My best running music served two purposes for me, 1) distraction and 2) motivation. Of course, this is just me. Some runners might not see the benefit of running with music. In fact, you might find that you like listening to the city or nature sounds that surround you on your running path.
Occasionally, I would run without my running best running music to soak up those same sounds. Besides, rustling trees and chirping birds are sometimes more refreshing than rocking out to death metal on my iPod.
The ideal running music will have a good mixture of up-tempo beats and sounds that help you fly through your run… fast running music is key to a fast time. It’s tough to run fast when your running workout music is a compilation of Barry White songs.
Podcasts are a great motivator as well. My favorite is Steve Runner.
Effects of Running with Music
Good running music has long been known to help motivate athletes through runs, cycling, aerobics, weight lifting, etc. Specifically for runners, the higher the Beats per Minute (BPM) for a song, the more strikes (or steps) you can get in, thus the faster you go. For instance, the best running music mix will have 170 BPM to 180 BPM average, which means you will take about one step per beat. With 85 BPM to 95 BPM, you will take about two per beat.
**Updated October 2009**
Speaking of BPM… Obviously for me, my best running music is an essential part of my running routine. When I’m in my Zen-like mind focus, I tend to listen to the slightly asthmatic Steve Runner’s podcast of random diatribes on long distance running. It’s an eclectic mix of running info from tips and tricks to the Duel in the Sun.
Or, if I need a bit more motivation, I switch over to my “fast shoes” playlist for some more upbeat and hardcore rock. Just what the doctor ordered when I lake the will to run!
My new favorite… running to sweet sounds of the “specially composed BPM running music” from Gary Blake’s run2rhythm.com. The mixes are based on your BPM/how many steps you take per minute while you’re running.
I tested two of the mixes on three of my runs – two short and one long run. Just like Gary suggests, the mixes helped me match my pace to the their beat, enabling me to keep my rhythm more consistent throughout my run. The idea is, if you have a consistent pace, you’ll be more efficient and get a better run in.
Inspirational Running Music
Inspirational or motivational music for running does one thing… gets you out and running! Regardless of the type of music for running you use, music and running works! I dare you to find me a person that doesn’t feel like conquering the world after listening to Eye of the Tiger.
Running Music Playlists
Here are a few of my favorite playlists:
This one is when I’m needing an extra kick or two in my stride.
- Flathead, The Fratellis
- California Waiting, Kings of Leon
- Miss Murder, AFI
- Rollover DJ, Jet
- A Certain Romance, Arctic Monkeys
- Here it Goes Again, OK GO!
- Bet She Looks Good on the Dance Floor, Arctic Monkeys
- Rebel Rebel, David Bowie (I know… random!)
- Freya, The Sword
- Miss Alissa, Eagles of Death Metal
- Pistol of Fire, Kings of Leon
- Sugar We’re Going Down Swinging, Fall Out Boy
Or when I need to blow off some steam.
- Stricken, Disturbed
- Lose Yourself, Eminem
- Paradise City, Guns & Roses
- I Stand Alone, Jackyl
- One Step Closer, Linkin Park
- Love Train, Wolfmother
- You Don’t Know, 50 Cent, Eminem
- Pistol Grip Pump, Rage Against the Machine
Here’s my friend’s best running music playlist. Very random!
- You Shook me All Night Long, ACDC
- Thunderstuck, ACDC
- Jukebox Hero, Foreigner
- Stayin Alive, Bee Gees
- Crazy in Love, Beyonce
- The Longest Time, Billy Joel
- Uptown Girl, Billy Joel
- Spinning Wheel, Blood, Sweat & Tears
- Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
- Paradise City, Guns & Roses
- Sweet Child of Mine, Guns & Roses
- Carry on Wayward Son, Kansas
- Since You’ve Been Gone, Kelly Clarkston
- Sweet Home Alabama, Lynard Skynard
- Hey Ya, Outkast
- I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight, Cutting Crew
- Rock you Like a Hurricane, Scorpions
- 12:51, The Strokes
Don’t forget that your music style and running performance will probably vary or evolve as you dive deeper into what does and doesn’t work for you.