The Perks and Perils of Workout Playlists

Living Lifewise Sunday, January 26, 2014 Written by

Living LifeWise is a regular column provided by LifeWise Ambassadors – LifeWise employees whose healthy choices are helping them live better lives. Today’s column is provided by LifeWise Ambassador Aaron Reid.

Music’s ability to inspire and motivate makes it a great tool to assist you in just about any kind of workout. Loading your smartphone with a playlist of your favorite songs can help make a bland workout good, and a good workout great.

Playlist perks

I find that music helps me the most when I’m running. When I’m out for a jog, a good, vibrant song on my playlist really puts some pep in my step. And by “my playlist,” I mean my wife’s playlist. She’s great at pulling together the ultimate list of jams to keep the blood pumping.

My crown jewel running song is Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky.” The first time I heard it, not only did it spark me to run faster, but my body was released from all discomfort for the duration of the song. I bet I could listen to that song on an endless loop over the course of a 5K and beat my best time.

That said, playlists are very personal. No two people are going to come up with the same 20, 30 or 500 songs for their ideal workout tunes, so it’s important to find out what works for you. Rock My Run is a good resource for discovering an array of playlist genres with varying beats per minute which can help you stay at a steady pace.

Another benefit of listening to music while jogging is that I can’t hear myself. I used to hold my breath as I ran past others, but now I am far less self-conscious about my own loud, hissing wheezes. I pretend if I can’t hear it, neither can they. I imagine them viewing me as a master rapper in a triumphant stride, keeping it real on the Green River Trail with my entourage mysteriously absent.

Playlist perils

Of course, running with ear buds reduces your awareness, so it is very important to be smart about when you work out to music. Running on pedestrian-only trails or on the treadmill at the gym is the best way to go if you require some tunes. When running on busier trails or on roads, music can often be a safety hazard. Try running with one ear bud in, one ear bud out (or better yet, no ear buds at all) so as to not block out what’s around you.

I’m naturally skittish when running alone, especially during the Northwest winter months when it’s dark during my jogs. My anxieties are exacerbated when I can’t hear the surrounding environment, so I tend to run on less-crowded trails with only one ear bug in. I’ve also found the right playlist can actually help me maintain a sense of overall alertness.

What type of music motivates you when working out? Share by leaving a comment below.


Aaron_ReidAaron Reid is a lifelong non-athlete, husband, and father of two. Aaron lives in Tukwila near a nice running trail with rabbits, most of whom have never seen him. He began running in 2012 and ran his first 5K that same year. However, his most impressive fitness accomplishment is that he has been sucking in his stomach from the age of 12 to the age of 38. Living LifeWise is a part of Aaron’s quest to one day enjoy running and have washboard abs. Meet Aaron and hear more about what Living LifeWise means to him on the LifeWise Health Plan of Washington YouTube channel.