It’s no secret that a good playlist can mean all the difference between killing it at the gym and cutting your sweat session short to head across the street for some fro-yo (don’t worry, it happens to the best of us). But even if you’re the kind of person who can get through a morning run sans music, working some tunes into your fitness routine might be more than just a matter of preference; it could help you take your training up a notch.
For starters, making music a central component of your workout can change your whole attitude during a workout, putting you in a better mood while you’re exercising. That means that you might actually enjoy the experience of hitting the gym, instead of just surviving it.
But that’s just part of it. The role of music in an exercise regimen, according to a 2008 report published in The Sport Journal, comes down to five basic elements: dissociation, arousal regulation, synchronization, acquisition of motor skills, and attainment of flow. To put that in layman’s terms, music can basically improve a workout by 1) taking your mind off the difficulty and rigor of a workout, 2) warming you up and cooling you down before and after your workout, 3) giving you a pace and beat to sync up your movement to, 4) encouraging the body to move in effective movement patterns and providing verbal cues – lyrics like “move your body” for example –help to pump you up, and 5) keeping you, for lack of a better phrase, “in the zone.”
Getting the most out of your playlist isn’t always as easy as just flipping on Spotify and going with the flow. Your best bet is to specifically choose songs that follow a rhythmic pattern that syncs up with your movements, making sure to go with songs of different tempos to complement lower and higher intensity portions of your workouts. It also works best to incorporate uplifting melodies and songs with lyrics that are motivational in some way. These songs encourage you to push your limits and triumph.
At the end of the day, the perfect workout playlist for you is going to be a product of your unique tastes more than any prescribed equation for the ideal soundtrack. Whatever songs you choose, it might be time to start thinking about music as being just as important to your workout as your running shoes. Trust us, it makes a difference.