Here’s How the Pros Put Together a Motivating Workout Playlist

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Ever haul yourself out of bed for a dreaded trip to the gym only to realize you either 1) forgot your headphones at home, or 2) don’t have a motivating workout playlist on deck? We feel you. While some people can totally crush a workout without music, I, for one, need an arsenal of hyped-up songs to make it past even one minute of exercise.

It’s common knowledge that music has the ability to impact mood; studies have shown that it helps lower cortisol levels and increases happy hormones, like oxytocin and dopamine. “Music is a vital component in driving movement during a workout,” says Rebecca Moskob, an instructor at indoor cycling studio Spinco in Toronto. (She’s known for her sweaty rave-themed rides.) Here, Moskob shares some tips for compiling an inspiring playlist that will help you breeze through your workout. No personal hype-man needed.

Choose a proper warm-up track

While you may be tempted to dive right into your session with a heavy beat, this will likely burn you out. “I like to start off with something a little more low-key,” says Moskob, who suggests choosing a song that lasts between 3 to 5 minutes for your warm-up. “You want to ease into your workout—warming up both your body and mind—instead of jumping right into it,” she says, adding that taking the time to connect to the beat of your first song will set the tone for the rest of your workout. Ergo, choose a track you can keep up with.

Up the tempo gradually

Once you’ve figured out your intro song you can start adding more tunes into the mix. Moskob advises incorporating a variety of medium-paced songs and faster ones. “You want to create a big build towards the end, as your body is progressively working harder.” Also, don’t forget the transitions between songs—you want them to be smooth and seamless. (If you’re a Spotify user, now’s the time to utilize the handy crossfade feature.)

Take a minute to research BPM

We get it: More work is the last thing you want to do. However, taking the time to research BPM (beats per minute) will come in handy when creating a playlist. If you’ve ever wondered why instructors lean towards dance remixes of your fave Top 40 hits (and basically anything EDM in general) it’s because of the genre’s BPM, which averages at about 128. For cardio training, songs with a BPM between 125 to 150 are ideal. If you’re not sure how to calculate music BPM don’t sweat it: There are websites dedicated to this exact topic, like songbpm.com.

There are playlists out there waiting for you

No, throwing on a pre-made mix isn’t accepting defeat or lazy. There are tons of excellent pre-compiled playlists on Spotify and Apple Music. “Whenever I feel lost or am looking for some fresh tracks I throw on an Apple Music playlist,” says Moskob. “Right now, I love listening to the curated ‘Groove’ playlist—it also gets updated every week!”

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