It’s more than just a collection of songs you happen to like
By Heather Spohr
Since the advent of the Walkman, people have been making mixes to work out to. Now science and technology have themselves “mixed” to enable each of us to create our own ultimate workout playlist. What makes this so special is that it’s more than just a collection of songs you happen to like: It’s customized to your own unique physiology, psychology and fitness goals—just as your Chevrolet Malibu can be customized to your stylish, healthy, on-the-go lifestyle—so you can get the absolute most out of your workouts.
The most important factor to take into consideration when choosing a workout song is its tempo. If a song’s beats per minute (commonly referred to as BPM) is too slow, it will subconsciously influence you to work out more slowly. A fast song, on the other hand, will egg you on to work harder. Sports psychologist Dr. Costas Karageorghis recommends songs with between 120 and 140 BPM. Songs in that range, including Pink’s “Get the Party Started” and Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” have tempos that more or less correspond to an average person’s heart rate during a workout. Of course, the recommended BPM will change depending on a workout’s intensity. A sprint, for example, will require songs with a higher BPM than will a brisk walk.
The best way to determine the appropriate BPM for your workout is by conferring with a trainer, but you can also figure it out yourself by using a chart created by run2rhythm, a website that creates specially composed running music. Once you know the BPM that is best for you, you will need to find songs in that range. I am a fan of the Cadence app, which, once you input your desired BPM, goes through your music library and creates a playlist of songs within range. Equally cool is Cadence.FM, a streaming website that sends music to your device once you select a music style and BPM.
In addition to tempo, it’s important to pick songs that conjure positive images in your mind, because they’ll motivate you more. Studies have shown, for example, that songs like the theme from Rocky, which conjures images of working out, conquering adversity and achieving goals, puts one in a much better mindset for working out than unfamiliar songs with the same BPM.
But a good workout song doesn’t have to be as specific to working out as the Rocky theme. Any association you have with a song—such as a memory of hearing it at a high school dance—will help occupy your mind and keep you from focusing on fatigue.
The way you sequence the songs in your mix also makes a big difference when it comes to maximizing your workout. Starting with slower songs and progressing toward faster ones can give you a much-needed boost when fatigue sets in. It’s also a good idea to vary the style of music you listen to from song to song. Though rock and dance music are the most popular types of workout music, brain expert Dr. Jack Lewis recommends classical music. Classical music is especially well suited for maintaining focus when working out, and makes a terrific addition to anyone’s ultimate workout playlist.
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Heather Spohr blogs at the award-winning The Spohrs Are Multiplying.
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