The Perfect Workout Playlist in 6 Steps


Music and fitness go hand in hand like chocolate and peanut butter. Although they can, and do, exist separately, when you put them together, it’s a perfect match. And even though chocolate can still be delicious without peanut butter, working out without music is kind of like torture.

Good tracks have the ability to completely transform a humdrum workout into something inspirational, fun and, at the very least, tolerable. Running on a treadmill or climbing up the stairs can feel, at times, monotonous and painful. But crank up the music and run to the beat of a fast-paced song, and that same workout seems to fly by in no time! And what’s better than breaking a sweat and toning up while distracted by your favorite tunes?

Making the perfect playlist is an art. You have to pace the tracks out properly to guide and lead you through a workoutm and keep you pushing all the way to the end. You don’t want to start off too fast at the beginning only to burn out by song number three. And you don’t want too many slow picks to keep you from pushing to your potential, either.

To keep you on track (pun intended), follow this guide to make the perfect playlist, and then hit the ground running! To find out how many beats per minute there are in a song, download BPM App on iTunes or check here:

1: Compile 30 songs you absolutely love

Every track should be one that touches you in some way. The genres, eras, and tempos can all vary, but these songs should make you feel. They could make you want to get up and dance, or make you want to scream from a mountaintop, or even make you want to cry. Whatever the case may be, compile your favorites in one place so you can pick and choose from there.

2: Go overboard on the length

The total running time of your playlist should be no less than one hour. Even if you don’t workout for an hour, you can always skip straight to your cool-down track when you’re ready to wrap up. But you don’t want to cut your workout short just because you ran out of music. If anything, you want to have extra inspiration to keep going!

3: Pick the right warm-up track

The first song on your list should have a moderate-paced beat, fast enough to get your heart rate up, but steady enough to warm body up the body properly. Ideally, the first track is one that stays pretty consistent in beat and tempo throughout. And if it has catchy lyrics you can lose yourself in? Even better. You want to get into a zone and get connected to your mission at hand (that is, getting to the finish line).

4: At the right time, take it up!

During this take-it-up phase, you're picking up the pace and intensity of your workout and pushing hard, like sprinting on a treadmill or bicycle. So, the corresponding music, especially the second song, should have a fast tempo and tons of energy—roughly 125–140 beats per minute is ideal. If you pick a favorite tune for this slot, that will help bring up your momentum and energy even more!

5: Then, take it down

After you “take it up,” you can take it down. Choose something that will help bring you back to a moderately paced run or ride. But remember, you should still be working harder than you were during the warm-up. Then, depending on the type of workout, you can vary how many fast- and moderate-paced songs you have. You might alternate between “up” and “down” tracks for the duration, or, for more intensity, you might have two or three “ups” before one “down.”

6: Wind things down

Your cool-down song or songs should be slower than the rest of your playlist (60–90 beats per minute is a good range). This is where you take the pace down, catch your breath, and stretch. 

What are your must-have workout songs of right now, or of all time?

Photo: Andrew Rich / Vetta

Kit Rich is Los Angeles-based fitness trainer with endless exercise and nutritional know-how. Hollywood's hottest stars are addicted to Kit's unique, multi-disciplined approach that combines cardio, yoga, Pilates, and weight training. Kit's clients are immediately taken by her funny and honest approach to health and fitness. She treats her clients as she treats herself, "with a hard challenge, sensibility, sensitively, and a good laugh." Follow Kit on Twitter @kitrichfitness.