by Sarah Gray
I work out what might be qualified as an “obsessive” amount, or so I’ve been told. I maintain those people are not, in fact, working out nearly enough. Music is an essential part of maintaining your motivation throughout a long workout. Of course you are tired after work, everyone is tired after work, but that is no excuse to slack. Someone at some point is going to have to look at you naked. Instead of caving to your urge to go home and eat three slices of pizza in your sweatpants watching TV shows you are too embarrassed to admit you like, you are going to put on some upbeat music, music that makes you want to take names and dole out ass-handings to, and get your run on.
As much as I love running, let’s face it, sometimes it really is just straight up grueling. It is tough to phone it in during a run the way you can lifting weights or spending half your yoga class in child’s pose. Especially when you are running outside (which is far more gratifying), it is essential to have a running playlist that makes you want to run – this will make the experience far less tedious.
This list is meant to correspond with your pacing strategy. Work smarter, not harder – the better you are at maintaining a comfortable tempo, the longer you will be able to run. In the order in which they should appear on your playlist:
(Ed. – playlist available at end of article)
1) Kanye West – Love Lockdown
I know what you are thinking; you can’t think Kanye without thinking Kim Kardashian, and you can’t think Kim Kardashian without experiencing a deep-seated despair about the state of civilization and the future of all mankind, and that is hardly motivational.
Try to erase that from your brain. Remember when Kanye was new on the scene before the Taylor Swift incident, before he was rightly labeled a jackass by the entire country, including the President, before that god-awful video (I know you know the video I am talking about)? Focus on that Kanye. Kanye is a good place to start your run playlist because there is a solid beat, but it is slow. Your first two or three songs should have a beat slow enough that they keep you in check. Energy is a zero-sum game. You do not want to use everything you have in the first mile. Pace yourself.
2) Jay-Z – Run This Town
You want this early in your run list. It has a more insistent pace, so you can build the urgency of your run, but the beat is still steady enough to keep you from overexerting yourself too early. Plus, it is incredibly hard to listen to this song and not feel like a badass. Feeling like a badass makes everything you do feel better and more natural. Running is no exception. Who runs this town? You do. Obviously.
Incidentally, this is also a great on your way to a first date song for the same reasons listed above.
3) Muse – Uprising
Muse has a number of excellent running songs, though this one is my personal favorite. This is a good song to build into your average training pace. I like to think of revolutionary coup d’etat when I run. Revolutions have an insistency to them that is helpful to channel mid-run. By the end of this song, you should be at your goal pace for this run. Nobody lollygags to storm the Bastille.
4) MIA – Paper Planes
Many runners struggle with pacing themselves consistently. The beat of this song is set at an excellent average training pace. This will vary depending on fitness ability, but this beat clocks in at a pretty solid nine minute mile, not too fast, not too slow. For leisurely runs, I think this nicely rides the border between really pushing yourself and totally slagging off. I like to put this song right after I’ve ramped up to what I intend to be my pace. Constantly speeding up and slowing down burns energy you could spend going farther or being more comfortable. Use this song to set your pace. Don’t make this harder for yourself than it has to be.
5) Ludacris (feat. Disturbing tha Peace) – Move Bitch
For obvious reasons, I like this song for getting over the hump, so I recommend putting it halfway or just past halfway through your playlist. If possible, this is a great opportunity for cruising by some other hapless runner and thinking to yourself, I am so much better than them. They are basically walking, right? And you’re pretty much an Olympian. Old people and children count – take those wins wherever you can get them.
6) Metric – Help I’m Alive
The beat of this song comes in at 118 beats per minute, which is right where you should be for a healthy mid-cardio heart-rate. Plus, there is the helpful suggestion that you might get eaten alive if you stop running. Today, your run is recreational and voluntary, but someday it might not be and you don’t want to be dragging ass then, now do you?
7) The Raconteurs – Steady As She Goes
This should appear between two thirds to three quarters of the way through your run, right where you hit that slump between “I have been doing this a long time/would prefer not to be doing this anymore” and almost done. The refrain is a repeated burst of energy, use that to push yourself through. Stay steady. You are almost as far as almost there.
8) Eminem – Berserk
Congratulations, you are officially almost there. This song, aptly named, is fast paced and angry. This is a good opportunity to pick up the pace and finish strong. You know how you are tired and hungry and thirsty now and you are kind of angry about it? Use this song to tap into that longing to be done. Hang in there. I mean, you are practically done already. There is a snack at the end of this.
9) Britney Spears – Toxic
Is Britney Spears a secret guilty pleasure of mine? Maybe. I like this song toward the end of my runs because it is the sort of song that is hard to listen to and keep still, so even if I am really tired by this point, I hear this song and it makes me want to get going. Maybe you prefer Katy Perry or Fergie. Whatever your pleasure, the song should be one that is danceable and hard to resist, something you love in spite of yourself. Plus, a run list is a great place to stow away your guilty pleasures, that way if anyone finds out you can say, “oh, well, you know, it’s just that it has a really good beat and is pretty catchy. It’s not like I dance around my living room to it in my underpants or anything…”
10) Interpol – Slow Hands
This is a good song to wrap things up with. The beat is steady and insistent, but starts to bring you back down, ready to transition to your cool down.
A run list should shift with the tone of your workout and as your running develops, so should your playlist. Your run list needs to be in tune with your workout in a way it doesn’t have to be with other forms of exercise. There are no instructors or coaches here, no two minute breaks in between sets – it is just you, your music, and the distance you’re covering.
And, you’re done! Welcome to the fitter, happier you.