Reader’s request: creating a killer workout playlist

Morning! Hope your day is off to a great start ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m off to my first photography lesson. Learning how to use my DSLR has been on my “goals” list for a few years now, so I decided to go for it. I’ve looked at my manual and watched numerous tutorials online, but I know it will help me to get the guidance from a pro.

Confession: I still shoot in “P” mode and use Lightroom to edit the color and sharpness of my photos.

Ice cream  1 of 1 2

(Avocado ice cream!!!)

In the meantime, I thought I’d do a reader’s request-type post on playlists. Many people have asked how I put together my workout playlists, especially those for Zumba and the classes I teach. Here’s how I put it all together:

Create a playlist

1. Start with an exciting intro song. This is usually the newest song on my playlist; one that I LOVE and will pump me up. It varies depending on the workout or class, but it sets the mood for the entire workout.

2. Alternate types of music and tempos. When I’m working out on my own, I get extremely bored if I hear the same type of music the entire time. I love to alternate lighter, pop-y feel with the more angst grunge-type stuff. When I’m doing cardio, having a mix of tempos and types of songs provides inspiration for hills, sprints and tempo work.

3. Know your music. This is especially important if I’m teaching a class. I know the breaks in each song that I can use to coach, the chorus, and any weird 4-count breaks or interludes. For dance cardio or Zumba, in the case that I totally space out my choreography, if I know the music well, I can make something up on the spot.

4. But don’t know it “too” well. Throw in a couple of new songs each week to keep things fresh and exciting. I’m constantly exploring iTunes and Spotify to find new songs to use from my own playlists and classes.

5. Don’t be afraid of instrumental. Some of my favorite workout and Zumba songs are totally sans lyrics. (“Animals” is also my favorite karaoke song, heh heh.) Bond has especially powerful instrumental music; I also like club-style mixes by various DJs, and music from soundtracks.ย 

6. Save your power songs for the end, when you (and your class) need them! Gradually build up intensity so at the end, you’re ready to give it everything you’ve got before cooling down.

7. Choose a beautiful cool down song. This is where I can throw something in that I’m crazy about, but that doesn’t make for heart-pumping workout music. Anything goes!


Some tips for Zumba music:

-Remember the Zumba format. It’s technically supposed to be 70% Latin music, 30% everything else. If your playlist is mostly hip hop, you may need to alter things a little bit. I tend to get a little excited when multiple new hip hop or reggaetons come out, but I have to remind myself to stick to the formula.

-Start EASY. I like to do this for any apprehensive newbies in the class. If you start easy, they’ll feel successful and more confident as the songs become more challenging.

-Alternate intensities. Even though a merengue right into a crazy reggaeton followed by a quebradita can be fun, I like to add in some easy salsas or cumbias here and there to break things up.ย 


Any tips for making an awesome playlist? Fellow fitness instructors, what’s your favorite music resource?ย 

What’s your beautiful cool down song of choice? ๐Ÿ™‚

Have a great day! <3



Some of my favorite playlists are here!

Is ZIN worth it?

Tips for Zumba instructors

Confessions of a group fitness instructor

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  1. Emily @ The Swallow Flies on March 27, 2014 at 11:22 am

    I haven’t created any playlists for fitness CLASSES, per se — just long runs. I tend to select songs that are motivational and upbeat (i.e. Katy Perry’s “The Roar” or The Script’s “Hall of Fame”). I also like songs (upbeat, of course) that remind me of people; this helps me think about my family and friends (who inspire me every day) on those never-ending miles.

  2. Paula on March 27, 2014 at 11:32 am

    The best beautiful cool-down song I ever heard in a class was when my barre instructor played this acoustic version of NeYo’s “Let Me Love You.” Totally unexpected. I liked it so much that I used the instrumental from it as my wedding processional.

    As much as I’d love to have music when running races, I hate having headphones in unless I’m on the treadmill. I need a personal DJ pacer to run with me.

    • Fitnessista on March 27, 2014 at 5:04 pm

      ohhhh, i’ll have to download that!

  3. Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie on March 27, 2014 at 11:33 am

    That ice cream looks amazing! I can’t wait to hear how your class goes! I’ve been wanting to take a class for forever, I have no idea how to use my DSLR and take 90% of my blog photos on my phone.

  4. Christine@ Apple of My Eye on March 27, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Mhmm that avocado ice cream looks so refreshing! And LOVE the tips for the workout playlists!

  5. Ashley @ A Lady Goes West on March 27, 2014 at 11:52 am

    A benefit of teaching Les Mills group fitness is that the music is chosen for you. They always have great variety per class, per release.

