Running with Music: The Art of the Playlist

University of Florida student, aspiring music producer and runner Brandyn Sullins, like many runners, enjoys listening to music while out for a jog.

But Sullins doesn’t just throw a handful of his favorite songs into his iTunes playlist before heading out the door.

He has started creating his own playlists, which he specifically tailors to his running routine using audio production software.  Sullins’ playlists are different than an iTunes playlist, as Sullins’ are created and designed to communicate, through music choice and song length, how hard to be running and also when to slow down and rest.

His first playlist is geared toward his preferred method of running: high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

I wanted something intense,” Sullins said.  “The basic idea of the mix was…during the sprint period I would have to find a piece of the song that would be about a minute and…would keep me motivated to run, but I could transition it into a drop.”

So Sullins put together a playlist, using a music-production program called Ableton, which he designed to fit to his specific HIIT workout: one minute of fast walking and/or jogging and 15 seconds of all-out sprint.

Sullins chose music with a well-defined beat for his first playlist.  To define the “sprint” portions of the workout, he uses a “drop,” or an emphasized change in rhythm/beat.

Generally electronic music is very easy to mesh together, so that’s where I started.  But there is some rap, some hip-hop and some rock in there as well.”

The entire mix, Sullins says, goes for about 15 minutes.  And that’s with about a four-minute cool-down song at the end.

So it’s 11 minutes of pure running.”

Here’s what the track timing looks like:

0:00-0:53 - Warmup
0:54 - 1:07 - Sprint 1
1:08 - 2:12 - Rest 1
2:13 - 2:25 - Sprint 2
2:26 - 3:22 - Rest 2
3:23 - 3:38 - Sprint 3
3:39 - 4:39 - Rest 3
4:40 - 4:55 - Sprint 4
4:56 - 5:54 - Rest 4
5:55 - 6:08 - Sprint 5
6:09 - 7:02 - Rest 5
7:03 - 7:15 - Sprint 6
7:16 - 8:15 - Rest 6
8:16 - 8:27 - Sprint 7
8:28 - 9:27 - Rest 7
9:29 - 9:43 - Sprint 8
9:44 - 10:46 - Rest 8
10:48 - End = Cooldown

If you’d like to listen to Sullins’ playlist, you can download it here (140MB).

(Ben’s note: I have not been able to open the file, for unknown reasons, with my Mac, so I will be uploading a more stable version of the file ASAP.  My apologies if the file won’t open for you, either.)

Brandyn Sullins

UF student and runner Brandyn Sullins looking like a boss.

Moreover, Sullins seems to be a part of a larger movement — runners, as well as other athletes, creating customized playlists for exercise motivation.

The folks over at are creating distance-specific playlists for runners.  Their playlists also display the beats-per-minute (BPM) of each song in the list.

(The optimal running cadence is 180 foot-strikes-per-minute, according to Dr. Bryan Conrad, a research assistant professor at the University of Florida Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine Institute.)

Runner’s World has an entire section of their website, Music is Motivation, dedicated to running with music and various runners’ playlists.

Spinmuse, a blog created by my friend Amanda Bucci, is dedicated to sharing playlists designed for spinning.

An Italian company called Rock Run Roll (as of now their site is only in Italian) is also designing music-based training programs for specific races, for example 5k, 10k and the half-marathon.  Their products are being designed to both motivate and train runners using music.

The creators of Rock Run Roll are allowing me to test their product before it goes on the market here in the US, so I will be providing a review of their program in a future blog post.

My preferred playlist?  Well, I’ll be honest, I stick with the birds, the bees, the trees and my own thoughts and footsteps.

But I definitely see the appeal of running with music, and I say: if it keeps you going, keep it up!


About Benjamin Markus

I am a 32-year-old runner living in Gainesville, FL.
This entry was posted in Advice, tips and tricks and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Running with Music: The Art of the Playlist

  1. spinmuse says:

    A shoutout! You are AWESOME Ben! 🙂 I need to start doing some HIIT running… Have you ever done the 6/9? Sprint 6 seconds, rest 9 seconds… WOW. Hope all is well, Love the blog, keep it up!!

    • markusben says:

      Thanks, Amanda. Nope, haven’t ever tried the 6/9, but it sounds like something that would get intense very quickly. There’s so many HIIT variations.. many I need to try still.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s