Music to my Ears

How do you keep motivated during your workouts? I’ve always found that I need something to listen to, regardless of whether I’m at the gym or outside.

The only exception is when I’m actively engaging with someone else – it’s hard to talk when your attention isn’t entirely there!

I’ve walked a lot this year – the first lockdown had me craving long walks outdoors, breathing in the spring air, and it was a habit I happily kept up (more or less) as the lockdown restrictions lifted. On these walks, I listened to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts. It was easy to give them the attention needed to follow them, and I really enjoyed being transported to these new worlds, with these new narratives, as if I was out on a long walk catching up with my friends.

At the gym, I was never able to do that. I couldn’t follow podcasts, books, or be one of those people watching Netflix on their phone while on the cross-trainer. I needed more ‘oomph’ to what I was hearing. But more importantly, I needed to be able to zone in and out as required – to check form, or to concentrate on a particular action – to get the most out of my session.

The right music is great for setting the baseline mood, and to get lost in when you need the mental distraction.

Now that I’m spending so much more time running outside, I find that I’m searching for another solution.

I think music is the answer – I need something with a good beat to keep me motivated, and I definitely need to be able to block it out without consequence for things like crossing the road or navigating obstacles (like today’s surprise wildlife).

But I would love something more than that – something to keep my mind engaged, like I was running with friends, to pull me out of the ‘oh-God-I’ve-only-been-going-10-minutes!?’ and help me settle into my rhythm earlier.

That’s exactly it. I’m struggling to find the right audio to help me find my rhythm.

Of course, like so much in life, it’s going to come down to trial and error to find out what works for me. That’s part of what this regular practice of running is all about…

… yes, my legs are getting used to running …
… yes, my lungs are getting used to this new way of breathing…

… and yes, I’m finding and strengthening the mental tools which will get me through, too.

Music is going to be one of those tools.

Sample of workout playlists on Spotify, Nov 2020

Currently, I’m experimenting with Spotify workout playlists. I haven’t built one of my own – I’m not sure if it’s going to be worth the effort?

But I’m very interested to hear what you do?
What do you find helpful (or unhelpful – that’s good to know, too!)?
Any suggestions for approaches I should try?

I don’t suppose you know of any magical music-podcast hybrid that will magically solve everything!?

8 thoughts on “Music to my Ears

  1. I listen to podcasts when I go on long cycle rides but when I’m running, I need something to keep me motivated. I don’t use apple’s standard playlists. Over the years I have handpicked almost 3000 songs on Apple Music and I shortlisted about 150 of them to make a workout playlist. The same is always on my Apple Watch when I’m out for a run. It works perfectly for me. The point I’m trying to make is you’ve got to handpick what works for you and not rely on “one size fits all” playlists.


    • Sounds like I should start picking my favourite tracks from the generic, ‘off the shelf’ playlists I’m trying and start to try building my own. Do you ever get so used to the songs on your cultivated list that you lose motivation? I suppose with 150 songs, you’ve got a lot of variety!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yup. That happens sometimes. But the tracks that I’ve selected are mostly about the beats and less about the rhythm and the lyrics. I try to match my cadence with the beats. For instance Adele’s “Water under the bridge” is a decent track. But when you run to it and focus only on the beats, it doesn’t matter how many times you play it. Give it a try.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hope you find what works for you but I’ve never run, cycled or trained with headphones or earphones. Quite apart from safety, I think it’s good to hear your breathing, footfall etc.


    • This is a really good point. I use in-ear bluetooth headphones that I remove regularly to check on my environment – especially around traffic, or at night – and often only have music in only one ear. But it’s never occurred to be that being able to hear my own rhythm is important, too. Might have to try it for a couple of runs, and see if that makes a difference!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I use the app Zombies run. It has about seven seasons and it plays a radio style story with the music on your phone as intermission between scenes. You can set it for a certain time or a distance depending on what you’re doing. Its my second favorite running app.


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