Whether you’re in your favorite restaurant or in the elevator at the office, music always sets the tone. Today we can access millions of songs from our electronic devices. Songs are so easily accessible that I don’t believe we put enough thought into how the type of music that we listen to can affect our mindset. With this in mind, I want to speak on the important factors to consider before choosing the playlist you’ll need to kill your workout.

The Optimal Functioning Theory states that different people perform best with differing levels of arousal. When applying this to music and working out, we’ve got to figure out the beats per minute (bpm) we need to hear during a workout, as our bodies synchronously adjust to tempo. If your day’s been dull and you’ve been going through the motions, almost robotically, I’d recommend an uptempo playlist with every song north of 150 bpm. Conversely, if your day’s been stressful and you’re one email away from losing your mind, leave the office for the day and put on a more mellow playlist to soothe your nerves and adjust your focus (I recommend acoustics or any instrumental beats).

How can we self-motivate to lift heavier and run faster? You may be able to trick yourself into making a difficult task much more tolerable, and the answer may be in the music. On a scale of 1-10, lower your hardest workout from a perceived score of 9-10 to a 7-8 simply by allowing the music to set the tone. Embrace the hard work - doing so will improve your body in multiple facets. Adaptations in the body are specific to the intensity of the training session. Higher exercise intensity will increase skeletal muscle adaptations, cardiovascular function, and improve respiratory function, which will optimize oxygen delivery to working muscles.

Now that you’ve optimized your arousal and reduced your perceived exertion level, it’s time to create your own music playlist. Don’t choose songs that’ll get you through the workout; select the songs that will help you break your personal record. Choose a song, genre, or sound you believe resonates best with you. Studies have shown that when listening to music, your brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain linked to reward and motivation. Try choosing the songs that are more relevant to your upbringing, culture, or current state of mind. If rhythm and beats aren’t enough, lyrics can act as a catalyst, as well. Get lost in your favorite wordsmith’s rap lyrics or emotionally connect with the words of your favorite singer... it’s really all up to you.

Leave with this: take a little more time to think about the music you choose to listen to, and make a soundtrack for workouts and for life.  Don’t let my playlist rant be an end all, be all scenario - just have fun with it and find out what works best for you. Try adding a new song to the playlist before every workout and count how many songs you’ve added throughout the year.

#Pro-tip: The people you surround yourself with will more than likely have similar views and life experiences. For this reason, tell your trainer, friends, coworkers, and associates to share their playlists and steal their music. Thank me later.