A few years ago I would run with a friend a couple of times a week. We both listened to our own music and could be pretty focused. During one morning run, someone in a car flagged me down. The driver told me that my friend was waving for me to stop. I looked back and she was two blocks behind! She was listening to country music whereas my playlist was rock and roll.
Costas Karageorghis and David-Lee Priest, sports psychologists at Brunel University in the UK, found that music can influence athletic performance in 5 ways:
- Dissociation: Music can focus your attention, boost happiness and block sensations of fatigue, which all work together to lower your perception of effort.
- Arousal regulation: Music can be used as a stimulant.
- Synchronization: Music’s tempo helps you perform more efficiently, leading to greater endurance.
- Help you learn new motor skills: Rhythm helps with coordination.
- Attain flow: The right music can help you focus and exclude competing messages.
In search of the best running playlist
Karageorghis and Priest say that when creating an exercise playlist, you should keep these criteria in mind:
- strong, energizing rhythm
- positive lyrics that have movement associations
- tempo matched to the movement pattern of the physical activity
- uplifting melodies and harmonies
- associations with sport, exercise, triumph or overcoming adversity
- musical style or idiom suited to the athlete’s taste and culture
- a variety of selections
The songs I run to meet all of these criteria except for the point about tempo. I have no idea what the specific tempos are for my songs.The sweet spot for recreational athletes is between 120 and 140 beats-per-minute, about the same as the average person’s heart rate during a workout, and many rock songs are in that range. My songs seem like a close match for warm-up, exertion and cool-down, but I would like to optimize the beats-per-minute and learn how to make playlists for different kinds of runs, e.g. endurance or high-intensity intervals.
I met with my friend for a run a couple of weeks ago and we kept pace with each other. Why? She has moved on from country music to a dance mix.
Do you workout with music? Do you use an app or tool to create a playlist to sort by beats-per-minute and optimize your performance?