6 Simple Rules for Making a Great Workout Playlist

by Paul L. Underwood
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6 Simple Rules for Making a Great Workout Playlist

Maybe your gym plays music. Maybe you prefer running to the soothing sounds of nature, or the hum of the city or … a podcast. But for many of us, the gym’s taste in music is intolerable, yet silence is boring. And that’s why we make playlists.

Whether you fancy yourself an amateur DJ or you define your musical taste as whatever’s on the radio, these simple tricks will help you build a catalog of ready-to-go workout mixes. We can’t guarantee they’ll help you break any personal workout records, but we can’t not guarantee that, either.

1. TIMING IS KEY

The first and most important step is knowing how long your workouts usually are, so you can make sure your playlist syncs up. I tend to go for overlong mixes, because there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to complete those last laps to deafening silence. (Unless you use your frustration as motivation.)

2. UNLESS YOU’RE RUNNING A DANCE-CENTRIC FITNESS CLASS, DON’T WORRY ABOUT PACING

In a perfect world, you’d have a few minutes of warmup songs, followed by an increase in intensity, leading into some all-out ragers before easing into your cooldown. Unless you’re getting paid to be that precise, just make sure your songs are upbeat. (I usually just put my playlists on shuffle anyway.) As with a lot of things related to keeping fit, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. You’re not trying to win a Grammy — or a DJ gig.

3. ALWAYS BE PLAYLISTING

The best inspiration tends to strike when you least expect it. So when you’re at work or enjoying downtime at home, keep your music app of choice open in a background window or on a nearby phone. Add songs as you think of them, and you’ll be surprised at how much variety there is.

4. SHAZAM IS YOUR FRIEND

That banger at the coffee shop. That catchy tune in a new ad. The rocker playing over last night’s basketball highlights. Shazam them all, then drop them in a playlist folder for future use. Pretty soon, you’ll have enough tunes for an all-new set.

5. PERFECT THE ART OF THE MIX

Variety is the key component of any successful fitness regimen. We don’t just mean your actual workouts — mixing up your environment, and what you do before and after your sessions, can give you an extra blast of motivation. This especially applies to your mix situation. I recommend exploring different, unexpected genres, like ‘90s punk rock (Rancid and Green Day always provide a useful kick in the pants). The basslines of classic funk and disco will get you groovin’. And if you’re into this kind of thing, there’s a whole bunch of military workout chants on most of the major music services. Left-left, left-right-left …


READ MORE > PUSH CADENCE TO THIS AUSTIN CITY LIMITS PLAYLIST


6. OUTSOURCE IT

Speaking of the major music services, almost all of them provide a few workout playlists you can just pre-load. Lazy? A little. Personalized? Hardly. But sometimes, you just want one less thing to worry about before you get out the door, and there’s nothing wrong with that.


GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT WORKOUT

> Men’s Workout Tops
> Men’s Workout Pants
> Women’s Workout Tops
> Women’s Workout Pants


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  • Alex

    I used to run a lot with Top Gun playlist (mostly top gun soundtrack and some other songs).
    And I remember one day I was returning from work, I haven’t run much at that time (too tired from work), the top gun playlist was changed and I haven’t listen to those songs for awhile. I had headphones and shuffled all songs I had on my device and there it was: Mighty Wing started playing.
    In that moment I felt like I was awaken, my heart started pumping harder like it expected me to run, my whole body prepared and all my tiredness disappeared.
    I returned home quickly, changed into my running gear and ran.

    I guess I associated these songs with running and my mind and body remembered the state I was in when I ran so when the song started it thought that it should prepare itself for the run.

    Playlists are great! 😀