From Guetta to Cardi B.—here’s how to DJ your playlists to crush every workout


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Question: How did people get through wind sprints on a treadmill before Cardi B.—seriously? Along with the right pair of sneaks and a #letsdothis mindset, a winning playlist is pretty much non-negotiable. So apart from making sure “Bodak Yellow” plays at least once, how do you go about selecting tunes to help you maximize every gym sesh?

According to Aaptiv running coach and CrossFit trainer Meghan Takacs, your number one DJing motto should be this: Choose lyric-reliant tunes that move you (emotionally and literally). “I’m not the kind of coach that relies on super, in-your-face, upbeat songs to keep you motivated because, at the end of the day, that’s not what you should rely on,” she tells me. “It’s more about digging through and finding profound things in the song verses, than it is: ‘Okay, this is 190 beats per minute.'” 

For example, if your fangirl-ing for Destiny’s Child knows no bounds, go ahead and play “Survivor” during the burpee section of your HIIT workout. Better yet, once you’ve crushed numerous workouts with your background music of choice, Jasmin Hutchinson, PhD, the director for sport and exercise psychology at Springfield College, tells Runner’s World that you might start to associate certain songs with victory. These are (obvi) the ones to add to your race day playlist or employ as bookends for your most challenging workouts.

For example, if your fangirl-ing for Destiny’s Child knows no bounds, go ahead and play “Survivor” during the burpee section of your HIIT workout.

Conversely, playlists featuring too many hits above 150 BPM might actually hurt your performance. “Very fast-tempo music seems to be overwhelming and largely unpleasant to most people,” explains Dr. Hutchinson. Though it would be a somewhat tedious project to measure the BPMs of your entire music library manually, plenty of websites do it for free. Take, for instance, Avril Lavine’s “Girlfriend” (a straight-up classic), which breaks Dr. Hutchinson’s rule at 164 BPM, according to BPM Database.

When you’re ready to call it a day to spend some one-on-one time with your recovery tool of choice, keep in mind that music matters in your cool down, too. “Listening to a slow song while you stretch can help your heart rate and your blood pressure come down,” Dr. Hutchinson says. Think: Vance Joy over Nirvana.

For your next sweat sesh, try streaming Nina Dobrev’s 25-minute cardio pump-up, or a few of Barack Obama’s fave tunes.

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