Fit for Our Lives - Blog

Music: The Great Motivator (or not)
Posted 3/11/2013 3:53:00 PM

Most of us have an mp3 player we listen to when we work out, whether we’re walking, running, at the gym, cleaning the house or, more recently, shoveling snow. But there are others of us who don’t listen to music at all during our workouts, either we don’t think of it or simply choose silence instead of a pounding beat to urge us on.

Music as a motivator was the topic of an interesting article in Runner’s World magazine a few years ago, where scientific evidence suggested different benefits from different types of music. But there were also benefits to no music as well, and in fact some people find music distracting to the natural flow of thoughts they experience when they work out. Another article pointed out that some of us are “associators” when we work out, which means we prefer to tune into to what we are doing in the moment, without distractions. And many of us are the opposite and “dissociate,” where we simply tune out and let the music carry us through the workout. Take a test to determine which one you are.

Music as a motivatorAssociators focus on the rhythmic sound of their workout, whether that comes from footfalls during running, weight machines at the gym or simply the pattern and pace of their breathing.

Dissociators focus on anything but the workout, and most typically they focus on music. Many people also listen to podcasts and books on mp3 while they work out. Most dissociators listen to faster, more pounding music to drive them through their workout, while others actually listen to classical or jazz. It’s whatever motivates you personally that will ultimately get you through your workout. The most popular playlist songs for most people have one thing in common: they all have simple beats, simple chords and simple messages.

For me personally? Music all the way. But I have different playlists depending on my mood and the frame of mind I want to be in when I work out. I have a faster dance playlist when I am lower on energy and need the pick-me-up, and then I have a slower, more introspective mix to get lost in or to think through a particular situation. And there are some trusty regulars that make every playlist, the most recent of which is Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You).” That picks up my pace every time I hear it.

So if you happen to be an associator, more power to you — I envy your ability to find comfort in silence. For those of you who are more like me and need to assign your mind to something else besides working out when you’re putting your body through the paces, here are some great resources to keep your playlist updated with some motivating music:

1. Pick Your Pace

If you’re a runner, check out to input your pace and output an awesome playlist. If you’re not a runner, use the same link and input paces lower than 9:00 for faster music and above 11:00 for slower music. Experiment until you find a playlist you like.

2. Pick Your Genre

Check out these lists from Fitness magazine for great recommendations based on music genre. Whether you’re into hip hop or country, you’ll find a great playlist to make your own. You can also search the Internet for playlist suggestions in various music genres.

3. Listen to a Book

There are dozens of books I would love to read but simply don’t have the time to. So occasionally I will listen to a good book on mp3 while I work out, and it actually makes me look forward to my next workout to find out what happens next. My trick is that I will only let myself listen to it during a workout. is a great resource for audiobooks.

Of course, there is one more option… You can always hit your running goals by being chased by zombies. Here’s an app that talks you through a zombie story, prompting you to sprint at times, hit your tempo at other times, and to rest at other times. Check it out if you dare!

See you next month when we’ll cut through the hype about energy drinks and I’ll tell you the real deal about whether they’re harmful or helpful. Until then, rock those workouts! (Or not.)

Posted By: Leanne Bateman  

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Fit for Our Lives Archives

Meet the Author - Leanne Bateman

Leanne BatemanLeanne Bateman is the Founder and Director of Running For Our Lives, an organization of men and women who participate in athletic events that raise awareness for life-threatening illnesses. After many years of experiencing firsthand the link between what you do, what you eat, and how you feel as a result, Leanne maintains an active and healthy lifestyle while encouraging others to do the same. She completes various events each year, including 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons, century bike rides and triathlons.

Leanne is committed to the belief that being “fit” is about quality: the quality of exercise you do, the quality of food you eat and the quality of your overall wellness, physically, mentally and emotionally. The level of this quality contributes to one’s ability to prevent disease, which is what Running For Our Lives is all about: staying active and fit for our own health, while helping others achieve a lifestyle of wellness and longevity, without disease. We also sponsor cancer and other survivors to participate in their first event, whether it be a 5k walk or run, a long bike ride or a triathlon.