Have you ever felt the urge to start dancing along to a favorite song you heard in the store or a sudden flow of energy from a tune which starts playing in your car? You are not alone. Music has an amazing impact on our mood, our energy level and our sense of wellbeing.
No wonder more people choose to listen to music when they are running or working out. Studies have showed that the right type of music can make running and exercising seem much easier and more enjoyable. The effect is so palpable that Dr.C.Karageorghis who is a leading expert in the psychology of music for exercise has called music a form of legal performance enhancing drug.
This fact though doesn’t mean that you just need to put your earplugs in and push the reshuffle button on your mp3 player and you will run faster or exercise more. The type of music you include in your running music depends not only on your personal preferences, but also on certain other factors as well.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when you are creating your perfect music playlist for running or exercising:
- Decide if your music will set the rhythm and pace of your run or exercise
It may sound logical that music should set the rhythm for your run, but actually there are different opinions amongst runners and experts whether this is the best way to go when selecting music for running. Many people choose to do their cardio exercising in synchrony with the music they are listening too. This is probably the easy way to go. If you want music which will set your running pace, you need to determine the pace you are aiming at first before choosing the tunes to guide you through the run, cycling or other cardio workout. Determine the rate of your stride by counting the number of steps you make for a 1 minute run at a pace which you find comfortable. Based on the stride rate, pick suitable music which has the same or a similar number of beats per minute. If you run at 150 steps per minute, choose music which has about 150 beats per minute. Thankfully, you don’t need to sit down and listen to a tune and count the beats it has. There are various online resources which can help you determine the BPM (beats per minute) of any song or other piece of music.
There are also websites which let you search for music in accordance to its BPM or speed, which can make your task of creating the perfect mp3 playlist for running even easier.
Even if you haven’t got the exact ratio right, you will still definitely feel the boost from the music when you hit the trail!
- Choose songs which have an energizing and strong rhythm, and those with uplifting melodies and inspirational lyrics for your playlist
In this case, the choice is up to your personal taste and preferences, and depends on which songs and tunes you find inspirational, uplifting and energizing.
Still, there are some general guidelines set by experts which can help you choose the most suitable songs for your playlist. An up-tempo of over 120 BPM, as well as prominent rhythmical and percussive elements is considered properly motivating. For those who will not be using the music for synchronizing with the running, the best choice is of songs with BPM from 120 to 145. This ratio is considered optimal for a motivating and energizing workout song. Of course, it will really help if you find a song or group of songs which can match the various movements you make during your run or training session.
As for the lyrics, it is best to go with songs which feature lyrics that boost self-talk and provide motivational imagery, such as Queen’s “Don’t stop me know” for example.
- Try to structure your music playlist in accordance to your workout
Running should start with stretching and some warming up, so your playlist must start with tunes which fit this first stage of your daily run. Set the songs in your playlist in accordance to the different exercises, sprints, intervals you are planning on performing. It is best to pick songs with gradually increasing BPM in accordance to the increase of your heart rate for a better and more energizing effect. For people who are making a playlist for running on a treadmill, it is best to choose music with similar BPM, so that any abrupt changes in the rhythm are avoided during the run. You can use these transitional tunes when you switching in between exercises or intervals during your run or workout.
- Keep your safety in mind
Make sure that the music helps your performance but without endangering your safety and wellbeing when you are running. You should be able to hear incoming cars and people especially if you are running near busy traffic or in the dark hours. After all, your safety comes first! It is recommended that you run with only one earplug in when you are running in the pre-dawn or during the dark evening hours to stay on the safe side.
If you don’t have the habit of listening to music during your run or workout, you may want to give it a try. You will find that you feel that extra energy you need to complete the distance you have set for yourself and to finish up those last and exhausting exercises easier when you are listening to the appropriate tunes.
You can take the time to create your own customized playlist by following the abovementioned tips and choose the tunes in accordance to your training or running intensity and the different stages of your workout, or you can try out one of the many available ready-made running or workout playlists which are available for free or at an affordable price online instead. You can choose one or more of these playlists and work through it while running by choosing your “best off” and then filter down your playlist to only the songs which you found the most inspiring, energizing and enhancing for your performance.
A rule of the thumb is to choose shorter 3 to 5 minute songs rather than remixes if you want to keep a steady pace when you are running, so that you don’t get bored by a tune and so that your energy level is kept boosted at all times. As for interval training, choose lengthier remixes paired with shorter songs for the higher intensity exercise sets.
Always think about the introduction songs for your warm up stage, as well as the final songs for the cooling down stage of your run or workout.
The important thing is to enjoy and feel enhanced by all songs you choose so that you don’t feel the need to keep pushing the forward button and skipping songs and so that you can concentrate on your performance during your run or workout session.