Just Push Play? Three Keys To Curating The Next Show-Stopping Fitness Class Playlist

Okay, as a musician and personal trainer myself, I can tell you first-hand that crafting up a solid playlist to keep participants “in the zone” and not “out the door” per se, is much more than just throwing together a few J-Biebs and Ri-Ri tracks and pressing shuffle on the iPod. It’s quite a science, actually. It’s not always the Top 40 tracks that get the best reviews. Actually, it’s quite the contrary. The obscure artists, local hip hop legends like Transit22, Arlo Maverick and A.Y.E get the rooms pumping.

Read on to find out how the real good Fitness Instructors curate next level playlists that inspire a sheer sweat fest at 6:00am on a Saturday.
This is Fitness Class Playlist Curation 101, let’s do this!
1. Know your audience
If you’re leading a corporate group, do you think it’d be wise to play the unedited version of DMX’ “X Gonna Give It To Ya!”? Doubtful. On the other hand, playing hair metal tracks from the 80’s may not sit well with the typical millennial-driven spin classes around town. Knowing who your crowd is makes the process of curation wicked-simple. As long as you have some worldly knowledge and access to some different styles of music that can accommodate the many different types of exercisers (all of which have different tastes in music) you’ll be fine. Here is an old school hip hop playlist I curated with the type of crowd that likes to go out dancing in the club afterwards in mind, you’ll get the idea. 90s hip hop. Sheer gold. 90s Old School Hip Hop Playlist
2. Pay attention to the tempo
The BPM or beats per minute of a song is vital to any fitness space, and is especially important to add to the atmosphere. The speed of your songs generally translates to the speed of your movement. It’s a sub-conscious thing. Nothing ruins a class experience like a love song ballad in the middle of medicine ball burpees. For example, spin classes tend to push between 120-180 BPM as that tempo sets a good pace for a fast-paced, uptempo, sweat-fest. It’s amazing how the body responds to music. Here’s a link to a high octane playlist for your next spin, run or interval session. Big Hills, Quick Sprints.
3. Use songs to get creative with exercise
It’s a big secret, but I have an advantage being a musician – more notably a drummer – and timing, tempo and rhythm is ingrained in me. Music is broken into pieces. Fast choruses, slower verses. The tempo doesn’t change, the feel sure does though and it’s that feel that helps people stay driven in the set. There’s a few really famous tunes that help push exercisers to new thresholds. My personal favourite is known in the athletic community as “Bring Sally Up”. It’s a doozy on the legs in time to Moby’s hit, “Flower“. When you hear “bring sally down” sit in a squat until you hear “bring sally up”. Repeat for the duration of the song.
Want to try it yourself? Check the “Bring Sally Up” workout here.

Studios have recognized how important music is and started to incorporate live DJs for special occasions. I hope to start integrating live bands into group fitness classes. The cross-pollination between music and the fitness industry is growing, and with more participant involvement we can only expect to uncover more and more amazing talent.

And if you’re looking to get some of your top 5 tracks into rotation of your favourite spin class know that your instructor has a lot to consider; beats, flow, profanity, instrumentation.  If you want to get your track played, ensure its quick paced, fits the theme and is full of energy and not laced with eff-bombs or words that rhyme with fun.

So, as you can see and hopefully hear, there’s a fair amount of knowledge and work required to make a playlist for a rocking workout. If you’d like some more insight to creating a playlist based around your fitness goals or just fun music that pumps you up, please send me a note at mike@mikeschwartz.ca–

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