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Finally! The Mystery of BPM and Workout/Run Mixes Explained.

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What is BPM - Beats Per Minute

I’m tired of being mystified the mysterious BPM (Beats Per Minute) when it comes to choosing songs for workout mixes and my runs. Normally I just go with what I like but I have noticed a correlation between tempo and my speed. So I decided to ask our friend Chris from Run Hundred to shed some light on the subject…

What exactly is BPM?

BPM stands for Beats Per Minute. This can get confusing, as so many people have a target heart rate for their exercise. But the BPMs, as you’ll see them listed in a playlist, refer strictly to the tempo of the music. While there’s obviously a correlation between faster music, faster exercise, and a faster heartrate–there’s no reason to think these counts give an indication of how fast your heart should be beating.

I run a 10 minute mile what’s that translated to BPM?

This is a question that gets asked a lot. And it seems pretty straightforward. But the answer is a fairly broad–somewhere between 145-165 BPM. The problem is that, effectively, what folks want to know is this: “If I’m taking one stride for each beat of the song, how many strides (or beats) do I need per minute to approximate a 10 minute mile?” But, the answer varies depending upon the length of your stride. If you’re 6’6″ and running, you’ll need considerably fewer steps than if you’re 5’4″ and walking.

To that end, at the end of this post, I’ve listed a few tracks that’ll put this into better context–so that you can figure out what BPM would represent a 10 minute mile for you.

Can having a playlist with higher BPM actually make you faster?

Absolutely. What really makes folks go, obviously, are songs that they love–no matter the speed. But, erring on the side of quick songs will definitely propel you faster.

In particular, if you know your general pace–and can put together a list of songs that are just slightly (maybe 5 BPM) above that speed–you’ll find it a lot easier to push yourself. There’s something magical about having songs with which you’re perfectly in sync–so that you’re hitting the ground on every beat. So, if that beat is just slightly faster than you’re already moving, you’ll naturally want to align yourself with it–thereby getting more out of your workout.

Is there way to know the BPM for my favorite songs? Any software or databases out there? How can I keep BPM in mind when I make my own workout mixes?

There are a few ways to calculate BPMs. My favorite is actually an app called Cadence. It was designed for folks working out. So, it’ll not only calculate the BPMs of all the songs in your library–but it has a little slidebar you can use while working out. You just slide it up to the BPM you want, and it’ll find songs in your library with that tempo. If it’s too much (or too little), you just slide the bar up or down a little.

It doesn’t get much easier than that.

If you want, you can read more about Cadence (or grab a copy) here:

Cadence

Alternatively, I pulled a list of a few recent tracks from between the 145-165 BPM range. You can download them on Itunes and see to which you’re best-suited. (Even if you don’t use Itunes, you can still click on the links and hear previews of the songs and see which would likely work best for you).

145 BPM – Kelly Clarkson – My Life Would Suck Without You iTunes

150 BPM – Fall Out Boy & John Mayer – Beat It iTunes

155 BPM – John Legend & Andre 3000 – Green Light iTunes

160 Bloc Party – This Modern Love iTunes

165 Green Day – Uptight iTunes

Lastly, once you’ve got a general idea which BPM is closest to your speed, you can always refine it–and find more tracks from that range–using my workout music site. It’s basically an on-line database of songs to which you can workout, organized by their BPMs. And it’s free to use.

So, I hope this helps you, at least, get started.

I know it can be a lot to wade through. But, I think you’ll find it’s worth it.

Good luck!



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Discussion

There are 6 comments so far.

    BK

    October 7, 2010

    Thank u 4 this post! Great topic! I tend to just use podcast already done to take out the thought for me lol

    Di

    October 7, 2010

    If you know the BPM you like to run at, why not invest in some workout music? There are a ton of instructor music sites that have 60 minutes of music all merged and no breaks, consistant beat. Check out power music, of yesfitness. I am a fitness instructor and run to my class music all the time :)

    D

    October 8, 2010

    I love walking to a specific BPM. It makes a huge difference to me. I have CDs on my MP3 player from Collage Video and also Debbie Rocker CDs on there – awesome!
    D

    Christine

    October 8, 2010

    podrunner.com has tons of music at particular BPMs. Have you checked it out?

    roni

    October 8, 2010

    I’ve been there, always forget about it though!

    Bariatric Boy

    October 8, 2010

    This is excellent to see here! I’ve always put forth a great deal of effort into picking out the right music to work out or cycle to. The right music makes all the differences. A hard driving steady beat really helps you keep going, to not slow down and keep going.