The right running playlist can make your run more fun and help you run longer and faster. I shared my five go-to Spotify playlists that I’ve used for training runs and races. You won’t find Bon Jovi or classic rock on these, but you’ll hear an assortment of more current music from hip hop to instrumental to mainstream and offbeat. There’s some of everything, including high energy and more mellow playlists.
Running with music can be one of the most effective ways to get out of a slump, push your pace, or simply enjoy a long run alone. I find that with the right music, I’m able to keep a steady pace without thinking. You can even find playlists on Spotify that are designed for beats per minute in mind, so you can pick a playlist that will help pace you for a specific time! Super cool.
Another huge bonus of listening to music on runs is that the right songs can actually help your recovery runs by keeping your pace slow. It’s hard to run fast to a slow song (try it and tell me I’m wrong), so listening to music with less beats per minute will help you slow your pace down, which is KEY to recovery.
Researchers are learning that music is truly helping runners: “Music elevates positive aspects of mood such as excitement and happiness, reduces negative aspects such as tension, fatigue, and confusion,” Karageorghis said in a Runner’s World Running With Music debate. Karageorghis is a sports psychologist who studies music’s positive influence on athletes.
I’m a bit of a music snob, so I like to have multiple playlists to listen to depending on my mood. Sometimes I just can’t stand to hear any more pop, so I’ll switch to another one of my playlists.
The Best Running Music + My 5 Favorite Playlists
Should you run with music?
Good music can make a good run even better and research has shown that people can run longer with music. (There’s something called the auditory motor synchronization that helps you regulate your pace.)
I listen to music while I run about 50% of the time.
- If I have a long, solo run, I love music to help keep me entertained.
- With a shorter easy run, I love to get lost in music and zone out.
- If I have a long tempo run, a driving beat helps immensely.
I almost always run with music when I’m doing a treadmill run (I’ve done 20 mile runs on a treadmill so I have to combat treadmill boredom somehow!), unless I’m doing a hard workout. Music helps me pick up the pace when I’m feeling sluggish, and also works as a great distraction. While I used to love my Apple Airpods for running, they’ve fallen out before when I’m on the treadmill, and it drives me insane to stop in the middle of an interval to find where an earbud fell.
Now I use Aftershokz and I LOVE them. I wish I had gotten them sooner.
I also found that I liked running with music or listening to podcasts when running while pregnant. While I definitely still had to pay attention to my body to make sure everything felt okay, it was easy to focus too much on how different and uncomfortable pregnancy running can be. And music or podcasts were a perfect level of distraction.
But, sometimes I don’t like listening to music when I run.
Here’s when I leave my headphones and music behind. On these days, I usually leave my phone at home as well to avoid that bulkiness (however, make sure you’re somewhere safe if you’re running without your phone.).
- On the track or during any workout with lots of changes in pace, I never listen to music. I hate anything extra on me with speed work since it just annoys me.
- When running with others. I think that’s so weird and I see it often.
- And when I’m just craving some peace and quiet, away from electronics, I leave my phone at home while I run. I let my mind run free.
- When it’s dark — here are more tips to run safely in the dark
How To Carry Phone While Running
However, depending on the time of day, my route or other factors, I carry my phone even if I’m not listening to music. (This is where the Apple Watch would come in handy or an upgraded Garmin watch that syncs with Spotify.)
To carry my phone, I use a SpiBelt or bottoms that have a pocket large enough and are snug enough to carry my phone without bouncing, i.e. the Lululemon Fast & Free leggings or running shorts. While those shorts and leggings don’t have a zippered pocket, I find that my phone truly does stay put in the side pocket of my Fast and Free leggings. If you prefer to carry your phone in your hand, more power to you.
There are also running sports bras that can hold your phone while you run, but I haven’t tried them. Another great option if your phone isn’t too big is this water bottle phone holder by Nathan. Make sure you measure to see if your phone will fit, though!
Years ago, I ran with an arm band that help my phone (or iPod way back in the day), but once I found the running belt, I found I much preferred that over an arm band to carry a phone, which always felt bulky. The SpiBelt is definitely on my list of favorite running gear.
Should you race with music?
This is totally personal preference. I never listen to music for 5Ks but do occasionally for longer races, including half marathons and marathons. The 2018 Boston Marathon had horrible weather so while I wasn’t planning on using music for that race, I did simply because I knew that music helps me get through tough runs. And that was a tough day. Music was really helpful in getting me over that finish line. But at the 2019 Boston Marathon, when I had a big time goal, I didn’t listen to music since I knew I needed to pay attention to my body to regulate pace and push when I needed to.
In general, I lean towards not racing with music. I think a distraction can be fine on training runs but on race day, I like to focus on how my run feels.
Okay, on to the playlists.
Best Running Music and Playlists
All of my playlists are on Spotify, and that’s all I use. I don’t have Apple Music, but if you use Apple Music and have a good playlist, drop it in the comments for other Apple Music folks.
Pro-tip: If you find yourself getting bored or used to your playlists really fast, put your phone on shuffle. I like to use shuffle almost all the time so that I can’t predict which song is next.
I started this one after I burned out on my 2018 Running Playlist. It’s a little less mainstream than my 2018 mix except for Imagine Dragons – those are just such good running songs! I’ve continued to update this playlists since then, and I add new songs to it when I find them. You won’t fine Kanye West, Eye Of The Tiger, or Pink Floyd in here, but you’ll recognize some things!
This playlist has FOUR HOURS of music, and it’s what I used during all my training for the Wrightsville Beach Marathon. It has a good mix of upbeat and some “zone out” songs. And it’s long enough to get you though very long runs.
Sometimes, I just can’t deal with pop. You won’t find any Ke$ha, Ariana Grande, Olivia Rodrigo or Rihanna on here.
(7 hours of music!) This is a really random assortment of songs since it’s my catch-all playlist whenever I hear a song I like. I like this playlist for easy runs and it’s my go-to workout playlist for lifting days.
Okay, I originally created this playlist for indoor cycling workouts before I got a Peloton. But now I use this for running. It’s a great mix and most of them have a pretty steady beat since that’s what I like when riding. But it works great for running too, especially if you like to have a beat to help drive you and push a steady pace.
Happy running! With or without music.
Okay, your turn to share! Do you run with music? If not, why not? If so, what’s your favorite running song?