I have started a new excercise routine — cardio on various machines and some light, toning-type weights. And I’ve been carting my beloved Lurleen (a 20 gig iPod) to the gym with me. Through trial and error, I’ve discovered that having the right music to listen to makes a big difference in my workout — with the right music, it’s more fun, seems faster and easier, and I can do more reps and heavier weights.
So clearly, having the right music is key.
But what is the right music? Again through trial and error, I figured out that it has to be somewhat unassuming (no weighty political protests for me at the gym), cheery, and most importantly it must have between 135 and 150 beats per minute (bpm). Slower and I don’t work hard enough, faster and I get discouraged because I can’t keep up.
I decided to be a bit more systematic about the music I listen to at the gym, so I put together a smart playlist that has 1 song at 120-125 bpm, 1 song at 125-130 bpm, 3 songs at 130-140 bpm, 3 songs at 140-150 bpm (I’m going to up this to 4), and 1 song at 150+ bpm. The songs in each category are selected by “least played” so that every time I synch Lurleen, I get new songs. Also, because some songs with the right bpm aren’t really gym songs because they are too heavy or demanding or don’t have the right mood, I use a keyword in the comments to select only “gym” songs.
For songs that were ripped as mp3’s, I used the MixMeister BPM Analyzer to calculate the bpm. It’s not 100% accurate, but it’s very close and good enough for my purposes.
To fine tune the MixMeister results, and to calculate bpm for songs that were ripped as AAC files, I used BPMCounter which allows you to tap the mouse key to determine the bpm of a given song.
We have a bazillion songs in iTunes — not sure of the total right now, but it’s well over 40 gigs, so I’m only calculating bpm for AAC songs that I think are good candidates for the gym playlist.
Here’s what’s on my gym playlist right now:
Jump, Van Halen
Keep Yourself Alive, Queen
Smokin’ In The Boys’ Room, Motley Crue
Don’t Sweat It, Toothfairy
Panama, Van Halen
One Man’s Dream, Stratocats
Freedom of Choice, Devo
Stranglehold, Ted Nugent
I Got the Six, ZZ Top
Alcohol, Barenaked Ladies
It’s a fun list, and more importantly, it keeps me moving at the gym.
UPDATE: People, people, please calm down and stop e-mailing and IM’ing me. I did not say that this was my “favorite music” playlist or my “best music ever” playlist or even my “ok to listen to every once in a while but not great playlist.” I said it was my gym playlist, and the requirements for it are not musical, they are functional. So relax. Van Halen’s Jump is not in fact my favorite song, nor is Motley Crue my favorite band (if it was, I would have looked up the code to make that little umlaut mark above the u). I do, however, really, really like that Devo song — say what you like about that, but sticks and stones can’t hurt me.