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Work It! A Running Playlist to Get You Through Your Day

Life and business can be compared to a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s important to stay healthy so we can be there for our families, our companies, and ourselves.

Life and business can be compared to a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s important to stay healthy so we can be there for our families, our companies, and ourselves. A few months ago I wrote a post titled “5 Keys to a Healthier Custom Integrator Lifestyle,” where I shared how I noticed how sedentary my life had become, how I started packing on some extra, unwanted pounds, and how I made some lifestyle changes to get into better shape. (For those not wanting to read the post, the five tips were: 1) Just Stand; 2) Move Around; 3) Work It; 4) Track It; 5) Diet.)

We all know the power of music in our customers’ lives, and there are huge music fans in this industry. Beyond critical listening and speaker measurement and an accompaniment to a dram of scotch, music can have a powerful influence on your workout. Dr. Costas Karageorghis, an expert on the effects of music on exercise from Brunel University claims, “music is a legal drug for athletes,” and that it can boost performance by up to 15 percent. 

Even if you aren’t ready to start running, finding the right playlist can help to boost your exercise routine. And while my typical music selections would be described by my wife as “depressing,” “morose,” and “suicidal,”—none of which will do for exercising—to pump up my jam, I went out and found some songs that give me “runspiration.”

These songs all have fast tempos and upbeat lyrics, and as much as I’m sure this will open me to ridicule—my playlist includes Britney, Katy Perry, and Miley for heaven’s sake!—these songs have helped motivate me through many hours. Whether it is shame, anger, or aspiration, find some music that helps you push it out and finish strong on your workout.

So, below are 20 songs from my “Running” playlist, along with the beats-per-minute, the approximate mile time that BPM would produce, why I like it, and my “runspirational lyric.”

“Work Bitch,” Britney Spears (4:07)
130 BPM / 12 min mile

There is something oddly motivating about a faux-British-accented Britney telling you that you need to work, bitch. The song ends with the chant, “Work! Work! Work!” with a really upbeat techno rhythm that helps you finish strong. Also, I totally want all of the things that she is talking about! Well, maybe not the bikini thing.

Runspirational lyric:

“You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti?
You want a Maserati? You better work bitch
You want a Lamborghini? Sippin’ martinis?
Look hot in a bikini? You better work bitch.”

“The Man,” Aloe Blacc (4:14)
86 BPM / Double pace for 7:48 mile

I hit a personal best one mile time this past weekend: 6 minutes, 53 seconds. And this was the song on my final push to the finish. When I’m listening to this, when I’m singing this in my head, I’m the man. Like “Rudie Can’t Fail” this is just a song that you can’t give up when it comes on. And in my mind, when I’m really pushing the run and it’s hurting, and I know I’m getting close to the finish, I’m The Man, and you can go ahead and tell everybody about it.

Runspirational lyric:

“Stand up now and face the sun
Won’t hide my tail or turn and run
It’s time to do what must be done
Be a king when kingdom comes
Girl you can tell everybody
Yeah you can tell everybody
Go ahead and tell everybody
I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man”

“Sugar,” Maroon 5 (3:55)
120 BPM / 13 min mile

While I’m not a big Maroon 5 fan, I just really like this song. It has a slower beat and is great for warming up or cooling down or those times when I am doing a high-incline walk.

Runspirational lyric:

“I gotta be a man,
There ain’t no other way.”

“Roar,” Katy Perry (3:43)
90 BPM / Double pace to 7 min mile

This song is all about finding your inner strength and not being held down, which is great for when you are hurting on that run. And she is quoting Rocky III, for heaven’s sake! How can you not be inspired by that?!

Runspirational lyric:

“I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar”

“Rudie Can’t Fail,” The Clash (3:29)
97 BPM / Double pace to 5:36 mile

I know this song has nothing to do with the movie Rudy. I mean, I know that, and yet, when I hear this song, I think about Rudy getting his ass beat and getting back up each time. And I’m Rudy. And I’m not going to fail. Sing, Michael, sing!

