February 12, 2014

How to make a PR playlist

When I pick out music for running/race playlists, I base it all on feel. Did I almost end up in one of those awkward youtube videos of people dancing on their treadmills because of a song? Then it goes on the playlist. Did the melody make me feel like I was floating through a run that normally makes me want to vomit? Get it on there. Did the song make me laugh out loud while I was listening to it or make me smile so hard while I was running by myself in the woods that I would have been embarrassed for even an anonymous deer to see my giddiness? Download that business ASAP.

Lately I've been making playlists for my aqua classes at the gym, and I've tried to step away from the whatever-I-want attitude to a more science-based approach. The Aquatics Exercise Association (yes, that's a thing) says that the music for water exercise should be 125-150 beats per minute (bpm). So I followed that recommendation for my classes, and it worked. By "it worked," I mean that no one openly complained or tried to trip me with a pool noodle because they hated the music.

That got me thinking that maybe I should do the same thing with my running music -- you know, insert some science and numbers in there, and see what happens.

Step 1: Match your desired speed with the bpm.

Here's a chart to get you started.

I'm specifically thinking about my hometown half marathon (Mercedes) this weekend and whether or not I want to make it a fun run or a PR run. In order to PR, I need to see 1:3? on my watch or about 7:33/min per mile, making my magic playlist number 174-175 bpm. So I need 1:39 of 174ish bpm music. 

At first I tried searching out the bpm of the songs I liked already, and they were all over the place. Happy by Pharrell Williams is only 160 bpm, not enough. One Step Closer by Linkin Park is an even lower 95. What? Obviously, I know nothing about music because I would not have guessed that at all. 

So I switched to a new method. 

Step 2: Find songs in your bpm range on jog.fm.

There is a search option for songs based on bpm. The hard part of this option is not really knowing many of these songs beforehand, but I listened through them and actually came up with a playlist of songs that really resonated with me.

Step 3: Add those songs to your new butt-kicking playlist. 

And here's what I came up with. 

1:39 half marathon or 174/175 bpm playlist
(this is literally the title of the playlist on my phone)
(nothing like an uber-creative playlist title to get you pumped at the start line)

1. Kyoto by Shrillex
2. Footloose by Kenny Loggins
3. Hotwax by Beck
4. Broken Bricks by White Stripes
5. Burn by Ellie Goulding
6. Let's Go Surfing by The Drums 
7. Run to the Hills by Iron Maiden
8. Sugar Mama by Deep Dark Woods
9. Bring It On by Daddy Yankee
10. Kingdom Come by Jay Z
11. Out Here Grindin' by DJ Khaled
12. I Wanna by All-American Rejects
13. The Famous Polka by They Might Be Giants
14. A-Punk by Vampire Weekend
15. Hot Cookin' by G. Love
16. Miracle Drug by A.C. Newman
17. Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan
18. Get Ur Freak On by Eels
19. Who You Are by Pearl Jam
20. Keep On Running by UK Subs
21. The End. by My Chemical Romance
22. Still Ill by The Smiths
23. Such Great Heights by The Postal Service
24. Go! (club Mix) by Tones on Tail
25. Hot Tottie by Usher
26. The End of the Line by The Offspring
27. Rolling by Soul Coughing
28. Smiley Faces by Gnarls Barkley 
29. Encore by Eminem

Step 4: PR your heart out!

And that's it! Let's see if I actually stick to any kind of plan for Mercedes this weekend. The biggest temptation is to just have fun and take lots of pictures with my brother along the course, especially considering how boringly serious I was during this race last year. I'm going to wait until that morning to decide how I feel. Plus I think I'm going to throw Happy back into the mix because I love that song so much and am confident that no matter what bpm it is, I will run happier when I hear it. 

What method do you use to create your playlists?

Music helps us run faster: true or false?

Favorite speed work song right now?


  1. I think music definitely helps me run faster. I find myself having a faster turnover with faster songs. Good luck on the half!

  2. I use the same method you usually use....I just put whatever makes me wanna dance on there. Ain't no shame in that! I definitely think that it helps me run faster :)

  3. I love to use music for motivation!! I also use half the beats....aka. 160 bpm (for me) or 80-90 bpm. Then I'm hitting twice per beat. It seems to work and mixes up the music a bit. I can get a little melancholy and then BAM a kick ass song comes on and I punch it. I use Cadence Desktop Pro and it works pretty well. It puts the BPM on my chosen songs on iTunes. Then I can pick from there. Slow run...YES. Tempo run...Surely!!!
    Thanks for the tips!

    1. Good ideas!! Thank you so much for sharing! I was wondering about the half beats. Good to know!

  4. Maybe it's why I run so slow, but when I run alone, I listen to just favorite music. My playlist (on a Shuffle so I never know what's coming up) is about the widest range of any human being that can hear. From Pink to Etta James, from Gordon Lightfoot to U2, from classical to Gypsy Kings, from Bob Dylan to Van Morrison. It's all there, but I listen to relax, not to push me. Like I said, maybe that's why I run slow, but I love it! Good luck Sunday, Lisa. See you there I hope.

    1. I seriously need one of your playlists, Al! I would love it!

  5. Great tips! Thanks for the website suggestion. I need to add some new music for the 1/2 on Sunday, and now I know where to look for the BPM info. Not sure if the fast music makes me run faster, but I'm pretty sure that the slower music slows me down if that makes any sense. Favorite speedwork songs right now are "Showstopper" by Toby Mac, "Pound the Alarm" by Nicki Minaj, and "Na Na Na" by Dacav

    1. Love "Pound the Alarm" too! Perfect for speed work on the treadmill. Need to look up the other two.

  6. SHUT UP. This is awesome. I'm going to research all of mine...I don't think my music is right at all, but I love it all. Will you train with this or just use it during the race? I totally believe in the power of music to get me through a run!

  7. Awesome! I'm going to send this chart to my sons (for TrailMix) right away!

  8. Good luck at the weekend. I'm running a 10k (hoping for a PR) on Saturday so I shall be channelling my inner Yo Momma (and my Inner Olympic Gold Medallists). I've just finished my playlist and I'm more excited about the playlist and the race.

    One word of wisdom...don't let your 4 year old choose your race outfit tomorrow. I shall be very...bright ;)

    Good luck!!

  9. I'm groovin' to Radioactive, It's not fast, just powerful!

  10. I read your blog post just as I was making my playlist for my 1/2 this weekend. Perfect. Timing. I know that music makes me faster! The perfect play list is key for a big race. Do I have enough Miley? What about Gaga? And if Britney doesn't make an appearance I can forget PR'ing. I really didn't even think about BPM, but I absolutely need to test that theory. Hope you have an awesome race this weekend!


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