Habits of Fit People: Create a Workout Playlist

By , SparkPeople Blogger
You want to be a fit person, right? That's why I'm sharing my own habits for keeping fit and staying healthy in the ongoing Habits of Fit People series.

Here's one that works for me: Create a workout playlist. So why does something like this matter?

Anyone who has ever watched a great movie knows that the soundtrack really sets the mood and taps into your emotions. Put simply, music is powerful. It can inspire, energize, or even relax you. So having the right music for your workouts can go a long way in keeping you excited and motivated to not only get out the door, but also to work hard during your exercise session. Researchers agree. One recent study found that exercisers who listened to music during their workouts pushed themselves harder than those who didn't listen to music. And researchers from Brunel University in England found that songs with tempos between 120 and 140 beats per minute, which coincides with most dance and rock songs, are best for exercising.

But even if we didn't have researchers telling us that music can improve your workouts, I think that we'd hardly argue. Who hasn't experienced a rush of energy and momentum when listening to a great song? When you're exercising, your heart rate is elevated and you're moving at a quicker pace or flowing from one exercise to the next. So the soundtrack you listen to can help you enter "the zone," focusing on your pace, intensity, and body's signals better than if you were absorbed in a rerun of "Friends" while on the elliptical trainer.

Music is essential to my workouts. I pack my iPod with my favorite get-up-and-go tunes, the ones that I can't help but move to. And I'm always adding to it. I keep a pen and small piece of paper with me most of the time, so that when I hear a song on the radio, during a TV commercial, or even during a fitness class, I can jot down some of the lyrics and look it up.

Often I create my own workout playlists—I have about over 40 of them and counting! Rather than just let my mp3 player shuffle aimlessly through all the songs in my collection, I create playlists for specific activities like running, Spinning, Pilates, strength training and even stretching. Regularly adding new songs to my playlists is a simple and inexpensive way to keep my workouts fresh and interesting.

Do you have a hard time exercising when you don't have the right music?

