We've talked before about staying motivated during long runs and while some people like to listen to the sounds of nature or chat with a partner during a jog, others rely on upbeat music to get them through their daily running session. If you fall into the latter camp, here are just a few tips to create a killer running playlist.
Start with a Warmup Song (or Two)
Warming up is an important part of any workout, but considering the demand running places on your body, it is especially crucial to warm up muscles properly before jogging. There is some contention over whether static stretching is advisable - more and more experts are saying no.
However, active stretching is a great idea, and this involves a mild version of whatever activity you plan to perform. In this case, an active stretching warmup would include walking to prepare for running.
This means your opening 1-2 songs should be at a much more sedate pace than whatever up-tempo selection you plan to run to. For some runners, the pace of playlist songs makes no difference - they run at their own speed regardless of what they're listening to.
However, since you want to make sure your body is warm and limber before you jog, selecting warmup songs that raise your heart rate while walking is essential to success.
Pacing is Important
Okay, I know I just said pacing is not important to some runners, but if you're going to bother creating the perfect playlist, it might as well have songs that set your pace. How do you pick songs with the right tempo?
First of all, don't bother trying to make all the songs the same tempo. This won't help you to create a killer workout or improve your performance at all.
The best pacing will feature specific goals. You may, for example, want to increase the pace from song to song for about 3-4 songs to incrementally work up to a faster jogging pace, and then drop back to a slower beat to rest for 1-2 songs.
If you're interval training, you'll probably want to switch between fast and slow paces to get your heart rate up, let it settle, and then bring it back up again. The music you choose can have a marked impact on your running pace, especially if you're the type that prefers to run to the beat.
Music You Love
Just because you love a song doesn't mean it will make a great exercise anthem. But you can probably find a place in your workout for almost any song.
A ballad, for example, might not push you to run your fastest, but by placing it at the end of your playlist you could enjoy a slow-paced favorite while you cool down. The idea is that music you love to listen to will not only endure in your playlist, but it will also motivate you more than music that you only added because of the beat.
Ask for Suggestions
You probably have a lot of friends that exercise, or maybe even jog. If you're racking your brain to find good workout songs, ask for suggestions. Everyone has a few favorites they're keen to recommend.
If you run frequently, chances are you're going to listen to the same songs over and over again. So you not only have to enjoy the music, but you should consider the impact the lyrics might have on your psyche.
Whether you believe in the power of subliminal messaging or not, you can probably agree that repeated, overt messages have an impact on how you think. Do you really want to fill your playlist with negative messaging, even if the songs have a great tempo?
One of my favorite running songs is "Move on Up" by Curtis Mayfield, and there are a couple of reasons why. For one thing, the tempo is pretty much my perfect jogging pace, especially when I want to space out and clear my mental clutter while moving my body and working up a sweat.
In addition, however, I find the simple lyrics motivational. The song talks about finding complications in life, but it also encourages listeners to move toward a destination, keep on wishing, and move on up.
This inspirational message was likely not aimed at runners, but I do find it extremely motivational, and paired with the music and rhythm, it is absolutely my perfect jogging jam. Cultivating your perfect playlist will take some time, but adding songs that are not only upbeat but also inspirational is a great way to "put your mind to it" and "surely do it" as Curtis Mayfield suggests.