What to Consider When Making a Motivational Workout Playlist

man on treadmill with music

With so many benefits of music, you’d be crazy not to create the ultimate playlist for your next workout. But remember to always listen responsible and remain aware of your surroundings.

Why Tune in

  • Some refer to music as a legal performance enhancing drug due to its proposed stimulus effects. 
  • Research shows that listening to tunes while working out improves performance! Some results have shown a 15% increase in endurance when people listened to music compared to working out in silence. Science also shows perceived exertion (how hard you think you’re working) can decrease about 10% when listening to music. 
  • Music can motivate you to feel upbeat, energized and to keep going!

What to Play

  • If you don’t like working out to music, try listening to a pump-up song while stretching or lacing up your shoes to provide some upbeat stimulation. 
  • Workout tunes should be roughly 125 to 145 beats per minute, the sweet spot for matching pace. Higher bpm are popular but have no additional benefits while songs below 120 beats can slow you down. 
  • Workout playlists should be individualized. Try having multiple playlists for different types of workouts. Your yoga mix should be different than your running mix. 
  • Upbeat songs are more positively distracting than sad or slow songs. 
  • Mantra songs! The Rocky theme song, Kanye's Stronger or Taylor Swift's Shake It Off are all tunes that have a key phrase or lyric that sticks in your head, keeping you mentally motivated.
  • Design your playlist to support your specific race or workout. For example, if you’re running a marathon, put some seriously motivating songs around miles 18 to 22 when the race tends to feel the hardest. If there’s a tough climb in your ride, have a song on hand to help you through it. Similarly, play slower music during the cool down of a workout to help you relax. 

When to Tune out

  • Listening to something too fast or slow for your intended pace could work against you. 
  • Some races ban headphones, so always check the rules.
  • Athletes who train for long hours might want to spend some time in silence to protect their hearing health. 
  • Busy roads, city streets, technical trails and steep descents might not be the best time to focus on music.
  • If you’re injured, running with loud music can keep you from correctly tuning in to how your body is feeling, and you could potentially overdo it. 
  • Group activities generally discourage headphones; keep the volume low, use only one ear or skip it entirely and try talking to the person next to you instead.

READ THIS NEXT: 8 Reasons to Run Without Headphones

About the Author

Lori Russell

Lori Russell is a self-taught personal chef and qualified board-certified sports dietitian-nutritionist. She holds a master’s degree in human nutrition and has racked up over 11 years professional experience in the dynamic field of wellness, including recipe demonstrator, corporate wellness coach, public speaker, digital media producer, personal nutrition advisor and freelance writer. As an elite road cyclist and marathon runner who was diagnosed with celiac disease, Russell understands first hand that eating a whole food, nutritious diet can greatly affect one’s performance, mood, health and overall increase quality of life. Through her brand ‘Hungry for Results@HungryForResults, she provides a fun and authentic approach to food, nutrition, fitness and lifestyle counseling.
Lori Russell is a self-taught personal chef and qualified board-certified sports dietitian-nutritionist. She holds a master’s degree in human nutrition and has racked up over 11 years professional experience in the dynamic field of wellness, including recipe demonstrator, corporate wellness coach, public speaker, digital media producer, personal nutrition advisor and freelance writer. As an elite road cyclist and marathon runner who was diagnosed with celiac disease, Russell understands first hand that eating a whole food, nutritious diet can greatly affect one’s performance, mood, health and overall increase quality of life. Through her brand ‘Hungry for Results@HungryForResults, she provides a fun and authentic approach to food, nutrition, fitness and lifestyle counseling.

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