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Just started doing play lists on my mp3. Also do video play lists for treadmill. This works very well also. Report
I totally agree that music is essential!!! I've never felt confident enough to jog for any significant amount of time while doing my cardio (too heavy, knees will hurt...blah,blah,blah...)! However, last week I was listening to some 'smashing' soca (up tempo calypso) music, and before I knew it, my intervals of power walking 'magically' morphed into jogging!!! Now, I'm hard-pressed to not break out into a jog even when I'm supposed to be doing an 'easy' walk! :) Report
I love doing exercise with music. My ipod is filled with classic rock and really makes me move! Report
Like mostly everyone here I have to have music when I work out. I have different playlists depending on what I am doing and my mood. Most days I use music that has a great beat and pushes me along to keep me on the bike, treadmill, elliptical or outdoors. I exercise almost every day. On days when I probably should be resting, I work at a lower intensity and listen to music with a slower beat. Since I don't wear headphones when cycling outdoors I had to do without music until somebody told me about a speaker that holds my iPod, fits in the bottle cage and even has a remote that is mounted on the handle bar. The first time I rode my bike with the music, I noticed a great improvement in my speed. When in the workout room at my job I usually read also because I don't like the shows most people watch. Report
I have a playlist on my IPOD for gym music. I have both upbeat and mellow music (for cool downs) on it. I notice that I stay with my exercise routine longer if I have my music on... Report
I always have my ipod with me when I am working out by myself. It is essential to my workout. I think having upbeat music helps me move faster and for a longer amount of time. Report
Great article. I love music and know it can be a real pick me up but I have not used it during exercise. Looks like I will have to treat myself to an MP3 player as from all the posts below, it sounds like it is a real motivational tool for exercising. Report
I have to have my ipod... can't get in the groove without it. The tunes and playlists vary, but the music keeps me focused and motivated. I also watch the tv with closed caption at the gym, but only the news channels. I read on the treadmill sometimes, but still have my music going... it's like it makes my exercise painless....
Evelyn Report
I know when a really great & pumped up song hits I peddle, run, ellipticize faster. Now if they could just invent an MP3 player for the pool. Report
I listen to music on my mp3 player and I can plug straight into the exercise machines at my gym to watch tv. I can also listen to the radio on my machines as well. It makes the workout go really quickly! Report
i swim 3 times a week for 1 hour i wish i had music but i actually pray.. Report
i swim 3 times a week for 1 hour i wish i had music but i actually pray.. Report
I have a playlist that I use when I'm walking. All Disco, My neighbors use to laugh at me as I would jirate down the rode. But now when they see me and I'm not dancing they say "Hey, B where's your music". I'm the neighborhood entertainment. Report
I just have to listen to something. Music, the TV or even reading. I don't think that I could do 60 mins of cardio without it. Report
I love listening to music when I work out but if you don't update your songs or have a large playlist you can start not liking the songs anymore because of the sheer number of times you have heard them. When I was walking, I used to listen to a radio talk show and I LOVED it. I didn't rely on the uptempo motivation when I was walking so it worked for me! Report
I just recently bought a MP3 player and was totally EXCITED (bought new running sneakers too).. to get MY W/O GOING.. Thought this would be the CHANGE I NEEDED TO PUMP ME UP..Well it was ok the first couple of days...but now I HAVE LEARNT TO DISLIKE ALL MY FAVORITE SONGS :(.. I shall NOT use my music for w/o ever again..I stick to a good movie or show to kill my 60-90 minutes on the elliptical..won't hurt to dislike tv a little lol
Kudos to all though for BUSTIN A MOVE!! Report
Believe it or not, I hate listening to music when I exercise. I get to the end of a song and think 'dear God was that only three minutes?!' I do much better just staring into space and getting lost in my own thoughts, or watching old movies on AMC at the gym. Report
For me it's not about having music so much as the type of music. If I am listening to AC/DC I'll workout harder than I would with Neil Diamond ( I like them both) and they are both on my MP3 the Neil diamond is great during the cooldown. Report
I HAVE to have music. Especially for cardio, it helps me pick up the pace. For weight work I prefer metal, punk and hard rock. Also a great motivator. Report
I have a couple CDs I like to walk to. They have some fast songs and some slow songs so I walk at different paces. My favorite, oddly enough, is a John Phillip Sousa DVD my son picked up for me while he was in Washington DC a couple years ago. That marching music really keeps me moving! Report
I like to have my mp3 player with me so I don't hear myself breathing heavy. It makes it seem like I'm not working as hard, so I don't get as tired. I also like to sing along... :-) Report
I decided to create a playlist to help me walk faster. I found I had one speed...slow. I didn't even realize that I was going slow. I played around with my music until I had 45 minutes of music that begin at a slow pace, and increase to a fast walking pace and then slow down until the last song is a cool down pace. I had to really work to keep up with the faster songs at the beginning, but now I'm having to work at the slow down songs! My husband had really noticed how much faster my normal walking pace is. Besides, it's fun to "boogey" on down the road to your favorite tunes... Report
I've forgotten my iPod at home before and had to drive back to get it before I could do my workout! Not real eco-friendly, but I couldn't fathom doing 6 miles of speed work without my techno dance music! I love how every now and then you stumble upon a song that will give you rush for days everytime you hear it! Report
When my cardio is walking outside, I skip the iPod - I like the noises of traffic and nature. But when I walk in the house or dance (on those rainy days) I definitely go with the iPod and my playlist (labelled "Exercise Jams", LOL). Report
One time I lost my IPOD and I couldn't run at all. I did other exercises but I couldn't run. I bought a new one within 2 weeks and was back on schedule. That is how important my music is to me. I also have certain songs placed at a certain point where I might get tired and the music pushes me over the hump and off I am again. Report
For some activities I like music. However, I am one of those people who likes silence a lot since I perceive most of modern music as noise. Indoor exercise, I listen to my CDs or Christian TV stations that may have music. Outdoors, I enjoy silence and God's creation! Report
I do the turbo jam workout that has some heart pumping music to it.Music is what makes it! Report
well I do at time have a hard time with working out when I have no tunes I love music it brings me peace Report
Like most of the comments, I also have my ipod loaded with great upbeat tunes for when I go running. I have found though, that when I am working out on my elliptical I get a bit bored, so I like to turn on a music video station and then not only do I get to listen to music, but I also have something to watch and the time just flys. Report
I too have a workout playlist...it is essential!!! The music gets me in a zone so that I can pump away on the elliptical! Report
I've had to train myself to run without music. Most of the large races won't allow you to have your ipod because of safety concerns. I am looking forward to using my ipod again after my race is over! Report
Just like everyone else commenting, I too gotta have music when I workout. Sometimes when I go walking I don't listen to it and focus on motivating thoughts and my surroundings and taking time to "unplug" from everything, but when working out...gotta have it! I have found that when I get toward the end of the time I planned but not quite there and I feel like stopping, I'll hit another favorite song and tell myself I'll stop when this song is over and push on through and finish my goal for the day or even push beyond it! I agree...it definitely sets the mood and is a great motivator. Report
If I don't have the right music, then my workout does suffer. I have to have that right tempo to really push myself to smoke those elliptical peddles or that treadmill track!

