The Perfect Running Playlist for the Athletically Disinclined

Athletics and I traditionally don’t mix — a rift formed by years of sub-par performances in elementary school kickball, dodgeball and Ninja Warrior. So when it comes to running on a treadmill, it not only takes me forever to muster the lady-balls to get my ass on the machine, but I have to painstakingly craft the perfect playlist in order to keep my mind on the prize. Thus, I present to you, after much overanalysis, the definitive guide to timing your running playlist to the progressive mental stages of the athletically disinclined.

Song 1: The Warm-Up. I recommend starting off with an easygoing, smooth ditty to put yourself at ease, help you transition from a brisk walk to a run. It has to be feel-good, care-free and convince you that 30 minutes on the treadmill will be a piece of cake. Might I suggest a Jason Mraz such as “I’m Yours” with a squeeze of Michael Buble “Still Haven’t Met You Yet” for a starter.

Songs 2-3: In the Groove. At this point, you start to hit your stride. You start jogging on beat to some self-empowerment numbers you wouldn’t dare admit you liked to your more artistically discriminating friends. You may even feel the urge to start punching the air, lightly but with pizzazz. Because hell yeah, I am a firework and the only girl in the world and of course we r who we r!

Songs 3-4: The Invincible Pinnacle. Around the 12-minute mark, you begin to hit that runner’s high, and suddenly you’re Bastian on top of Falkor at end of The Neverending Story. You can probably stomp a shark in the mouth and it would apologize profusely. Throw down with some cocky power rap like “Power” by Kanye West or Jay-Z’s “99 Problems.”

Songs 5-6: Mother Nature Says “Slow Down, Son.” Okay, okay, so your calf muscles are starting to seize up a little. You’re losing a bit of steam, breath is getting short on the uptake. Time to leave the modern day behind and channel the time-tested waters of Top Gun’s “Danger Zone” and Flashdance’s “Maniac.” Kenny Loggins, don’t fail me now.

Songs 7-8: The “Don’t Look at How Far It Is To The 30-Minute Mark, Concentrate On The Song” Songs. Things are looking dire in your respiratory system, and you’re starting to be convinced that your machine is rigged to make time move slower. You begin to question your resolve. You’re frantically thinking to yourself that maybe you’ve set your goals too high. Now is the time to throw in the big guns — longer songs that can counteract the seemingly slowing clock. Think “Lovestoned” by Timberlake the extended version. If you’re exhausted enough, you’ll actually feel like you’re moving in slow motion during the interlude.

Song 9: The “Oh God, I’m Going Pass Out On This Treadmill And Everyone Is Going To See Me Break My Face. Concentrate On The Song! Concentrate On The Song!” Song. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, Lady Gaga. Thy dance riffs and thy synth beats, they comfort me.

Song 10: Don’t Call It Cooldown. This is your triumphant battle hymn against muffin tops and saggy thighs. Celebrate with a dunk into some swelling choruses, à la “Sweet Disposition” by Temper Trap or your favorite Glee rendition. Drape your towel around your shoulders and take a victory lap, soldier. You deserve it. TC mark

image – KJohansson


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  • Karim

    I would be willing to wager that someone surveyed the iTunes library of every person in America, there would be at least 1 playlist on each entitled, “work-out jams”.

    • hunter ray

      or my alternative: gymbunny

  • Becki Barlow

    as a music lover and severely athletically disinclined person, this is great :) concentrate on the music, concentrate on the music…

  • Nicko McBrain


  • Daniel Schealler

    Is it wrong that my exercise playlist consists entirely of Richard Feynman's Quantum Mechanics lectures from 1962?

  • KP

    For the EXTRA lazy runner, simply pop on In Rainbows. I promise you it's the perfect album to run to beginning to end.

  • Molly

    I've always found Devo to be particularly inspiring. The beat to Whip It is my perfect running song. Lyrics don't hurt either. : )

  • Tim

    Questionable music taste aside, why are you running on the treadmill for 30 minutes? That is a terrible way to keep in shape.

    • huh

      I don't run on the treadmill, but I do run outside. Just curious though, why is it bad?

      • Emmeiii

        Not the OP, but I've learned from experience that it's bad for your knees and is in no way a replacement for proper pavement pounding.

      • Tim

        OP here to clarify.
        Pounding the pavement is terrible for your ankle and knee joints. Treadmill is not great but much better because they usually have some sort of support. Running on track is better, but grass is really the best.

        As for fitness, running outside is much better, especially when the terrain varies in incline.

        To explain it simplistically, think of it like this: you are asking your body to do the same thing again and again, and your body, which is designed to survive by tiring you at as little as possible, will just become more efficient at doing this thing. 

        So if it takes you 500 calories of energy to run for 30 minutes at an 8 minute/mile pace, then over time all your body is doing is learning to do that same thing, but using fewer calories to do so. So you have to run for longer to burn more calories. After a month it might take 450 calories, then 400, etc. But each time you run the same distance, and for the same time, but get less payoff for it.

        So you could just run faster in that time, or run for longer, but those are both sub-optimal forms of exercise. The best way is to run for enough time that your body will continue to burn calories after you stop exercising (about 20 minutes min. for most people) and employ interval training.

        Interval training (as opposed to steady state training) is when you sprint (whether on a bike, swimming, or running) at a relatively fast speed (about a 9 out of a possible 10 for effort) for a brief period of time (30 seconds to a minute) and then jog/swim/cycle at a much more sedate pace (about a 6/10 for effort) for about 2 minutes. Do this about 3-4 times, with a 5 minute warm-up and warm-down either side of it. That's about 19-22 minutes, plus transitions times= a 25 minute work-out.

        There; 5 minutes quicker than your usual run, and far, far more effective. The only thing is how much more demanding it is. That's when you need some seriously good playlists. Ones that are timed so that they hit their peak at the same time as the 30 second-1 minute. I resort to the intro for Eminem's 'til I collapse', Lupe Fiasco's 'Turnt Up', Pendulum's 'Slam', and so on.

        Oh, and no matter how hard any form of exercise is, your body is still going to get better at it over time, and hence more efficient in use of calories. So as it becomes easier you need to up the difficulty level, probably every month or so. That's the trap of the 30 minute treadmill jog; thinking that you're still getting the same benefits 3 months later and being pleased with yourself because ” yeah it was hard when I started but now it's so much easier!”

        In conclusion, getting a good body is fucking hard unless you have awesome genetics (and even then) and so you either get one by not only enjoying exercising but exercising hard and learning to love the pain, or by pushing yourself and finding motivation in really unhealthy places like massive insecurities about your waistline.

        On the other hand, learning to eat better and exercising casually just for fitness won't necessarily make you as thin as you've always dreamed of, but it will make you a lot happier.

    • Julie Leung

      It pains me to inform you that I read your extensive comment over a bag of Cheetos. But really good info, dude!

  • Dan

    Some slowish beatdown hardcore like Liferuiner/Emmure is great for starting out, and then some moderately-paced metal like Miss May I is good for the middle part of the workout, with some dumb post-hardcore like Attack Attack! to finish off. Death metal and grindcore are generally bad choices for working out, they go way too fast to follow the beat.

    Just my two cents. It works for me.

  • jack

    really the only way to do it is with rap songs you know all the words to and have the n word in them so you can sing along out of breath

  • Waicool

    a workout playlist is such a great idea, my taste in music is a little different though.  listening to lady gaga for instance would make me throw up which i suppose would make me lose weight without a treadmill.

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