Runspirational lyric:

“I know that my life make you nervous
But I tell you that I can’t live in service
Like the doctor who was born for a purpose
Rudie can’t fail”

“Blow Me (One Last Kiss),” Pink (4:15)
116 BPM / 13:24 mile

Sometimes anger can be a motivator, and this one is pretty angry. Plus, it’s pretty full of, “F you. I’m moving on with my life to something better.” It also has a really steady, clear beat that I like to plant my left foot to.

Runspirational lyric:

“Just when it can’t get worse
I’ve had a sh– day
You’ve had a sh– day
We’ve had a sh– day
I think that life’s too short for this
Want back my ignorance and bliss
I think I’ve had enough of this.”

“Love Rollercoaster,” Red Hot Chili Peppers (4:37)
116 BPM / 13:24 mile

How can you not move your feet when the Chili Peppers are jamming?!

Runspirational lyric:

“Move it over dad ’cause I’m a double-dipper!
Upside down on the zip-zip-zipper
1, 2, 1, 2, 3, I’ve got a ticket so ride with me
Mary go down on the merry-go-round
All is fair on the fair ground
Love go slow, love go fast
Licorice twist gonna whip your ass!”

“Party In The U.S.A.,” Miley Cyrus (3:22)
96 BPM / Double pace to 5:48 mile

Remember that part in the beginning where I said I was opening myself up to ridicule? Yeah. We’re at that part now. But after you’ve pushed through three miles and your knee is hurting and this song comes on, you’ll find yourself nodding your head like yeah…

Runspirational lyric:

“So I put my hands up
They’re playing my song,
The butterflies fly away
I’m noddin’ my head like yeah
Movin’ my hips like yeah
I got my hands up,
They’re playin’ my song
I know I’m gonna be OK.”

“Die Young,” Kesha (3:32)
128 BPM / 12:12 mile

Again, big, steady, uptempo song with a clear drumline to pace to. Also, I’m kinda hoping that with getting in better shape I won’t, you know, actually die young. Also, there is a big double-drum beat after “drums” that I like step to.

Runspirational lyric:

“I hear your heart beat to the beat of the drums
Oh, what a shame that you came here with someone
So while you’re here in my arms
Let’s make the most of the night like we’re gonna die young”

“Sexyback,” Justin Timberlake (4:02)
117 BPM / 13:18 mile

Did I ever tell you guys about the time I got an Aston Martin DBS for a weekend? Yeah. When you are driving around Manhattan in a $300,000 sports car wearing a $6,000 fitted Brioni tuxedo, you are most definitely bringing your Sexyback. This is one of the songs I listened to on that B&O car stereo, and when I hear it, I think about that moment. Also, I’m bringing my frickin’ sexyback.

Runspirational lyric:

“I’m bringing sexy back
Them other f-ers don’t know how to act
Come let me make up for the things you lack
‘Cause you’re burning up I gotta get it fast.”

“Why I Am,” Dave Matthews Band (3:53)
129 BPM / 12:06 mile

This is almost a perfect five-mile-an-hour beat, which I like to do at around six percent incline on the treadmill. Also, I really like Dave, but a lot of his songs aren’t really fit for running, but this one works. (I mean, can you imagine working out to “Grace is Gone” or “Dreamgirl”?) And the constant, “Why I am” throughout the song helps you to focus on why you are doing the workout.

Runspirational lyric:

“It’s why I am
unlikely to agree
Why I am
climbin’ out of my monkey tree
Why I am
still here dancin’ with the GrooGrux King
we’ll be drinkin Big Whiskey while we dance and sing

“I’m Your Man,” Wham! (4:06)
132 BPM / 11:48 mile

You’re gettin’ your fitness on. The ladies are gonna dig it. Or, if you’re like George Michael, the dudes… Either way. You’re gonna be somebody’s man.

Runspirational lyric:

I don’t need you to care
I don’t need you to understand
All I want is for you to be there
And when I’m turned on
If you want me
I’m your man!

“Love—-> Building On Fire,” Talking Heads (2:58)
130 BPM / 12 min mile

I love the Talking Heads and this is one of my favorite songs. For a song where Byrne is constantly proclaiming it’s not love, this is a really peppy track. And, really, who can define love? There’s also a great horn section break around 1 minute 30 seconds into the song that helps you really push through.

