Running “to the beat of your own drum” means something very different, and far more literal, to a runner.
The right playlist, playing songs at the right beats per minute (BPM), can have a profound impact on your running pace, your motivation, and your ability to block out that growing sense of fatigue.
The right song, at the right BPM, can help runners learn pacing while they train. And when the beat of the music matches the runners’ cadence, many start to find their performance improving, a more positive mental association with working out, and a great distraction from exertion and fatigue.
How Many BPMs are Enough BPMs?
The general consensus is that the best music for running lies somewhere between 120 and 140 BPM. A lot of genres fit in that range, and you’ll find a lot of mainstream dance, hip hop, and rock and roll in here.
Basically, it’s a tempo we’re rather familiar with.
And it also just so happens to correspond to the average heart rate during a routine workout.
However, there isn’t a single tempo or BPM that will fit everyone’s goals or exercise routines.
The right tempo range for your running playlist will depend on a number of things, from the length of your stride to the type of exercise.
Going for a stroll? You probably don’t need the latest techno-dance-electronica-pop tunes pushing you on. Songs that range from 115 to 118 BPM are great for a casual walk. If you’re more into power walking, then something in the mid 130s should work.
The 120 to 140 BPM range is a good area for regular runs or going for longer distances where you need to pace yourself.
If you’re pushing yourself with some short, fast runs, then you might want to go for something between 147 to 160 BPM.
How Do You Find the Right BPM for Your Run?
You don’t want to start running to the latest prog-metal songs blasting through your earbuds if you haven’t been exercising regularly. You should start at the tempo you feel most comfortable with, then the music can help you maintain and improve your cadence.
There’s a simple test you can perform to zero in on the best BPM for your run.
- Start by running for 15 minutes at a comfortable pace – one that you can keep up for the full 15.
- Count your steps for one minute.
- After a little more running, count your steps for another minute.
- Repeat this procedure at least one more time so you have a good average.
Use this average to see how many beats in a minute will naturally fit with your current running ability.
Can a Soundtrack Really Make or Break Your Run?
For some people, the answer to that question is an absolute yes.
Sometimes, the wrong album, the wrong band, and, most importantly, the wrong beat can throw off your run. Forget “getting in the zone.” Running counter to the beat of your music makes “the zone” something that only happens to other people’s children.
Some studies have suggested that listening to your music can improve your overall enjoyment in the workout, reduce exertion levels, and help the time pass quickly. As runners grow accustomed to this “performance enhancer,” they often find it surprisingly hard to make it through a run without their favorite playlist.
These runners have found that their best runs are all about energy management. When you know your cadence and can keep a steady pace, you’ll be able to shorten or length your strides as necessary. You’ll know when it’s time to push yourself a little faster or ease off a little bit and give your body a chance to rest up.
Music is a timing cue. It helps with pacing. It keeps you going. Choose the right music, build the perfect playlist, and get the most out of your next workout. Just remember that your playlist doesn’t have to run at the same BPM all the way through. You can carefully plan it to enhance the run and keep things interesting.
Simply put, the right tunes can tell your body that it can always go a little faster and a little further.