A friend posted on Facebook this week that she’d gone to a fitness class and couldn’t believe it when MC Hammer’s “Too Legit to Quit” came from the speakers.

Now I have a confession. I can be hopelessly stuck in the 80s when it comes to music. Granted, “Too Legit” is from the early 90s, but that just means I gravitate toward music that’s even older! In the middle of an ultra-good workout, “Too Legit” can send me into a frenzy, and if MJ’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” queues up, forget it. I practically foam at the mouth.

Clearly everyone does not agree with my musical tastes, and it’s unrealistic to expect that they will. There is no question that the right playlist adds another layer of awesome to a class or training session, but with musical tastes being so varied, instead of working on the perfect balance of musical genres, the balance I chose to work on was music versus workout.

Here’s what I mean: I didn’t want to be upstaged by the music. Music is an assistant, and putting too much focus on it made me behave for a while as though it were the only reason people showed up. But that couldn’t be right. People can listen to music anywhere and don’t have to sweat and wear spandex to do it.

So, though we risk a Too Legit moment or several, here are a few ways to use music to motivate while keeping the emphasis and focus on the workout.

  • Use music to drive performance. Music should correspond with the workout objectives. The fast, hyper song can help boost energy and effort, but for other segments calm instrumentals can be great, and not just during a cooldown. With the right track, there is all the helpfulness of a good bpm, yet none of the distractions of lyrics. These can be great songs for times of concentration during those difficult segments when breathing still needs to remain controlled.
  • I know some instructors who use what I call “the predictable playlist” with great success. These instructors use the same set of songs, albeit in different order, for each class according to objectives, with a new song or two popping up every month or so and an older song cycling out. It works because when a song starts, the participants know exactly what to do. The playlist itself helps give instructions, and people look forward to their song, and favorite workout segment, starting. In one such class, I’ve been known to holler for “track 13,” an instrumental that no one (not even Shazam) can identify by artist or title. Track 13 meant it was time to work with heavy resistance!
  • Take requests. Asking for requests is another great way to use music to motivate. It can take the pressure off having to hunt down fresh tunes, and it ensures the music will be well-received…by at least one person. Plus, and this is the best part, it gives a sense of ownership to the participant for the overall exercise experience.


Tanisha Rule

Tanisha Rule has a BA in English and is a former Mad Dogg-certified Spinning instructor. She taught indoor cycle and boot camp and has now combined her passions as a full-time writer for the health and fitness industries, check out her site at www.ruleboutiquewritingservices.com. If she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found happily training for an endurance event, likely after having said, “This is my last one for a while,” because there is no finish line; there is only progress.