Feel like your music sets the tempo of your workout? Well, our research has proven what you already know – music affects exercise intensity
. An exclusive ACE study found tunes can reduce the perception of effort and increase endurance by as much as 15 percent. That means it can make pushing yourself in the gym seem not so bad.
If music is so important then we should probably have some tricks up our sleeve for remaining constantly inspired by our music picks while not breaking the bank, don’t you think? I have as much music as possible loaded on a spare iPod that lives in my car (an old one, but it does the trick) and I have 3 extra sets of headphones (anywhere that I may end up without a pair). Beyond that, I spend time exploring and planning music for my workouts. It doesn’t take too much time using the tools I’m about to discuss, and the preparation actually gets me really excited to get out the door and break a sweat!
You can literally hold thousands of songs in the palm of your hand, organize them into playlists for a variety of workout scenarios, and skip or repeat at will. If you have not yet jumped on the iPod or MP3 player bandwagon, it’s about time. If you need justification, just site the research above and repeat after me, “It will make my workout experience that much better! It’s a solid investment.”
We could discuss music sources for hours, but let’s boil it down to the two that are considered the most prevalent and easiest to use.
iTunes is KING. The online music retailer feels like it’s been around forever, but it’s not even a decade old. In April 2008, it officially became the most popular music vendor in the U.S. And for most of us, it’s where we turn to browse and build the soundtrack for our lives. In the past nine years we’ve certainly seen the number of songs grow, the length of the previews increase, and the variety of searching options have opened our eyes to more music than we could ever consume. Of course, we have also seen the prices go up from $0.99 to $1.29 (for most songs) and we’ve seen the platform swell into the mecca of all media including apps for devices, movies, TV shows, books, audiobooks and more (which may be overwhelming for some). The navigation is intuitive and the way you purchase and store music is a cinch. Don’t forget, you can also still take all of the CDs you have in your house and get them into iTunes to make the best play lists ever from your oldies. iTunes truly is the gold standard for music purchasing, storing, organizing and listening.
Spotify is quickly becoming a close second to iTunes (and is my personal favorite!). My good friend Julz Arney says, “It’s like Pandora and iTunes had a baby!” Spotify is a Swedish music streaming service that launched in October 2008. The service has only recently become available in the U.S. (as of July 14, 2011) but has quickly become a favorite among avid music consumers. Spotify is a music library that works a lot like a traditional library. It hosts tons of music in cyberspace that you get to borrow and use, but you’re not allowed to keep forever. You can’t make a CD from your tunes and can only play your songs on one device at a time (computers, iPods and iPhones all sync up easily). Depending on the type of service you have with Spotify, you can listen to unlimited music, take it with you on the go and play when you’re not on a WiFi or 3G/4G network. The best part about Spotify is the “sharing” feature. It is closely linked with Facebook and modeled after the social media giant. You can see your friends, what they’re listening to, grab tracks from their favorite playlists, subscribe to playlists that are automatically updated when the owners update and more. You can even import your iTunes playlist into your Spotify library. It’s simply amazing and did I mention either free or (at the most) $9.99 a month for Premium service? If you are buying more than 10 songs a month, the $9.99 option is a huge savings. Not to mention, it gives you the freedom to play with your music choices, go out on a limb and pick a song you’re not sure you’ll like forever. Spotify has greatly enhanced my workout playlists!
Of course, there are plenty more sources like Amazon.com, Rhapsody, Walmart.com, whatever your pleasure. Choose which option works for you to build your musical library for your workouts. Make sure you choose a source that allows you to easily transfer music to your portable player. You’ll also most likely want a source that allows you to make playlists for easier listening (shuffle is good until Helen Ready is blaring in your ears during an intense cycling climb).
Finding the perfect tunes for your workout doesn’t have to be difficult. The days of the wild goose chase are over! Take a look at four of my favorite sources for continual inspiration in the music world.
Jog.fm - Jog.fm’s tagline states it “helps you find the perfect music for your run (walk or ride).” You can start by plugging in your mile-run time and it automatically populates a playlist for you, or you can simply choose to browse popular workout tunes for some new ideas. It conveniently shows links to where you can purchase the song on iTunes, Amazon or find it on Spotify. There’s even Running Playlists already populated that you’ll find useful. And, yes, it has inspiration for other modalities aside from running.
Equinox- Yes, the health club is a great place to turn for your musical fix. They have a section called ‘celebrity playlists’ where you can see Maroon 5’s Power Playlist alongside The Yogi’s Playlist. What I love about Equinox’s suggestions is how varied they are. If you’re looking for workout music you’ll find what you need, but you’ll also find chillaxing music to wind down, relax or do yoga. And these songs are not your average Billboard Top 100 playlists. You’ll find unique tracks and new artists you may never have discovered on your own.
iTunes has a few features that can unlock new music for you. First, the opening screen will constantly change and alert you to new artists, editor’s choices, recent hits, music released this week and so on. On the side, you’ll be able to easily identify the Top Charts. To get to the good stuff, you can also start playing with Genius and Ping. The Genius feature is, well, Genius! It takes a look at your purchase history and makes suggestions based on your past. Ping is the iTunes social media section. You can follow people on Ping, check out what they are purchasing and share playlists. On the side of the Ping section you will also find Ping Playlists and Ping charts (based on your “friends’” listening history).
Spotify, in my opinion, provides the easiest methods of exploration, which gives way to inspiration. Start with ‘What’s New’ when you log in (at the top left). This feature shows your recommended Spotify Apps and albums, Trending Playlists (among your friends), thoughts about people that may be worth a follow, New Releases and more. Then, you can click on any of your “friends” to see what they’re listening to and playlists they’ve created. You can even share your favorite tracks with them. Spotify also has Apps that help you find and play music. I use 123 Top Lists to see Albums, Artists and Tracks that are trending in Spotify. Finally, there’s a column on the right side of the screen that streams your friends’ activities, even showing you what they’re listening to at that moment. Click on the track and start playing it. If you like it, Star it or pull it into a playlist. Because it’s free to check out the whole song, you won’t mind taking a listen to something you’ve never heard before. Spotify makes it simple to play and expand your music choices.
To help get you started, I’ve added a playlist of my favorite running tunes just for you on Spotify, as well as my favorite cool down or relaxing tunes. Check both out by clicking on the links below. Enjoy!
My Favorite Running Tunes
2012 Graceful Grande Finales
Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is the founder of SFR, a consulting firm for aspiring fitness educators, manufacturers and managers, as well as the owner of Balletone® and GroupEx Pro®. Shannon is a 15 year fitness veteran, freelance writer, as well as an international presenter for Schwinn®, BOSU and ACE. She is a member of the ACE Board of Directors, has helped author portions of the ACE and ACSM Group Fitness manuals, and has starred in over 25 fitness videos. Shannon is a certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach interested in helping fitness professionals navigate the fitness industry and find their place. She's busy improving the self-esteem of the world as the the Director of Exercise Programming for the Anytime Fitness Franchise.