Perfect Running Playlists | The Search is Over
I just unveiled my latest offering at Off to a Running Start. If you like to run to the beat but don’t have time to find the right songs (especially songs at the right tempo), look no further. You’re going to love this!
First, understand your running cadence.
Before you try one of my new playlists, read this.
You have a natural running cadence, even if you don’t know what it is. Cadence refers to the number of times your feet hit the ground during one minute of running. Most runners have a natural running cadence in the 150 – 190 steps per minute range. If you try to run below 150, you’ll probably have to resort to walking, and running above 190 is very hard even for seasoned athletes. I’m willing to bet that if you measured your comfortable running cadence the next time you go out for a run, it will probably be between 165 and 175 steps per minute.
How do you find your comfortable running cadence?
If you don’t know what your comfortable running cadence is, you have a few options. Perhaps the easiest method is to simply look at your watch the next time you go out for a run and count your steps for one minute. Count every time one of your feet hits the ground, right and left. That’s your comfortable running cadence.
If you use a Garmin watch, it will be even easier. Just log into your Garmin Connect app or website, pull up the data from a few comfortable, but easy runs, and dig into the lap data. When you scroll to the right in this view, you’ll easily be able to see your average cadence for each lap. Just make sure you were running at a consistent pace for the whole lap…if you took walk breaks or varied your speed during that lap, your results won’t be as accurate.
Six levels of speed
Running cadence is not necessarily related to how well you run or how fast you are. Some very fast runners run with a low cadence and there are some slow ones whose cadence is quite fast. Since cadence is such a personal thing, I’ve divided my running music playlists into six levels to ensure you can find some that are right for you:
- Level 1: 160 – 165 BPM
- Level 2: 165 – 170 BPM
- Level 3: 170 – 175 BPM
- Level 4: 175 – 180 BPM
- Level 5: 180 – 185 BPM
- Level 6: 185 – 190+ BPM
How to use the running music playlists
First, you want to identify the level that matches your comfortable running cadence. Consider this your “go-to” level. For me, it’s Level 4 (because I have a relatively fast cadence when I run). Yours may be higher, lower, or the same.
Use the playlists at your “go-to” level when you’re planning on running by yourself and just want to get in a good conditioning run that’s at a fairly steady tempo. You can use these playlists for most of your foundation runs too.
But wait, that’s not all!
You can use the lower level playlists for your recovery runs–those that you do after an especially hard effort, like a long run or an interval/speed workout.
And you can use the faster level playlists when you want to do a tempo effort (shorter distance at a faster speed) or intervals. For intervals, just play the music when you want to run fast and turn it off during your recovery walks/jogs.
Why do I have to use Spotify or Apple Music to access the playlists?
Because musicians deserve royalties when their music is played, the easiest way for me to create a catalog of playlists with a variety of musical genres is to leverage music platforms that pay musicians royalties when you listen to their music. Spotify and Apple are the most popular platforms out there, but if you stream your music on a different platform and want some playlists too, let me know in the comments below this post and I’ll see what I can do. (Oh my goodness, that rhymed.)
You don’t have to pay any money to use the playlists if you have a free Spotify account. There are a few caveats to doing this, however, that I’d like to warn you about. The first thing is that with the free version of Spotify, you can’t download the songs, you can only stream them over your cellular network. You also can’t play the songs in order. Similarly, sometimes Spotify will throw other songs into the mix that are not at the right BPM. In addition to all of this, you will have to listen to ads with the free version…so I highly recommend paying for a monthly subscription if you plan on using the playlists a lot. With Apple Music you have no choice–you can only access the playlists if you pay for an Apple Music subscription.
Want running music more suited to your taste?
Just fill out this form or comment below, and send me the names of your favorite running songs or artists and I’ll try to incorporate them into future playlists. Just remember, if the tempo of the song isn’t in the 160 – 190 BPM range, I won’t be able to use it in a running playlist. But don’t worry, I’ll do the BPM calculation for you.
As always, keep running to the beat!
2 thoughts on “Music Playlists for Running”
I can’t imagine not running to music, yet many runners do. For me, music adds to the whole experience and makes it more relaxing. Pre-Covid, I liked to run to a beat. Since Covid, I’m into mentally destressing while I run and have been listening a lot to Taylor Swift’s latest two albums and stuff like John Mayer and even older music like Van Morrison. Perhaps when this pandemic is over, I’ll get back into running with the beat. 🙂
Thank you so much for curating these playlists! 15 years ago I found a few songs that were great for running because they had the right tempo. I enjoyed the experience so much I even modified the tempo or a few of my favorite songs (using Audacity) but that was a lot of work, and they don’t sound great when changed like that.
I’ve discovered several websites that provide lists of songs and their tempos, but they were inaccurate, and really difficult to sort out the good (what I like) music from the bad (what I don’t like). The way you organized your lists is super helpful. I will use different BPM’s for warm ups, easy runs, long runs and tempo runs.