Choosing the perfect workout music

Here are some tips for building the best playlist for your cardio workout.

For some people, their playlists make all the difference between lackluster cardio workouts and the most refreshing workouts. The key to choosing your perfect cardio jams is to pick songs that match where you want your heartbeat to be during each part of the workout. Here are some tips for engineering your playlist:

The basics
Of course you should choose songs that you enjoy and that really pump you up, but it's important to place songs in the correct order for the maximum effectiveness. Pick songs based on their beats per minute (BPM). If you aren't sure how to find the BPM, you can use the site to search for your favorite songs and determine where to place them in your routine. This site also offers playlist suggestions based on the time it takes you to run 1 mile. If you don't have time to engineer your own list, there are two new iPhone apps – Tempo Run and Cruise Control: Run – that will choose music for you based on your pace.

Keep in mind that the pacing of the music you choose will differ depending on whether you're running several miles or going for a fast-paced 5k. If you're running a marathon, most of your songs will be between 120 and 130 BPM, with a few higher BPM songs to get you pumped up when you need it most. If you're running shorter distances, here are some song ideas for each part of the workout:

The warm​-up
Whether you're biking, running or spending time on the elliptical, it's important to have a warm​-up so you don't pull anything. Pick two warm​-up songs that are around 120 BPM. Here are some ideas:

  • Song of the summer: "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke, Pharrell, 121 BPM
  • Song of last summer: "We Found Love" by Rihanna, 128 BPM
  • Alternative: "Hearts on Fire" by Cut Copy, 125 BPM
  • Throwback: "Push It" Salt-N-Pepa, 128 BPM

The workout
Depending on how hard and long you plan to run, your cardio songs will probably be more than 145 BPM for sprints and between 130 and 140 for your recovery period. Here are some good ones:

  • Song of the summer: "Ceiling Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, 146 BPM
  • Song of last summer: "Rude Boy" by Rihanna, 174 BPM
  • Alternative: "Just Like Heaven" by The Cure, 151 BPM
  • Throwback: "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" by The Police, 165 BPM

The cool-down
A cool-down is also important for a cardio workout because it will reduce your muscle soreness later on and it allows your heart rate to gradually decline, helping you stave off post-workout dizziness. Pick two cool-down songs that are around 110 BPM, such as:

  • Song of the summer: "Some Nights" by FUN, 108 BPM
  • Song of last summer: "What Doesn't Kill You" by Kelly Clarkson, 116 BPM
  • Alternative: "Gives You Hell" by The All-American Rejects, 100 BPM
  • Throwback: "Rock Your Body" by Justin Timberlake, 101 BPM

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