Why your workout music matters.


How your playlist can help you power through your best gym session yet.

Music can be as essential to your workout as wearing the right trainers and sports gear.


This is why we have collaborated with Costas Karageorghis, a professor in sport and exercise psychology at Brunel University London, and UK-based personal trainer/fitness enthusiast – Zanna van Dijk, to explore how a motivational playlist, pumped through your earphones, can be used to enhance anyone’s physical performance.

Zanna van Dijk

Professor Costas, author of Applying Music in Exercise and Sport, who has also previously worked with the likes of international athlete Dai Greene and England rugby player Ben Foden, has devoted his career to researching the effects of music in sport and exercise, and how a carefully curated playlist can positively affect performance. This body of work is what guided his analysis on Zanna, and by reviewing her favourite playlists and workout routines, he has pulled together a list of top tips that anyone can use to create the perfect workout playlist, whatever their goals.

Top tips on how to create the ultimate performance-enhancing playlist.

The nuts & bolts

  1. The music should have an appropriate beat, with a pulse strong enough to tap your feet to. This will help you synchronise and get ‘into’ the music easier (i.e. moving in time to the beat).
  2. Avoid music with long rhythmic lulls (e.g. Rumour Has It by Adele), unless planning to use the lulls to punctuate recovery during your exercise routine (i.e. use the lulls for respite).
  3. Bear in mind that the harder the workout, the faster and more intense your music programme should be (e.g. 125–140 bpm for a high-intensity workout). The highest tempi (i.e., the speed of the music) should be used at the point in your workout when you are exercising most intensely (e.g. close to your aerobic capacity; essentially when you’re breathing heavily and your muscles are burning). For Zanna, this features a Dance/Electronic number with 136 bpm, the quickest tempo on her playlist, which acts as a motivator to keep her going.
  4. Avoid music with an offbeat rhythm if you are trying to coordinate your movements. For example, Latin music like salsa or very complex electronic dance music, will not make those burpees any easier!
  5. If core strength is a key part of your workout routine, consider music with appropriate affirmations in the lyrics when you are doing core exercises (e.g. try Stronger by Clean Bandit).
  6. To increase workout intensity over time, you can slowly ramp-up music tempo and intensity. Do the opposite towards the end of your workout when you’re heading towards the cooldown phase.
  7. Consider changing your playlist when you feel it ceases to have a motivating effect and when you feel it no longer matches your exercise routine or physical performance levels.

For motivation

  1. Early on, include tracks that embody who you are and make you feel strong and empowered. This is particularly important if you struggle to get motivated to exercise.
  2. Try to find music with which you have a strong personal association (i.e. with the message, lyrics or genre). This can help elevate your mood and, by extension, the quality of your workout. For Zanna, given her own affinity with environmental issues, 4 Minutes by Madonna features at the beginning of her playlist to get her in the right mood to work out.
  3. If you know you don’t like a particular part of a workout, put on the most positive, upbeat tune on your playlist and allow it to carry you through.
  4. Try for the most part to select music with major (happy) harmonies music vs. minor (sad) harmonies to promote a positive mindset during your workout. A good example of a “happy” track would be (as the name suggests!) Happy by Pharrell Williams and similarly, for a “sad” track, Jar Of Hearts by Christina Perri.

Professor Costas Karageorghis says: “Generally most people enjoy working out with music but do not harness its full potential as a distracting and motivating stimulus. It was great to be able to show a regular gym-goer, like Zanna, the ways in which she can use music to give her workouts a boost. By learning about her preferences and personal associations, I was able to create a bespoke playlist that includes songs that conjure positive imagery and affirmations. Such songs are particularly important for when a workout really begins to hurt.”

Costas Karageorghis with Brunel sport scholars - credit: ESPN Magazine

Costas Karageorghis with Brunel sport scholars - Credit: ESPN Magazine

Zanna tried and tested her playlist on our lightweight, wireless earphones, TRACK+ earphones, which are splash proof (IPx4), making them the perfect match for anyone with an active lifestyle. TRACK+ combine the freedom of great sound with innovative four-step adjustable noise cancelling that tunes out the background, and CityMix® Smart, which automatically adapts to your surroundings. With these earphones, music lovers are well equipped to listen to their favourite tunes when they work out, without surrounding noise disrupting the experience.

Costas Karageorghis

Costas Karageorghis

If you want to try the playlist that Professor Costas created for Zanna, then the Libratone x Zanna van Dijk playlist is available to download on Spotify now.