Sure, the drive and motivation you get from smashing your goals is cool and all, but let’s hear it for the real MVP of productive workouts: the humble playlist. Now you may think that music is only good for workouts because it helps you push through the muscle burn, but there’s actually something of a science attached to it. Just think about it: CrossFit, Zumba, and SoulCycle all have cult followings, and they all blast very intense – maybe even aggressive, at times – music throughout every class.
Choosing the best workout playlist may even be as essential as ensuring you have the right equipment for an effective workout. Let’s set the scene: you’re drenched in sweat, feeling that deep muscle burn and wondering why on earth you started doing this in the first place. You’re about to give up. But then like a lighthouse in the dark, Beyoncé swoops in to save you through your GOFA Pulse earbuds. The queen is here now, all is well. Card-carrying members of the Beyhive or not, finding the right workout playlist is key.
First things first, you need to think about exactly what you want from your music. It needs to flow with you throughout your whole workout. The pace needs to build up during the workout and then peak with bursts of high intensity before easing off for the cool down.
Each stage of your workout gives you a new opportunity to add a bit of spice to your playlist, so finding the perfect balance between each one is important for helping to maximize the efforts put into your workout. Take a look at our top tips on how to choose the right music to keep you motivated and working hard at hitting those goals.
Set your intention for your workout
Remember that no matter what else is going on around you, this workout is yours. Your goals are your own, so only you really know what it is that you need from the session. Sometimes your workout is more for your mental health than it is for your physical health, sometimes you want to feel powerful and embrace the burn, and if we’re being completely honest, sometimes we force ourselves to work out because we know we’ll feel good afterward. So set your intention for your workout through the first song on your playlist. Remember that uplifting music can be the ultimate mood-booster.
Remember that the music will guide your breath
The song that comes immediately after the warm-up will really set the tone for the rest of your workout. From around about the second track, your muscles will really start to warm up, and your breathing will become slightly deeper. Subconsciously, the music you listen to will have an effect on the way you breathe. Whichever songs you choose, make sure that they complement your training style. As much as we love Ed Sheeren, Perfect might not be the best song to play during your HIIT session.
How intense will your workout be?
We really have been blessed this year with new music from some of the best musicians around – our beloved Ed, Her Majesty Adele, and eternal chart-topper Lil Nas X have released some absolute smash hits, but that doesn’t mean that they automatically deserve a spot on your workout playlist. Choose the music that will reflect the intensity of the workout you’re doing. Opt for tracks with a faster tempo so that you stay motivated to put in your maximum level of effort. If you’re not sure which tracks are good for working out, streaming services like Spotify offer fantastic playlists curated especially for exercise.
As you move through the rest of your workout, it will likely get progressively harder as your body grows tired from all the work you’ve been putting in. When you create your playlist, keep this in mind. Opt for tunes that have an irresistible beat (this goes for most of Britney’s discography – Lizzo’s too if you’re looking for variety). This will help you stay strong right until the end of your workout. You’ll feel so much better about yourself after pushing through even the toughest of moments in your workout.
As you move into the final stages of each session, be sure to keep the tempo of your song choice varied to give yourself time to slow down and recover. Right at the end, just before it’s time to start cooling down, add a few power jams to your playlist so that you end off on a musical high note.
Slow it down
We know, we know: you’ve heard it 1000 times! Cooling down properly is an important part of your workout. At the end of each session, you should allocate five to 10 minutes to help your body recover and to get you ready for the next workout.
This is where you can slow it down a bit with your playlist. Trawl the Apple Music archives for some slower songs to start winding down with. They’ll help your head, heart, and body get ready for re-entering the world again post-workout.
Pro tip: Make a playlist that is longer than your workout. That way, you won’t have to finish stretching out in silence if you don’t want to.