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As a child of the 80s, I know a thing or two about creating a killer music playlist. It was practically an adolescent rite of passage to record your favorite songs off the radio and hand the cassette tape to your secret crush.

Millennials may want to Google what a “cassette tape” was to understand that last sentence.

And “radio” for that matter.

These days I still make playlists, but for running.

Did you know that a great playlist can make you a better runner? It’s true. The right music can improve form, optimize heart rate, and lower risk of injury. In fact, running to music has been shown to boost performance by as much as 15 percent!

Now, before you go and upload Eye of the Tiger on a continuous loop, you should know that making a great playlist isn’t as simple as choosing the all the songs that pump you up. There’s some serious science that goes into the art of the perfect running playlist, and here’s why:

Runners often have a difficult time maintaining a steady pace over extended periods. They start too fast, slow down without realizing it, and exhaust their energy before reaching their goal. This is where the beats per minute of music, or BPM, can help. Listening to a playlist with carefully-chosen BPMs can help you achieve a consistent rhythmic pace for better, more extended exercise.

Warm-up music should typically have between 115 and 120 BPMs, while the songs for your main run can range anywhere from 120 to 180 BPMs. Each person’s ideal BMP depends on individual factors like stride length and the intensity of the run. Beginners will want to start with a lower BPM while seasoned runners will want higher BPMs when training to break a PR (personal record).

Already have a playlist and want to see how it measures up?

The website run2rhythm can help you out. Just follow these directions to see what kind of BPM your music ought to have:

For outdoor running:

  1. Run for 15 minutes at a comfortable pace.
  2. Count your steps for 1 minute. Repeat multiple times to find the average.
  3. Use the Run2Rhythm website chart to determine the right BPM for you.
  4. Find the chart here.

Treadmill running:

  1. Set the treadmill at a comfortable pace.
  2. Use the machine information to find the right BPM for you in the Run2Rhythm website treadmill chart.
  3. Find the chart here.

Here’s an idea of what to expect with different BPMs:

  • 150 – slow jog music
  • 153 – medium jog music
  • 156 – fast jog/slow run music
  • 160 – medium run music
  • 163 – medium/fast run music
  • 166 – fast run music
  • 171 – high intensity run music

Check out run2rhythm and getsongbpm to find songs that fit your preferred running pace.