and you've specified your first interval to last for 5 minutes, for example, then the second song will be cut 10 seconds short so the DING can play at the 5 minute mark, and then the next song will begin. To reclaim your lost 10 seconds, you need to run the second script that he included in his file. It sets things back. Before running it (he calls it UndoCreateRunnersPlaylist, and it is the second script he included in his zip archive), first delete the spoken voice prompts you added to the playlist. Also, be aware that the script will work on the entire playlist you choose - so if you have a playlist that is 60 minutes long, and your script calls for 35 minutes worth of intervals, it will run (almost) two times down the list.
If things get messed up, or for some reason his undo script doesn't work right for you, you can always manually reset the stop times of any affected songs. Do so by (1) right-clicking on the song; (2) select Get Info...; (3) click "Options"; (4) untick the "stop-time" box.
Also, it should go without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that you should use caution before unzipping any files and/or running any visual basic scripts. I've looked at Jeff's script and it is perfectly innocuous, and his zip file and mine are virus free. However, you can never be too careful. Use your virus scanner of choice, just to be on the safe side. I cannot be held responsible if his script causes a llama to eat your monitor, or something else unexpected along similar lines.
If you take the time to set this up, and you like it, please let me know by commenting on this blog entry!