Running with music is commonplace amongst most runners. Most people I see running on the go tend to have earphones in, fuelling their workout with some tunes. If you run regularly, you probably blare some of your favourite tunes whilst you pound the pavement.
In this article, we look at the benefits of a brilliantly selected playlist can have for your running and beyond.
Playlists for running are different from your usual everyday playlist…
My experience running to ‘non-running music’
When I started running, I made the mistake of working out to my favourite music without taking anything else into account. I didn’t consider the mood, tempo or energy of the music I was running to. As a result, my runs were fuelled by the occasional fast banger but mainly consisted of mid-tempo tracks, some of which were acoustic and slow. Not suited to running.
The result was a poor running performance. I wasn’t fired up, couldn’t get in the zone, didn’t feel over the moon about my performance and I didn’t run quick. All in all, it wasn’t the performance I wanted.
How is a running playlist different to other playlists?
Running playlists need to be curated to serve your workout. They need to get you in a positive mood and in the zone to perform. A running playlist features energetic songs of an upbeat tempo (around 150 BPM & upwards).
These songs are running fuel. They drive you to train & perform at your very best so you can become the runner you want.
What’s an example of a running playlist?
It’s not a perfect playlist, but here’s a quick example of some tunes from my own running playlist now.
Ask – The Smiths
Over the Bridge – The Gallerys
Misorlu – Dick Dale
Wipe Out – The Surfaris
Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
Standing Next To Me – The Last Shadow Puppets
Chelsea Dagger – The Fratellis
Moving To New York – The Wombats
All My Pride – Black Honey
Steady Beat – The Gallerys
Baggy Trousers – Madness
Dance Baby – boy Pablo
Helter Skelter – The Who
Don’t Look Back In Anger – Oasis
Solid Bond in Your Heart – The Style Council
These tunes are all upbeat, high energy and never fail to motivate me into the running zone. If I’m tired, lacking energy and not in the mood for running, I can count on this playlist to start me up (Rolling Stones style).
What ways can a playlist benefit your running then?
It may not seem obvious, but there are tonnes of ways a well-selected playlist can benefit your running. I have first-hand running experience with all the playlist benefits below.
1. Firing you up!
Everybody has those off days where don’t feel like running. Maybe you’re tired, you’re sore, you’re uninspired or maybe just lacking get up and go. A great playlist of songs can fire you up, motivating you to lace up and get out of the front door.
Picture this. It’s 6:00 AM, the alarm goes off and you drag yourself out of bed in a zombie-like state.
We’ve all been there, and I think you’d agree with me when I say it’s difficult to motivate yourself to run.
However, if you stick some earphones on and blast an upbeat playlist you will suddenly find a spark which fires you up to run. Suddenly, you’re not as tired as you were before, and you have the pulse of the music to encourage you into the first steps of your run.
Now the playlist has fired you up, you’re mentally and physically ready to put in a fantastic run.
2. Achieve a higher cadence with quicker songs
Cadence refers to how many times a minute your feet strike the floor. In general, a higher cadence means a quicker run because you travel more distance with more foot-to-floor contact.
Research has shown, time and time again, that running with higher beats per minute (BPM) leads to a higher cadence. Naturally, we try to match our pace with the flow of the music, and we become quicker or slower depending on how fast your tunes are.
Note the importance of a higher cadence being achieved with quicker songs. To drive higher footfall, it’s necessary to listen to quicker songs so you can match the song’s pace.
Misorlu from Pulp Fiction, as an example
Take the surf rock classic by Dick Dale and his Del-Tones, Misorlu, made famous by the Quentin Tarintino hit ‘Pulp Fiction’. The song is upbeat, has energetic vibes and clocks in at a fast 173 beats per minute. Listening to this track naturally makes you want to run quicker and you try to match your performance with the energy and pace of the song. Before you know it, you have a higher cadence.
Quicker songs in a killer playlist results in a higher running cadence, and better performance. Try it.
Use this handy online tool to find the BPM of any song: https://songbpm.com/
3. Shift your focus onto something good
When we’re during the unforgiving grip of the pain zone, it can be useful to have a distraction. Not a bad distraction like taking a break, eating a cheeseburger or looking at social media, a good distraction like music.
A decent playlist of songs will support you through the run. It’s there for you to focus on instead of the pain of heavy breathing and aching muscles. Listen closely to the progression and the vocals, think about the meaning of the lyrics and try to really feel the vibe of the song.
When I’m in the middle of a particularly gruelling long run where I am pushing myself, I sometimes focus on the music and create music videos in my head. This might sound silly, but it’s a creative way to distract yourself from the workout and can get fun if you have a good imagination. Give it a try!
4. Get into ‘the zone’
There’s something special about blasting a great tune whilst running. Picture the epic training montage in Rocky 1. Rocky is training to the epic song ‘Gonna Fly Now’, which is arguably one of the best workout songs ever. The song matches the workout because it’s a good tempo, high energy and motivates Rocky to run (and workout) at his very best.
Like Rocky, you can use a killer playlist to get into what we call ‘the zone’. When you’re truly in the moment, enjoying the run and working hard. We all love being in the running zone and I truly believe suitable running tunes can help us enter it.
Something I do on occasion is get in the zone with songs. When a certain song comes on I know I can get into the zone with, I use it to my advantage and go in hard. Here are two of my favourite examples:
Wipe Out by the Surfaris
I love getting in the zone with this tune. Throughout the verses, I run at a normal pace and during every drum solo, I sprint flat out. It’s fantastic fartlek training, and a decent way to surprise the body to push it out of its comfort zone. Give it a try.
Gonna Fly Now
When running to this iconic track, I start off relatively relaxed and gradually work myself up to a challenging pace. When the song reaches the famous uplifting part at 2:02 (give it a listen), everything ups a notch.
Just when I’m feeling tired, like I can’t give anymore, I strike. I sprint as fast as I possibly can, inspired by the glorious music. When the segment ends, I gradually slow to a comfortable jog and resume my run. Give it a try and see what you think.
5. Feel happier
It’s no secret listening to music makes us happier. Studies have shown listening to music we enjoy releases dopamine, a feel-good chemical which makes you feel happy. It’s the same chemical released when we eat, drink and hug someone.
The feel-good effects of great music are compounded by exercising. Physical activity releases endorphins which also make you feel happy. Listening to a decent playlist on a running workout is the perfect happiness cocktail.
Listen to music whilst you run. It will improve your mood and make you happier.
There you have it. 5 key reasons listening to a killer music playlist will benefit your running, and you as a person.
I like listening to music, but I’m interested in Podcasts too
Fantastic! You don’t have to just listen to music all the time when you run. There are other options, like podcasts.
If you’re interested in podcasts and want to find out more, check out the following blog post: