Tips for Making the Perfect Playlist

Posted on Thu, 31 Dec 2010 06:06:00 -08:00
Tips for Making the Perfect Playlist

Chances are many of you may be dusting off your sneakers as you resolve to move more in 2010. The right playlist could make the difference between a lackluster or luminous start to your year!

Whether it’s the goat-slaying grooves of Slayer’s “Reign in Blood” or just a little taste of Neil Diamond, we all have our favorite tunes to pump when we’re training. But you’ve undoubtedly experienced the converse as well—you know, like the time you cleverly thought you’d kill two birds with one stone and listen to the BBC World Service podcast while you were trying to beast your way through a brutal training session and found it to be, well, just a little distracting. Music can enhance performance or it can detract from it, radically. If you’re the sort who prefers music while training, here are a few ideas to keep in mind before you slip in your ear buds and get busy.

Know What Works

Like everyone, you have a favored style of music to get pumped up. Some people like hard rock, the whole time. Some people prefer indie rock. Classical music really fires some people up. Some people like a combination of many different types of music and don’t mind jarring shifts in tempo and genre. Experiment, find what’s right for you, and if you don’t find it right away, keep listening and being attentive until you do. When you hear something on the radio or from a friend that fires you up, note it and later add it to your training play list.

Remember Your Warm Up

Not all of the tunes on your training playlist need to make you want to break a block of concrete in half with your fists. Again, this is a matter of personal preference, but it’s generally a good idea to match the tempo of your tunes to the tempo of your movement. Factor in a song or two for your warm up, something more down tempo and mellow while you’re doing mobility work, getting your joints lubricated with synovial fluid and preparing to enter the zone. At the same time, it can help to choose something that’s melodically or lyrically inspiring, upbeat or otherwise puts you in a good frame of mind. Avoid songs that will transport you to a time, place, or experience that might tear you out of the zone.

Set the Mood

What emotions do you like to tap into when you train? Do you like to feel empowered? Angry? Mad? Tranquil? Blissed out? Think about what state of mind you find to be most useful when you enter the zone, and select songs that help you to slip into this mental space. Again, experimentation will help you find the right mood for your training music, and your preferences may vary from week to week or month to month, but like everything else about attaining a higher state of fitness, being mindful of every detail and paying attention to these details can help you enter the flow state where you’ll be optimally focused.

Keep Time in Mind

While watches, wall clocks, countdown timers and other devices can be excellent tools for keeping track of your rounds or sets, you can also use your playlist to keep track of time during your workout. If you’re doing five-minute rounds, select songs that are five minutes long. If you’re using a sets and reps scheme and don’t want to break your flow, think about a continuous DJ mix that will give you wall-to-wall music without any breaks during the course of your session.

Remember Your Cool Down

You should know roughly how long your workout will be before you start. If you don’t, then you haven’t spent enough time thinking through your training session, your intentions, the frame of mind you want to have as you execute it, how you want to feel physically and the results you hope to engender by completing it. Keeping this in mind, the end of your playlist should have music that will help wind you down while you engage in some low intensity movement and stretching following your time on the TRX. For most people, this is probably not the place to drop Slayer...

If you have a playlist you’ve been using for a long time and have grown tired of it, budget time before your next workout to sit down at the computer and draw up a new, more inspiring playlist. Like fitness and everything else in life, our musical preferences and what motivates us musically are not unchanging things etched in stone. Just as doing the same training routine over and over can lead to burnout, listening to the same playlist, no matter how great it seemed the first time you gave it a listen, can curb your enthusiasm.


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