Put a little “jet fuel” into your jogging playlist. If you like to jog and are one of those joggers who love to hit the road (track or trail) with your favorite music fueling your run, you’re not alone. And there is good reason.
Music can be used to trigger various mental states and optimize your mind-body for very specific benefits - e.g. health, memory, better attention, organization, energy and calm, as well as for enhancing optimum performance in specific daily activities. For you, these activities may range from office meetings to athletics.
Ultimately, if you play a song over and over during a specific situation you can train (and rewire) your brain to automatically send your mind and body new instructions on how to energize you. This can then deliver the effect you want, whenever you are in that situation – in this case: whenever you’re out pounding the pavement. Your brain’s plasticity makes this change possible.
For the purpose of this post, I will zero in on some tips for putting together a great and personalized jogging playlist this summer.
1. Pick songs you like a lot. I always recommend using songs that you like a lot. The more you like a song the better it works. So, for one person it may be Mozart and for another it may be Green Day or The Ramones. Pick upbeat tunes that you think can get your juices flowing.
2. Use BPM. BPM stands for “beats per minute.” This is the easiest way to begin organizing your playlist – after you’ve picked the tunes you like. Using BPM works because rhythm and tempo have a direct tie-in to your alertness and focus. BPM also facilitates muscle coordination and movement. A BPM of 130 or greater, for example, (as opposed to 100 or lower) has been shown to increase mental acuity, motivation and flow. So you get a double effect: flowing muscles and a flowing mind. You can find your songs' BPM with a Google or iTunes search.
Want to Kick It Up A Notch?
Place a song with a slow BPM (90 or preferably even less) first in your playlist. Then, after several minutes of that, put on the series of faster rhythms. The combination, from slow to fast music, is like a 1-2 punch that will trick your mind into amplifying the “uplifting” effect you want to feel. Play the slow piece for about 7 minutes (but not too long) while you’re warming up. Then, program in the faster tempo pieces.
3. Track your songs from 135-160 BPM. Arrange them as you would enjoy hearing them. Or after doing your run a few times, you may discover that you begin to naturally prefer certain songs over others at specific points in your jog -- e.g. when you hit the two-mile point or a particular straightaway and so on. Revise your playlist to match where certain sections of your jog and what you need in terms of energy and “message.”
Note: Staying in a very fast-paced rhythm and tempo for too long will dry up the faucet, so to speak, and you’ll start to get negative returns.
4. Anticipate your favorite parts of each song. Expectation can spike your mind-body reward mechanism – boosting important neuro-chemicals and increasing your feeling of euphoria.
5. Consider the emotional connection. The right emotions can sharpen your athletic performance. Use songs with lyrics or memories that send you the right emotional message to power up your run.
Note: The emotional factor can trump BPM, so don't be worried about mixing in a song with lower BPM if it sparks the right emotional effect.
End your jog with a slow meditative song – for a cool-down. It can take longer to calm down than pep up. So play this one for 10 – 12 minutes. Mixing in a little tai chi or yoga while you cool down will leave you feeling refreshed and fully energized.
Below is a sample playlist used by an individual I know. It will give you the idea. However, remember, what’s important is that the songs you pick are ones that you personally like a lot and the more you like them the better they work.
Sample Jogging Playlist
Gonna Fly Now (Rocky Theme Song), Bill Conti
No Way Back, Foo Fighters
You’re Going Down, Sick Puppies
Eye of the Tiger, Survivor
My Sharona, Knack
The Boys of Summer, Ataris
I Fought the Law, Green Day
We’re An American Band, Grand Funk Railroad
For a more complete guide to naturally charging up your mindset for various seasonal activities, you may wish to check out my newest book, The Five Seasons – Tap into Nature’s Secrets for Health, Happiness, and Harmony and Your Playlist Can Change Your Life.