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17.02.2016 | Words by: Jo Kali

The sweet spot is between 120 - 140 bpm. That’s usually the pace of music that welcomes you when you walk through the gym. Songs whose militant structure, when you close your eyes, you imagine dancers pounding along to in perfect unison. These are the perfect partner for a work out; pushing you to work harder and more efficiently. 

Music's compatibility with exercise isn’t exactly a secret, nearly everyone running outdoors is braced with headphones, gym classes have become recognisable for their choice of loud and vibrant anthems, and yoga goes hand in hand with serene soundscapes. In these environments music sometimes squanders it’s pleasurability factor and becomes more about it’s functional value. 

The sound of the gym tends to sway between current chart hits and stock house tracks. A constant, monotonous rhythm that loops the room, dampening the dull thuds of trainers pounding the treadmills and the celebratory exhalations of breath as weights drop to the floor. Our bodies use that beat to keep a steady pace. Spotify recently weighed in on this trend and set up workout playlists categorised tempo so you can choose the speed to synchronise your stride with. Setting a pace means you use your energy more efficiently and can almost zone out of what you’re doing. 

For anyone who goes to the gym, forgetting your headphones is often enough to warrant an excuse to turn back and go home. Time at the gym has become the time to catch up on podcasts, albums, or the news. Using sound as a way to distract us, sound which can invite little attention, makes few surprises and easily fades into the background. It whiles away the time and makes those 30 minutes speed by instead of lag behind. Although if you’re into your music it’s often just as off-putting to listen to music you don’t like. Spotify’s workout playlists centre as much on BPM as they are on selecting the most played songs. Scientifically these songs function but in practice they can be just as discouraging as silence. 

Aggressive rhythms take away the intense burning in your muscles. Focusing everything you have on the music and forgetting your physical pain. You adopt the song’s attitude and push yourself through those last few moments instead of falling at the last hurdle. Check out Paula Temple’s recent FACT mix which quickly works up to a relentless pace. Thudding techno that manages to keep reel you into that trance like surrender might be more compatible than a playlist with Ed Sheeran and Calvin Harris. 

Or perhaps, like me, you work best with something that urges your full attention. Hessle Audio’s Rinse FM shows are guaranteed to hook you in, or better still RBMA lectures or fireside chats are great if you're interests in music lie beyond the surface area. They’re also long enough to last a couple of laps of any park and let you walk back in one piece. Partnering up with audio aids in one format or another means you don’t have to workout alone. You’ve got a tool for encouraging you till the end and armed with a serious way of solving boredom and lack of motivation.

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