Tips for Creating the Best Workout Playlists

by Aquarius Wellness | Jul 22, 2017 | | 0 Comments

“Music nerd” is a strong word that could mean a lot of things.

Am I a nerd if I hear music when no one else does? (It’s playing, really!) Am I a nerd if I can analyze the chord structure of most songs I hear? Am I a nerd if listening to music makes me wish I could drop everything, get out the nearest stringed instrument, and play along?

My music therapy training only adds another level of “nerdiness.” I may be talking to you in a coffee shop, but part of my brain is analyzing the background music (that you might not even be hearing).

Is this music intentional or random? Is the music working in this setting? Why was this music chosen? Is it trying to get me to feel something so that I’ll do something? Is it working for that purpose?

But these skills aren’t just about earning “cool” points.  My special way of hearing music helps me create music that is just right for a setting or scenario. And I use that perspective when I’m sharing my passion for inspiring wellness in families and individuals.

Wellness goes far beyond getting on the massage table regularly and taking the time to sleep in from time to time. But it has been shrouded in “shoulds” leaving many to feel like they’re lacking even when they’re making great changes.

It can feel like there’s an opportunity for a “should” around every corner: “I should eat that instead,” “I should go for a walk,” “I should take a vacation.” To be sure, each day is filled with opportunities to support your wellness. But looking at it through the lens of “should” doesn’t help anyone.

Taking care of your wellness can feel amazing (with a massage at Aquarius Wellness, perhaps), taste delicious, and be fun. It’s simple to use music to make wellness easy and fun.

With this in mind, I created some workout playlists to help clients have more fun and effective fitness routines.

You can access the workout playlists I created on Spotify.  But if you want to create your own workout playlists, here are the steps and guidelines I used.

1. Choose the length of your workout.

The length of the workout will determine the length of your playlist. Include warm up and cool down with time and music for stretching—so you’ll actually warm up and cool down properly.

2. Figure out the phases of your workout.

Ideally, you won’t go from sitting to running full speed in a minute or two. You need to work up to that full speed. Beyond that, you may do an alternating pattern of pushing yourself and low-key movement, ending with a hard finish. All of that sandwiched between a warm-up and a cool down. I’m no fitness professional, so find one to help you map out your best routine.

3. Pick a style.

Consistency is the key to any great playlist. Sometimes you want 80’s pop and sometimes you want Justin Timberlake. Having several workout playlists allows you to pick the one that suits your mood at the time. You can be committed to your workout without having to be totally committed to one single playlist. Gather your favorite songs from this style for your playlist. (Hint: many internet music players have related artist search options and Spotify suggests songs when you’ve started a playlist.)

4. Start and end with cool and relaxing music.

Some trainers incorporate 5-12 minutes to sit, breathe deeply, and warm up the muscles with some light massage or foam rolling at the beginning and at the end of the workout. When you do this, it helps you shift out of rush mode (fight or flight) into a more relaxed mode (rest and digest.) This allows your body to work better during the workout. Find cool down music that somewhat fits in with your style by paying attention to what kinds of instruments are used in your selected style. Then search them with “relaxation” after it.

5. Arrange your favorite songs according to your workout phases.

Generally, you’re going to put your slowest, least intense songs after the first cool and relaxing songs. Your most intense song will be placed where you intend to peak in your workout. Other music will go in between building up to or walking down from the climax. Keep in mind that you don’t want to go from cool and relaxing to very intense music—this could put you back into fight or flight mode. Take time to listen to the beginning 15 seconds of each song as you’re arranging them. You’ll be able to compare the pieces better to know where each should go.

6. Put it into action!

Start using your playlist for your workout while paying attention to how your body reacts to each song. Is this song making your heart rate go up? Is it an appropriate time for that? Is it going up too much at once? Keep making necessary changes until your playlist is perfect.

That’s it! Now your music will support your workout goals.

Did you use this guide to create your own workout playlist? We’d love to hear it!

Book an appointment for a massage therapy session sat Aquarius Wellness today so you can benefit from a holistic personal wellness routine. Or try any other exceptional day spa and wellness treatments at Aquarius Wellness.

Maura Marksteiner graduated with her music therapy degree from Illinois State University in 2005. She is the founder of St. Louis Birth Rhythms where she and her team help families have fulfilling, safe, and empowering births. She also provides health and wellness services for individuals and corporations. Her passion is helping families and individuals connect to their power to be healthy and happy through lifestyle choices. To contact Maura, please email

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