How To Create The Perfect Workout Playlist

Four fitness experts explain how to make your music do its best work.

June 06, 2015

You've got your music, now it's just a matter of turning into a playlist that will work for you when you're working out. We surveyed four expert exercizers—SoulCycle instructors Pixie Acia, Soeuraya Wilson, Anthony McClain, and Taye Johnson—to find out what goes into their sweating soundtracks, and why. Here's the wisdom they had to share.

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Ease In:

"On average, it takes your body anywhere from five to seven minutes to really activate the muscles to warm yourself up," Soeuraya explained, suggesting you ease into your workout with one or two mid-tempo songs. These first few songs should also feature "a heavy beat without being too complicated," Anthony said—"something that's strong, gets you in that zone and gets you pumped." This warm-up period is also your chance to get your mind ready for what's about to happen—the twisting and torquing and moving in ways and at speeds that will probably be uncomfortable at times! Pixie suggested to think of this first song or two as your chance "to build trust" in your body.

Push It:

In the heavy lifting, high-intensity phase of your workout, "you're getting popping, the juices are flowing, and the body wants to work," Taye said. This is where you want to use music as motivation, whether something with a high BPM to keep your legs going, or a song with motivating lyrics that you know will get you geared up (I like Beyoncé for this, duh). And that trust you shored up? This is where it will come in handy: "Your body is not going to give up on you," Soureya encouraged, "it wants to support you."

But don't get carried away:

Don't get carried away with the music if you're doing anything that might be complicated or, you know, something that could get you hurt. Soureya proposed playing a song that you already know every lyric, note, and beat of while attempting to perform anything that requires close attention to form, be it a set of bicep curls at the gym or a complicated inversion in yoga. Anthony added that a song with a flat-rate BPM—no tectonic breaks or earthshaking drops—can help center your focus. "Pick something that's boring, something that you can recollect yourself and come back into your body," he said, advising that you opt for something that will "allow you to really zone in and focus on what you're doing, the muscles you're trying to target, what it's supposed to feel like."

Cool down:

Consensus says that this part's all you. Play whatever will make you feel nice, because you're done and you deserve it. "I always like the sexy cool down song," Taye said. "I tend to play a log of R&B, like baby-making music. It's just relaxing, a stretch to make you feel good about yourself. Like yes, I did it—I feel strong, I feel empowered."

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How To Create The Perfect Workout Playlist