First things first
The first thing you need to consider is the type of music you will listen to. Music has a huge impact on your rhythm and even your heartbeat. For example, listening to classical music or smooth jazz lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. On the other hand, listening to rock, metal, or punk will raise your heart rate and blood pressure. Though the type of music has an impact on its own, if the rhythm is faster, like in speed metal (Blind Guardian, for instance), your heart will beat significantly faster than if you were listening to Bon Jovi. The Emerging Investigators have a whole study on the topic.
When choosing your music for training, you must consider your rhythm and how intensive your workout will be. But before we get into it, let’s make one thing clear. I love rock, metal, and punk music, so naturally, I’ll give examples from these genres. Still, you can always find songs with similar constructs if you have other preferences. However, metal and punk keep your heart rate the highest among all genres, so if they are not too aggressive for you, I’d suggest trying them out.
It’s always a good idea to start gradually. You need your warmup to reduce the chances of injuries and to prepare yourself mentally and physically for the challenge ahead. Naturally, your heart rate won’t be too high at the beginning, so you need to find a proper song to start with. You have several options. You can get three or four songs, each one faster than the last, or choose one progressively intensifying song, such as “Best of You” by Foo Fighters, “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath, or “Come Sail Away” by Styx. Cat Stevens’s “Father and Son” is also a viable option for those not too keen on rock.
Still, you can also get one of those rock songs that lasts for ages and gradually increases its speed. I’d suggest “Bolero”, but firstly, it’s a classical song, so it won’t do the trick. Furthermore, though the overall song progresses, the rhythm is pretty consistent. Otherwise, it would be perfect for a 20-minute warmup session.
So, I’d suggest trying “Child in Time” by Deep Purple, or one of several Metallica songs – “One”, “And Justice for All”, and “The Day That Never Comes”, among others. My favourite and go-to song for the warmup session is “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but the song progresses gradually, and what can I say? I love Jimmy Page.
The endurance ride is a bit more straightforward. Here, you need a consistent tempo you can keep up for hours. Though I love rock and metal, I guess the best music for this type of training is drum and base, which will give a consistent rhythm. Still, this training session is the least demanding for music, as any song with medium speed will do the trick. If you want to listen to rap, just pick something a bit faster. If jazz is your music of choice, no problem, just put something more swinging on. How about pop? Sure, Tailor Swift, Ed Sheeran, anyone really, just avoid ballads. You are not trying to hook up with your crush… or your bike.
I prefer the more traditional approach. I mostly enjoy AC/DC, Bon Jovi, and Nirvana – the old classics. For long rides, I find it enjoyable to listen to “Lost Highway” by Bon Jovi, as it truly represents my state of mind at the time. “Highway to Hell” is also a good choice, especially with such a title. I can genuinely ride for hours listening to those songs.
High-intensity interval training
High-intensity interval training is a bit tricker for choosing songs. I mainly go with two sets of songs – quick punk blasts and slower rock anthems. This way, I can push myself to the brink during the grudging of the punk guitars and relax a bit under the melodic undertones of Accept or Alice in Chains.
Still, the bulk of my playlist is filled with Edguy and Avantasia songs. Tobias Sammet is a true genius when composing songs, and many of them consist of a rather slower verse accompanied by a speedy and blasting chorus. The best part is that he often adds bridges in his songs, which are the perfect signal to prepare yourself for the intense segment. Just listen to “Moonglow” (with Candice Night) and tell me that’s not the best song you’ve ever heard for HIIT training. Well, maybe “Liar Liar” by Kamelot.
Stick to songs that can keep your pulse high and give you some pauses in between.
Tempo training, as the name suggests, needs faster music. Tempo training typically consists of two or three 10-minute high-speed sessions with five minutes of low-speed rest in between. So, as you can guess, you must get some consistently speedy songs in your playlist to go through the entire session.
The possibilities are endless. All you need is a high BPM. Songs like “Hey Ya” by Outkast, “In Da Club” by 50 Cent, “Thousand” by Moby, and “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers will all fit the bill.
But I actually prefer Blind Guardian, Edguy, Helloween, GammaRay, and other speed metal bands. I usually start my session with “Mirror Mirror” by Blind Guardian and finish with “Eagles Fly Free” by Helloween. So, give them a try. Or stick to “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins and “Bye Bye Bye” by NSYNC. It’s up to you.
Finally, we have VO2 Max training. Sure, we also have threshold training, but the music choice for that is much like the one for Tempo training. VO2 Max training requires keeping your heart rate at 160 beats or more for 90 seconds to five minutes. The ride here is typically not as fast, but the effort is intensive. Still, while the tempo of your ride won’t be so high, your pulse will be. So, make sure to get some very fast songs in the mix. Target songs that have at least a 160-bpm rhythm. Most of them will be rock and punk songs, but you can always go with “Happy” by Pharrell Williams or “Maniac” by Michael Sembello.
Personally, I like to go for punk during these training sessions. The songs are short and fast and boost your spirit and efforts. I always start with Divine Intervention. Still, the bulk of my training playlist for VO2 Max consists of Punk Rock Factory. They have some great covers of Disney songs, and what can I say? I’m a child at heart. Just listen to the “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” cover and tell me you’re not ready to burst your lungs out.
The Cooldown session lowers your pulse gradually, so your body won’t feel as stressed. You need to go for slower, much smoother songs in this final portion of your training. I prefer to listen to classical music, and my favourites are “Canon in D Major” by Pachelbel and “The River Flows in You” by Yiruma. Both are soothing songs that help slow your pulse while being genuinely pleasing to listen to.
How to choose your playlist
Choosing your playlist depends entirely on your preferences. Though rock and metal are the genres that will help you keep your heart rate high for the entire training, other styles can do that too, just not as effectively. All you need to do is follow the structure of your training and build your playlist around it. If you have to keep 160+ pulse, find some songs with 160+ BPM. If you need to slow your pulse, find slower songs.
Now, get on Spotify, make your playlist, and let’s get cycling.