Its 7:30 on a beautiful clear sunny morning; the kind of morning when you really appreciate being alive. The birds are chirping a beautiful melody as you walk to your car. You get into the car, shut the door, put your nice warm coffee in the cup holder, and put your seatbelt on. You do a little shuffle to get nice and comfy in your seat like a dog who turns around in her bed a couple times before she lays down. You then put the key in the ignition, turn it over, and suddenly you are blasted by a screaming stereo. Your adrenaline spikes and you immediately reach over in a panicked state and rush to turn down the volume. At this point, your heart rate is in the 95th percentile and your relaxing morning has just turned into a cardiac arrest.
What happened? Did one of your kids sneak into your car in the middle of the night, crank the volume up, and then bust out of there undetected? No! Wait! That was you who left the volume full blast when you arrived home after work. But it didn’t seem that loud last night. Weird!
Upon reflection, it is quite obvious what occurred. During my last drive, the volume began at a decent level. Then I got used to the sound level so I turned it up a bit more. Than a few minutes later I turned it just a “smidge” higher. Then, low and behold, that ’80′s tune I loved so much in high school comes on and now I need to see what my stereo can really do! Soon, I’m performing my famous guitar solo followed up by a wicked drum solo. I get to work and park the car. I get out of my vehicle ready to sign autographs. Later that day, we can all imagine what is going to happen to me when I get back on stage, I mean, back in my car.
So I pose the question “How can the same high volume seem too loud sometimes but perfect at other times.” Here is my highly scientific explanation: The initial blast of blaring tunes is uncomfortable and stomach wrenching because it is a shock to our system. But if we instead began our commute with the volume at a decent level and then increase it as we become more “acclimatized,” it is much more pleasing to our senses. Then when our favorite song comes on the radio, our ears and nerves are then ready to “get the lead out!”
When I taught running clinics I would use this analogy when someone would ask “why does it take me 15 to 30 minutes before I feel comfortable when I run?” I would tell her that her speed (volume) is too high at the beginning of her run and thus her body is not physically or mentally prepared for it. It is best to begin your run at a nice comfortable slow pace (turn down the radio). As you get used to the pavement, increase your speed (volume) gradually. Then after an adequate period of running in which you are nicely warmed up (your body will know), you can “get the lead out” with relatively little discomfort when your favorite straight-away or hill presents itself.
Looking for the physiological explanation? Read “Running Physiology: A Cascade of Changes.”