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How to create the perfect workout playlist

Ashleigh Went

Is there a feeling worse than arriving at the gym, only to realise that you’ve forgotten your earphones?

Well, yes – probably. But when it comes to workouts, some good tunes can pump you up, set the tone for your workout and keep you moving when you feel like giving up.

I often find my performance during workouts without music the same as my performance during mornings without coffee: listless, flat and grumpy.

I personally feel as though I’ve got this workout playlist down to a fine art, so I’ve thrown together some of my favourite tracks on the HerCanberra Workout Playlist on Spotify – scroll down to check it out.

Here’s my tips on building the ultimate workout playlist:

PB with BPMs

“Huh?” I hear you ask. BPM means beats per minute, and it’s basically the secret to a good playlist (and potentially help you hit a PB, or personal best).

There have been a number of good studies on music and how it affects exercise. One in particular looked at subjects on exercise bikes and found that increasing the tempo of the music resulted in increased distance covered, heart rate, power and pedal cadence. Similarly, decreasing tempo lowered performance – if you’re gym likes to pump Adele, you won’t find this surprising in the least.

Most people agree that the ideal BMP for songs on a workout playlist is about 120-140. However, keep in mind that it takes your muscles a few minutes to warm up, so it’s a good idea to include some slower songs to get you started.

We’ve sorted our HerCanberra Workout Playlist by BPM, starting with some lower tempo songs to ease into your workout, reaching 120 at Cheap Thrills and peaking with A Milli at 150 (what can I say, I’ve got a soft spot for Lil Wayne).

Play your mood

I know quite a few people who like listening to heavy metal music while they lift weights. I get it, it gets you fired up and angry which can help you shift some extra weight. Heavy metal isn’t my thing, but I do love hip hop for the same reason.

If I’m in a really bad mood, I’ll put something a bit heavy or darker on (I like AWOL Nation’s Sail) and channel into my workout. Most of the time, I’ll push through the bad mood and end up with a rush of endorphins and a clearer mind.

In the same way, listening to certain music can change or influence how you’re feeling, so I like to keep the most of mine fairly upbeat with a couple of songs to get me feeling excited to start a workout.

Match your activity

While it largely comes down to personal taste, there are definitely certain kinds of tunes that feel better for specific workouts.

Personally, I love really high energy, high tempo music when I’m doing cardio to keep me ticking over, while I’m more likely to pick R&B for yoga. It comes down to the speed that you want to move at, the energy of your workout and of course, how your body and mind are feeling.

For my cool down I usually opt for something a bit slower paced to ease my heart rate down to normal, and I also like something a little sexy and empowering to finish off (think The Weeknd or Beyonce).

Waxing lyrical

I’m a big believer in the power of words – and that goes for song lyrics too.

Words can be incredibly motivational, so listening to songs with words that pump you up can be a really good strategy for having a good workout – especially as you get increasingly fatigued.  The same goes for when you’re feeling less than stellar about your body (we all have those days) – Queen Bey or Nikki Minaj are always my pick for this vibe.

What are you favourite songs to work out to? Let us know and we’ll update our playlist. In the meantime, here it is for your listening (and butt-kicking) pleasure:


Ashleigh Went

Ashleigh Went has a passion for all things health and wellness. She’s currently furthering her studies in nutrition, but also has a Bachelor of Communication and is a qualified fitness instructor with over five years experience working in a gym. Among other things, she’s a lover of great food, coffee and fashion. She can usually be found shopping for activewear, in the gym or updating her Instagram @wentworthavenue More about the Author

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