Here’s a not-so-shocking confession: I hate working out (and I’m sure I’m not alone.) After all, the last thing anyone wants to do after battling co-workers all day is fight for a sweat-soaked machine at the gym. One way to make it more fun (aside from the promise of a post-workout dessert) is a playlist that pumps you up and makes you run faster.
In addition to blocking out the grunts of nearby gym-goers, music has been shown to improve the quality of your workout. Dr. Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D. of Brunel University, London and author of Inside Sports Psychology, told TIME that the right tunes can “elevate positive aspects of mood such as vigor and excitement, and reduces negative aspects such as tension and fatigue.” This makes your cardio performance, to paraphrase Daft Punk, harder, better, faster, and, in some cases, longer.
But you can’t just throw any assortment of songs onto a playlist and expect to be the next Lola Jones. For starters, you have to actually like the songs you’re listening to, because pressing skip every few seconds will seriously interrupt your workout flow. Also, and perhaps most importantly, the songs have to meet the right amount of beats per minute, or BPMs. In a 2012 study, Karageorghis found that people who listen to high-energy, high-tempo music while running improved their endurance by 15 percent, compared to those who exercised in silence. In order to optimize your workout, Karageorghis suggests listening to songs with a tempo range of 120 to 140 beats per minute.
You could spend time you don’t have cross-checking your favorite songs with a BPM calculator, or you can download these get-pumped tunes we made sure fill the bill. Here are 9 songs that will help you run faster — or just make any workout a lot more fun. (For more portable music, download the whole playlist at the bottom of the page.)
"Eye of the Tiger", Survivor (109 BPM)
If Survivor can push Rocky to the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, then it can certainly get you through a quick workout. Though the BMPs are a little lower than Karageorghis’s recommendation, the slower tempo is perfect for a warming up your body and preparing for the sprints ahead.
“Shut Up and Dance,” Walk the Moon (128 BPM)
This song’s tempo perfectly motivates you to pick up the pace without burning out too quickly. But be careful, as the lyrics may tempt you to bust a move moves as you jog. As much as you may enjoy a spontaneous dance party, you don’t want to risk dancing yourself into a cast.
“Radioactive,” Imagine Dragons (136 BPM)
Not only are the BPMs of “Radioactive” perfect for a fact-paced jog, but the song’s intense lyrics will push you to run harder, better, faster, and stronger.
“Jumping Jack Flash,” The Rolling Stones (140 BPM)
The consistent beat of this underrated Rolling Stones’ song will help you keep a steady, but speedy pace during your run.
“Can’t Hold Us,” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (146 BPM)
Not only is this tune the perfect mid-run motivator, but it’s an easy way to judge just how hard you’re working. Here’s a hint: If you can spit rhymes as fast as Macklemore, you’re not pushing yourself.
"Bad Blood," Taylor Swift (174 BPM)
Does running double as a physical and emotional release? Then let T-Swift’s anger-filled anthem help you release that aggression while burning some extra calories.
“Don’t Stop Me Now,” Queen (154 BPM)
You’re nearing the end of your workout and can feel your energy fading fast. Luckily, Queen is there to push you through. And if you need a little extra motivation, just pretend Paul Rudd is lip syncing this tune to you.
“Problem,” Natalia Kills (170 BPM)
You’re a BAMF, as evident by your ability to squeeze in a workout between your parenting duties. So celebrate your badass status and sprint through the final meters of your run with this Natalia Kills’ song, because you know what they say about you.
“Walk This Way,” Aerosmith (111 BPM)
As an avid runner, I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve skipped many cool downs in my day. And you can bet I’ve suffered the repercussions. According to Runner’s World, a cool down “eases your body back into reality,” not to mention it prevents post-workout dizziness and future injuries. To keep yourself for squeezing in an extra spring, switch to a slower jam to bring your body back to normal state.
Image: Giuseppe Milo/Flickr