I do like to listen to a different tye of beat when I am strength training though and thanks for the idea of creating specific playlists for specific tasks! I hate having to forward through the stuff that just doesn't cut it for me when I'm in the middle of a great cardio workout. Report
I do find that it's easier for me to workout to music. I try to use upbeat songs when I want to do cardio and slower tunes when stretching or doing relaxing exercises like yoga. Report
I don't race with my iPod since more and more races are banning their use, but when I have a long run, say two hours, nothing beats Tom Petty's Runnin' Down a Dream, ELO's Hold on Tight to Your Dreams, or even the ever so slow, I can see clearly now the rain is gone, I can see all obstacles in my way...ahh, LIFE IS GOOD when you can sing AND run! Report
I dont usually leavecomments here but this is ohhh so true! I listen to music and the days I do, I work out harder! The days I just watch TV I dont have the energy to work out. and I skip through the soft slow music, and forward it to the fast music! Report
I have to have music to work out to, but because I work out in my gym at home, I also need something visual to make it more interesting. My best investment was my flatscreen telly with built in freeview and DVD that's now screwed to the wall in my gym, I tune to one of the music channels or pop in one of my uptempo compilation DVDs, and away I go! Though I have to admit, if I'm doing a longer workout on the stationary bike, I always put on The Sound Of Music... I get so engrossed the time flies by :) Report
I have to agree with Coach Nicole. One of the best presents my husband has bought me is an iPod shuffle. It is so small and compact. I clip it to my shirt, turn it on and away I go! I have also discovered the iTunes store, songs for .99....fabulous! Report
I never work out wt/out music. Both my cell and ipod are filled wt plenty of songs so that when i walk in the city or when i work out i have something to listen to, Report
Beach Boys - Surfin' USA gets me going Report
I have to have music, period. I listen to iTunes on shuffle all day, and my workout playlist has 218 songs on it. :D Report
I got to have my music when I exercise. Report
I have to agree I love to listen to music in all areas of my life. Music will get you into the mood for just about anything. I find that if I listen to it as I clean house I am more energized than if I don't listen to any. I love to listen to it driving to work as it will allow me to get myself into the right frame of mind. And it makes the time fly by when I do my workouts. Report
This is ssssooo me....I have to have great music to get me out the door--just like you mentioned. Great article! I really enjoyed it! And thanks for the advice with the paper and pen and jotting lyrics down---i was always to embarrassed to do that...now, not anymore!!!! Thanks! Report
I'm weird, I cannot race without music, but I prefer to do training runs, strength training, and other types of cardio in silence. Report
I use music in all parts of my life. It helps in so many ways. When I am working out it helps to keep me motivated, especially at the end when I want to quit - the right song keeps me going! Report
I don't listen to music when I hike, but other than that the music makes the workout for me. I truly need an MP3 player (yes.. I'm SOOO behind the times I still don't have one) It's going to be my first 10% reward (I'm almost there!!) It makes a huge difference on my stationary bike what music I listen to! I even have to have the right music for the exercise AND my mood. ha! Report
I actually prefer listening to favorite podcasts, instead of music, when I am working out on indoor equipment preferably one that requires a bit of focus. That's because the podcast discussion keeps my mind engaged, rather than wandering off onto all of the other things I could be doing! Outdoors, biking for instance, I enjoy alternating podcasts with upbeat music. Report
I have different playlists for different things - treadmill (walking or running), strength training, general cardio and one for stretching to at the end of my workout to help calm me down. I also created a playlist for a 5km race I entered. Report