Killer Playlists for Warm-Up and Cool-Down (and Why It’s Important to Do Both)
Whether you’re getting ready for the league championship game or just getting ready for a solo run around the neighborhood, a good warm-up before exercise is essential. Why? Lots of reasons:
- It boosts your blood flow to the muscles, loosening them up and helping them to get the oxygen and nutrients they need.
- It raises your hear rate and body temperature gradually and safely, rather than all at once (which allows your circulatory system to meet increased demand and reduces injury risk).
- It prepares you mentally.
A great warm-up requires a few essential items. Something to raise the heart rate, like jogging or jumping jacks. A little bit of a dynamic stretching to loosen up. Maybe a few sport-specific drills to work on your skill and coordination. And oh yeah, one more thing—a killer playlist.
The Art of the Warm-Up Song
Now, of curse, there’s no “wrong” choice for a warm-up song, exactly. Everybody has their own tastes when it comes to music. Some people go for classic rock and others go for country. You do you—choose whatever puts you in the “zone,” even if it earns you a few funny looks from your teammates.
For our money, though, the ideal warm-up tune is one that gets you pumped up and excited for play, but not so wried that you feel like you could run through a brick wall. Remember, a big point of warming up is getting your heart rate up safely and slowly. Those Yanni tapes you got from your mom probably aren’t quite energetic enough. But drum and bass? Maybe a little too energetic, at least for your humble middle-aged podiatrist.
Here are some suggestions to get you started. We hope you’ll find at least one song from here on there you can add to your regular rotation, whether you’re a fan of contemporary pop or a snobby conservatory dropout.
- Fort Minor, “Remember the Name.” While we appreciate the sentiment, we’re not sure we agree with the math—hopefully it’s a lot less than 50% pain.
- Demi Lovato, “Sorry Not Sorry.” Never apologize. (I mean, unless you actually did something wrong. Then yes, definitely apologize.)
- Kanye West, “Stronger.” Kanye certainly doesn’t have any issues with self-confidence. You shouldn’t either! While you’re at it, also queue up “Lift Off” with the full dream team (Kanye, Jay-Z, and Beyoncé).
- Eminem, “Lose Yourself.” Just don’t lose the game! Opportunity knocks only once in a lifetime, you know.
- Rachel Platten, “Fight Song.” Rachel still has a lot of fight left in her, and so do you!
- The Eurythmics, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” Hold your head up. Keep your head up.
- Queen, “Don’t Stop Me Now.” Arguably the best pump-up song by arguably the best pump-up band in the entire rock cannon.
- Survivor, “Eye of the Tiger.” Okay, it’s a bit of a cliché at this point. But it holds up.
- Elton John, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” Warning: getting a belly full of beer is not recommended prior to exercise.
- Vangelis, “(Theme from Chariots) of Fire.” Best positioned at the very front of your playlist, since it’s as much about getting into the zone mentally as physically. If you’re looking for something a little bit more funk and a little bit less 80s-drenched, try the crazy awesome jazz cover by The Bad Plus.
- Charles Mingus, “Boogie Stop Shuffle.” If you’re willing to branch out a bit and try some jazz for your warm-up, this boogie from the master of hard bop is a great place to start. We’ll also throw out Brubeck’s “Unsquare Dance” if you’re looking for something to throw off your rhythm in a good way—who knew 7/4 was such a good time signature for working out.
- Richard Wagner, “Ride of the Valkyries.” This one is for you 70s fans out there. (That would be the 1870s, of course). Better known by cartoon fans of a certain age as “Kill the Wabbit,” it’ll make you feel like you are part of an invading army about to storm the field.
Don’t Forget to Cool Down
After the thrill of victory or agony of defeat, spending a few extra minutes on cool-down exercises isn’t always everyone’s favorite thing to do. But a good cool-down can be just as important as the warm-up.
After exercise, you want your heart rate and body temperatures to return to normal gradually (just as you wanted to raise them gradually beforehand). Cool-down exercises will also flush toxins from your system and prevent your muscles from cramping later.
And of course, you’ll need some good tunes, too. In fact, at least one study out of the UK found that 20-30 minutes of calm post-workout music lowered cortisol levels and helped athletes recover more quickly all other things being equal!
Tastes will, once again, vary here. Many people will elect to simply continue their regular workout playlist (because who isn’t pumped up about being done with their workout?). We have a few additional suggestions below.
- Andy Grammer, “Honey I’m Good.” This one could arguably go in either category, since it clips along about 120 beats per minute. Put it early in your cool-down list, when you’re still running hot but pretty sure you’re not “up for another.”
- Drake, “Passionfruit.” Drake also makes a lot of warm-up playlists (and for good reason), but this laid-back groove is perfect for the opposite end of your workout.
- Röyksopp, “Remind Me.” These dudes are from Norway, so you know they’re going to bring the chill.
- Ulrich Schnauss, “Knuddlemaus.” Fun fact: it’s German for “cuddle mouse,” which might be something you’d call your sweetheart if he or she happened to like mice. And while we’re on the topic of “warm European ambient electronica,” we’ll also plug La Femme d’Argent from French duo Air.
- Vince Guaraldi Trio, “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.” Before he was “the guy who did the Charlie Brown music,” Vince Guaraldi scored a hit with this relaxing jazz tune.
- Stan Getz, João Gilberto, and Astrud Gilberto, “The Girl from Ipanema.” No music is more relaxing than Brazilian bossa nova. It’s a scientifically proven fact.
Those are just a few of our favorites (or at least a few of the ones that popped up when we crowdsourced our friends and family). What are yours?
Enjoy your workout, and as always, if your feet start hurting you know where to find us.