The ultimate running playlist: why music helps us run better

Running for me is a great stress reliever and is just as important for my mental health as it is for my physical health – but the difference between a good run and a great run can be whether I listen to music or not. Humans are hardwired to respond to rhythm, and it is pretty definitive that music is performance enhancing in terms of its ergogenic effect, it boosts your physical performance, endurance, and recovery. So, it is no surprise that many fitness enthusiasts and runners enjoy listening to music. But in case you need convincing, here are 4 advantages of running to music – followed by my Spotify running playlist: to get you pumped for that next run.  

#1 – It boosts motivation

At the beginning of a run, you have full energy in the tank and listening to an upbeat, motivating song can definitely aid your drive and focus and help you channel a positive mindset. In turn this will inspire you towards higher levels of performance. It is no secret that when you feel good, you’re more likely to push yourself faster and feel good whilst you’re doing it. 

‘Can’t Hold Us’ by Macklemore is a good song to boost your motivation, with its fast beat and positive lyrics. 

‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’ by the Scissor Sisters is another fun, positive song to convince yourself this was a good idea, it’s going to be a good run. 

#2 – It improves your mood

Much like motivation, mood can be manipulated to some extent by listening to music during exercise. The combination of ‘happy sounds’ and the positive psychological effect that exercise has on the brain has the ability to shift negative thoughts. Sometimes after a run, I will experience the ‘runner’s high’, where endorphins are triggered which make you feel good and can boost your mood during and after exercise. To experience this, many argue you need to ‘push yourself, but not too hard’, and that tempo running is a great way to increase your chances. So, by listening to music that makes you feel good, you’re more likely to push through and maintain a long-term routine.  

‘Finally Free’ by Niall Horan is a cheesy, feel-good song which always makes me smile when it comes on. What’s not to love about embracing freedom when you’re running?

‘Love on Me’ by Galantis is just one of those songs with repetitive and catchy lyrics and a good beat to motivate you to enjoy your run.

#3 – It helps you to dissociate

By listening to music, it helps you to shift your focus from the stress/worries in your life and the hardness of running- say you’re about to run up a steep hill. By acting as a good distraction and letting your mind wander can give your performance a real boost and make running a more long-term activity. 

‘I Lived’ by One Republic – has a softer pop feel in which I can focus on the lyrics and clear my mind.

‘Got That Fire’ by Royal Tailor has the opposite effect, becoming lost in the driving beat and lyrics, you can let out any frustration and feel the music whilst you run. 

#4 – It helps you establish a pace

However, most of my running playlist I use to help me maintain a good pace, and so is tempo/beat orientated. When it gets to the middle of the run slump, by turning on a beat-driven motivating song, it can really help to make you want to keep going. When we use music in the synchronous mode, it appears that music makes you run more efficiently too, as there are energy gains of up to 7% when you coordinate your movements with music. Essentially, it has a metronomic effect in regulating your stride. This rhythm response, when your body responds the tempo and by finding a song which matches your cadence, you’re more likely to stick to it and it won’t feel so bad. 

(I can’t get no) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones – is this desired effect, as the repetitive beat and underlying riff helps to keep those feet going.  

‘Take It or Leave It’ by Great Good Fine Ok is super catchy and the chorus inspires me to run that little bit faster, I often find my pace increasing when this song comes on… 

Here is my full running playlist: Hopefully some of these songs will also help you to boost your motivation, improve your mood, help you to dissociate and establish a good pace.

However, not listening to music sometimes whilst you run can help you to be more aware of your breath, hazards around you and lets you listen and react to how your body is feeling better. By adding variety to your running routine, by sometimes listening to slower songs etc for longer runs, or just running and enjoying nature’s sounds – there is no doubt however, that music can help you run faster, better and make it more enjoyable. Let me know what your favourite running/workout songs are, I’d love to know!

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