All it takes is forgetting your earphones once, to know — and dread — the struggle of completing a silent workout. When it comes to exercise, music plays an immense role in helping you stay motivated, especially if you’re having a rough day. Not only is it a matter of preference, but research has proven that running, cycling, or lifting to your favourite beats can both elevate your mood, boost athletic performance, and increase productivity.
For those of us trying to maintain our fitness regimes from home, a well-curated playlist can go a long way in making those home workouts less monotonous. Syncing your motion to a beat can also considerably reduce the perceived “toughness” of a workout, by lowering your body’s oxygen uptake and muscle movement. Of course, coming up with a great get-fit playlist is about more than just choosing a bunch of your favourite songs. Here are some quick and simple tips to get you started.
Calculate Your Pace
The songs that make it into your selection should ideally match the intensity at which you move. Whether or not this is scientifically beneficial, it’s still always extra motivating to have something you can keep pace with. For some pre-workout cardio beats, pick two to three songs that gradually increase to 120 beats per minute — roughly where you want your heart rate to be before you begin your routine.
If you’re trying to build stamina and speed, increase this BPM to 200BPM after around 10 minutes of warm-up. Most strength-work doesn’t have consistent movements to base your song choice on, so opt for something between 120 – 140BPM. This range is considered the rhythmic “sweet spot”, which gives you a comfortably energetic speed without tipping over to an endurance pace.
A beginner to exercise? If you’re just starting out and prefer a slower pace, count the number of strides you can do in a minute, and choose songs that have a matching BPM. Organise your favourite tunes on SongBPM.com, or the Rock My Run app — alternatively, iTunes also has the option of sorting songs from your won library according to BPM.
Structure is Key
Obviously, you aren’t going to dive into 100kg dead-lifts at the start of your workout, so don’t begin your playlist that way. Your workout tunes should be a mindfully curated way of bringing your entire sweat-sesh together, from warm-up, to in-between transitions, and finally the cool down — so be sure to pay attention to the whole routine.
If your workout style is to be constantly on the move — i.e. running on the treadmill — go for songs that play in close proximity, so your pace doesn’t get thrown off by awkward silences in between tracks. It can also be slightly disconcerting to transition a genre like hip hop to death metal, for instance, so keep music styles as similar as possible to avoid feeling confused midway.
For high-intensity interval training, tracks that are paced at around 180 = 200BPM can help you maintain a constant pace throughout. Ending off with something a little more mellow during your cool down will not only provide a sense of conclusion to the workout, but will also help lower your heart rate to a resting one.
Make Backup Lists
It’s normal to dread a workout and find reasons to put it off — especially if you’ve scheduled yours first thing in the morning. Instead of forcing yourself through your boisterous EDM-powered routine, have a few backup playlists to match a lower energy level so you don’t have to feel like you’re struggling to keep up. Tunes with inspirational lyrics, and uplifting melodies that come with an energising beat — prominent percussion features are great for this — have the ability to spur you into the right mindset again.
Let the Beats Push You
Hit a glass ceiling, or facing a fitness plateau? The answer to taking your routine to the next level could be as simple as re-jigging your playlists. If you’re looking to step up your work rate, go for songs that have a slightly faster pace than your usual ones. Even a five to 10BPM change could have a substantial difference — not only will you do more work with faster music, but you’ll be less likely to mind the increased workload.