One thing my midwife taught me about being in labor is that you save the “big guns” until as late in the process as possible. The big guns, when you’re having a homebirth, are things like counter pressure (where someone presses really hard on your lower back) and the inflatable kiddie pool set up in your dining room. You don’t want to avail yourself of these things too soon, because you want them to be effective when you really need them. Early in labor, before things get hard, you’re supposed to distract yourself from the fact that you’re in labor. I had a to-do list — paint my toenails, take the dogs for a walk, bake a cheesecake. (Full disclosure: I ended up sitting on the couch watching college football all day and then when things got hard all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and scream my fool head off all night.)
The same things that work for labor work for making your running playlist. That sounds weird, but I swear it makes sense. Early in a run, it’s not that you want to distract yourself from the fact that you’re running, but you want to take it easy. You don’t want to bust out the big guns on your running playlist too early. You don’t want it to be all high-energy all the time. Well, maybe you do, but I usually don’t.1 I don’t want a running playlist that has all super-intense, heart-pounding stuff. I usually find that some slower, less-intense music can make me feel like I’m working out at a less-intense level. This can be pleasant in moderation. I like a nice mix of that and high-energy stuff.
A running playlist should start out a little slow, maybe with something that doesn’t really make sense. Then you build up. Then you take it back down. Then you build up again.
It’s kind of like a good DJ set, which is kind of like sex. You know what I mean?
Anyway, after much deliberation and a little trial and error, I’ve developed a template to use for making a running playlist (or a general cardio workout playlist if that’s your thing). It goes something like this (and of course, all people and all runs are different, so tweak this to suit yourself):
- one intro song: slowish, maybe rock, okay or good if it doesn’t make sense in the context of the whole playlist
- one song that builds up a little
- one song that takes it back down a little
- one or two songs that build up a little
- several high-energy songs that go together — I’m partial to hip hop here, but other options include girl power (Heart and Soul by T’Pau, Gold Guns Girls by Metric, Fire in Your New Shoes by Kaskade feat. Dragonette, Fantasy by Mariah Carey feat. ODB); reggaeton (Siente el Boom by Tito El Bambino, Impacto by Daddy Yankee, The Anthem by Pitbull, El Trago by 2 in a Room); and industrial (Headhunter by Front 242, And This is What the Devil Does by My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Juke Joint Jezebel by KMFDM, Jesus Built My Hot Rod by Ministry)
- one or two songs that bring it back down a little — something different, okay if it’s totally cheesy (More than a Feeling by Boston, Your Love by The Outfield, Sister Golden Hair by America, Wake and Be Fine by Okkervil River)
- and then bring your high-energy shit, several songs — I like stuff you’d hear at a Chicago house party in the summer, windows open, sweltering hot, all the furniture pushed against the walls so everybody can hold up their drinks and shake their asses; also MSTRKRFT
- one or two songs that take it back down a little
- one cool-down song.
And that’s how to create your own running playlist!
Any workout playlist should always be longer than you’ll need. If you’re going to run for an hour, make your playlist at least 1:20 long. This allows for skipping songs you’re not feeling that day and alternate endings. You might want to end on a super-high-energy song (I usually do this because I run my fastest in the last few minutes). But you might want to end coming down, so allow for that, too. You might not need the cool-down song at the end, but it’s nice to have one there in case you want it.
I made a new running playlist based on this template,
and you can get it here (for a limited time). Here’s what’s on it:
- Ceremony – New Order
- Away Frm U – Oberhofer
- Lost in the World – Kanye West feat. Bon Iver
- Id Engager – Of Montreal
- That’s Not My Name – The Ting Tings
- Live Life to the Fullest – Charles Hamilton feat. Yung Nate
- One Mic – Nas
- Get By – Talib Kweli
- Bombs Over Baghdad – Outkast
- Bad Girls Club – Wale feat. J. Cole
- Full Moon – Armand Van Helden feat. Common
- The Boys of Summer – The Ataris
- U Don’t Know Me – Armand Van Helden
- It’s Love (Joshua’s Mo Luv Vocal) – Naked Music NYC
- Let’s Go Disco – Southern Comfort
- Can I Get Some – The People Movers
- Bounce – MSTRKRFT feat. N.O.R.E.
- Prisoner of Love – Jessica 6
- Believe in Magic – Jim Jones feat. Lloyd (prod. Girl Talk)
- Don’t Fear the Reaper – Van She
Enjoy, and happy running!
1. The times I do want all high-energy all the time, I listen to Girl Talk. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s the best workout music of all time. Go here to download All Day for free.