Runspirational lyric:

“When my love
Stands next to your love,
I can’t define love
When it’s not love.
It’s not love.
Which is my face,
Which is a building,
Which is on fire.”

“Ho Hey,” The Lumineers (2:43)
80 BPM / Double pace to 9:00 min mile

This song starts out slow, but the Ho! and Hey! make great foot beat counts. Also, when kicking up the pace, this is a good, slightly better than 6.5-mile-per-hour tempo helping you to regulate.

Runspirational lyric:

“(Ho!) I don’t think you’re right for him.
(Hey!) Look at what it might have been if you
(Ho!) took a bus to China Town.
(Hey!) I’d be standing on Canal
(Ho!) and Bowery.
(Ho!) And she’d be standing next to me.

“Some Nights,” fun (4:37)
108 BPM / 14:12 mile

This one also starts off a bit slow, but it has a nice four-mile-per-hour pace which is good for a high-incline walk. Also, it’s another song that I just like listening to.

Runspirational lyric:

“Well, some nights I wish that this all would end
‘Cause I could use some friends for a change.
And some nights I’m scared you’ll forget me again
Some nights I always win, I always win…”

“Hey, Hey (What Can I Do?),” Led Zeppelin (3:56)
156 BPM / 9:24 mile

Right from the get go, this song is off on a quick pace, helping you to get started and down to business. Also this is one of my favorite Zep songs and it has a really great pace for breaking a 10-minute mile (six miles per hour). I mean, sure, it’s about a slutty girl, but really, who wouldn’t want to stay drunk all the time and ball all day?

Runspirational lyric:

“Sunday morning when we go down to church
See the menfolk standin’ in line
I said they come to pray to the Lord
With my little girl, looks so fine”

“Night Like This,” LP (4:00)
117 BPM / 13:18 mile

I like pop songs with female lead singers. There. I said it. I just really like this song. Can listen to it over and over, and that’s a great quality in a workout track. I also just love the “but we can still pretend” lyric. Not sure why.

Runspirational lyric:

“We are the ones,
We were the lucky ones, and I will take the blame
And pay the cost for every lover’s cross, that heaven knows by name
The summer’s touch? I loved so much I played again and again
And in the end I wasn’t innocent, but we can still pretend.”

“I Bet My Life,” Imagine Dragons (3:12)
108 BPM / 14:12

First time I heard this on the radio I thought, “Yeah, that’d be good to run to.” So I added it to the playlist. The chorus is where the song really helps you find your groove.

Runspirational lyric:

“So I, I bet my life, I bet my life
I bet my life on you
I, I bet my life, I bet my life
I bet my life on you.”

“18 Wheeler,” Pink (3:44)
182 BPM / 6:48 mile

A super-fast beat really helps you kick up your run, and kind of like the more grown-up version of Roar. You can knock me down over and over, but I’m just gonna get back up. And come at you even harder.

Runspirational lyric:

“You can push me out the window
I’ll just get back up
You can run me over with your 18 wheeler truck
And I won’t give a f-
You can hang me like a slave
I’ll go underground
You can run me over with your 18 wheeler but
You can’t keep me down.”

“Can’t Keep Johnny Down,” They Might Be Giants (2:20)
168 BPM / 8:12 / 2:20

I love They Might Be Giants, and this one has seriously become like my run-jam-anthem lately. I’m not gonna lie, it definitely helps if your name is John. Because, you can’t keep Johnny down. This is also a perfect 7.5-mile-per-hour pace, which is great to really kick up your run.

Runspirational lyric:

“Outnumbered a million to one
All of the dicks in this dick town
Can’t keep Johnny down
Men piled up in a towering mound
None of them once has found a way
To keep Johnny down
They haven’t yet built the man
That’ll keep old Johnny down.”

If you have a song that pushes you through, tell me about it in the comments! A great resource to find your perfect workout jam is, which lets you find songs by either BPM or mile pace. Ultimately, whatever gets you up and out of that office chair is a step in the right direction, and an investment in your own future and well-being.

John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.