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How to plan a running music playlist

How to create the best running playlist for your workouts on the road or trail
July 8, 2014
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There's no right or wrong answer, and each have their own merits, but let's assume you are a music lover. How do you get the best running playlist to inspire you to outperform your best times and really leave it all out there on the trail or pavement?

Here are some top tips for making a running playlist that'll get you over the line in style.

1. Pick your provider

The first thing to think about is how you're going to get your music with you. Sure, you could download all the songs individually through Google Play or iTunes, but it's expensive and can be limiting. Our suggestion would be to use a streaming music service with offline playlists. Our pick is Spotify, and there are plenty of ready-made running playlists people have pulled together from all over the world. Grab one of those and try it out, but if you want something a bit more personalized, keep reading.

“The key thing here is that this is YOUR running playlist, and as such you should find tracks that not only motivate but keep you going that extra mile.”

2. Find the music that motivates and keeps YOU going

The truth is there's no best running playlist for everyone. Your running mate might find Survivor's Eye of the Tiger is perfect to keep pounding the pavement, but if you can't stand the Rocky films or you associate it with terrible times, then it's best left on the cutting room floor. The key thing here is that this is YOUR running playlist, and as such you should find tracks that not only motivate but keep you going that extra mile.

That said, there is evidence that suggests a running playlist’s BPM could impact performance. When you have a running playlist with higher BPM or with songs you like more, you may see improved performance, so that's something to keep in mind. On the other hand, if your favorite song is more relaxing and has lower BPM, it may be best to keep it off the list.

3. Mix and match your tunes

Variety is pretty important as you create your road and trail run playlists. That doesn't just mean BPM or instrumentation - different genres can really mix things up and keep your workout varied, inspiring you to (literally) go that extra mile if picked at the right moment. What's more, a slower song going straight into a faster one can give you an extra burst of energy you didn't think you had.

How to make a great running playlist

“Plan your listening to match the type of run you’re on and create a road or trail run playlist that's 10% longer than your estimated finish time to make sure you're not left without music.”

4. The right playlist for the right run

A faster song can make you go that extra mile. The trouble is, if you're running a marathon and trying to regulate your pace, a fast paced track that makes you want to speed off could be a terrible idea.

Plan your listening to match the type of run you’re on and create a road or trail run playlist that's 10% longer than your estimated finish time to make sure you're not left without music. If it's a quick few miles, then a faster, more upbeat mix is perfect to get the best time. But if it's something longer, slower tunes to help regulate your pace will be best. Of course, if you know where the difficult sections will be, and can time your running playlist for a fast song and boost of energy as you power through them – go for it!

5. To shuffle or not to shuffle?

How tailored should your running playlist be? You could pack it with songs that tie perfectly with the layout of your route, starting with something inspiring to get you warmed up and transitioning to something faster to make you speed up in your final approach. That might work, but it doesn't leave your playlist very reusable on other trails, unless you don't mind hearing the same songs in the same order over and over again. This is where shuffling can come in handy – although no one said you couldn’t have more than one trail running playlist!

When you shuffle music, you can't tie in the big song for the big finish, but it is a nice way to add variety to your run and it means things will never be dull. For the right balance of variety and strategy, consider shuffling while training and then create your perfected playlist order for race day.

Let nature be your running playlist

Of course, if you’re really looking for some variety, go ahead and unplug those headphones and listen to the sounds of the great outside. Running with music lets us drown out distractions and focus – especially in the city. But the beauty of trail running is that it lets us do the same thing – all while escaping technology. So while it’s great to create the perfect running playlist, don’t be afraid to leave it at home when you hit the trail.

What's are your go-to running songs? Let us know in the comments!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The Pack Team

Activities
Trail Running, Hiking, Mountain Biking
Favorite Gear
All Out Rush, Mix Master Move, Proterra
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