    • Fitnessista on March 27, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      i love the les mills music!! very upbeat and motivational

  6. FitBritt@MyOwnBalance on March 27, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Wait! I need the recipe avocado ice cream! So yum!

    I agree with you that taking the time to learn how to use your DSLR is so worth it. Now if I could only take my own advice! Although I do have to say that most bloggers I know who are really good with their camera still use photoshop to adjust their pictures. Excited to hear what you learned! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Erin (Running Tall) on March 27, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    I love cruising the Latin music section on YouTube to find the latest Latin jams for my zumba classes! I also am lucky enough to have a few international students from Columbia in one of my classes this year and they give me awesome suggestions.

  8. Britt on March 27, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    I need to learn how to use my dslr. I am going to Albania in April and I want to be able to take nice pictures!

    My favorite cool down song is “roar” by Katy perry or, my new favorite, “unique” by Lenka. I love “Unique” because it helps me remember to love myself for who I am.

  9. Jackie on March 27, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    I’d love to take photography lessons!

  10. Cassy @ On The Inside on March 27, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    I think adding in a “throwback” song is always a good idea too! Everyone always gets really excited when a song they used to love but forgot about comes on! The instructor at a class I just went to played “Thong Song” and everyone loved it!

    • Fitnessista on March 27, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      haha that’s so true!! during yoga last week, our instructors played TLC “waterfalls” and everyone loved it

  11. Alex @ Kenzie Life on March 27, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    I love the tip to choose songs you don’t know too well. I get into these phases where I really love a certain song and I’ll listen to it basically on repeat for weeks to months and then get so sick of it that I can’t stand to listen to it anymore, so I’m trying not to do that. During the last stretch of a Pure Barre class at the very end they always play a slower song, and I really love that because it’s this tiny bit of relaxation after a lot of work.

  12. Livi on March 27, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Currently… Let it Go ๐Ÿ™‚ perfect workout/cooldown song. Who am I kidding… it’s perfect for everything!!!

    • Fitnessista on March 27, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      we’re obsessed with that song, too ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. Sara @ LovingOnTheRun on March 27, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Nothing gets me ready for a run like a new playlist! I always look forward to hearing the new songs as I am running along. Great tips!

  14. Lauren @ Focused To Be Fit on March 27, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Great tips! Music really does make or break a workout. I love Beyonce’ – Halo to cool down!

  15. Cheri @ Overactive Blogger on March 27, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    I use Represent Cuba from the Dirty Dancing 2 Soundtrack. The class is obsessed with it, they’re always asking for it if I try to switch it up!

    • Fitnessista on March 27, 2014 at 4:54 pm

      ahhh i love that song!!

  16. Lindsey on March 27, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    It would be fun if you could share what you learned from your photography lesson on the blog. I’m sure lots of readers would love to know how to use their DSLR cameras better!

    • Fitnessista on March 27, 2014 at 4:54 pm

      i wish i could! i had to sign a contract stating that i wouldn’t post any of the pics i took or what i learned. (i think it’s a good thing, too, because i’m not in any position to share tips or tricks since i’m just learning myself.) hopefully you’ll be able to see a difference in my photography!

      • Cheri @ Overactive Blogger on March 27, 2014 at 5:00 pm

        Maybe down the mine some photog classes are in my future as well? I do the same – set it in P and crisp up the images with filters.

  17. Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment on March 27, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Great post! I usually look on blogs for suggestions, but a lot of the times I keep running lists of songs I’ve heard that would be good workout songs. When I have time I sit down and put together updates!

  18. Runner Girl Eats on March 27, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Great tips! I have never done Zumba but I def think music is huge deal in group fitness classes and have even stopped going to certain instructors because I don’t like their music selection. My barre class has started to play All of Me by John Legend as the cool down and I just loovveee it. Although it was also my wedding song a few weeks ago so maybe that’s why ๐Ÿ˜‰

  19. Julya on March 27, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Thanks for the tips! My boot camps favorite song to cool down to is “Beautiful Flower” by India.Arie. It’s such an inspiring song to listen to at the end of a kick-ass workout.

  20. Rhiannon @ Bound to be a Buckeye on March 28, 2014 at 7:38 am

    What I’ve noticed for me is it doesn’t really matter what genre or even the tempo sometimes, I just need music that is “good” to me. My workout playlist right now varies from Justin Timberlake to The Band Perry! For my cool down I tend to choose live or acoustic rock songs. I’m in love with some from Tool right now. They still keep me into the workout but allow me to slow things down.

  21. Bethann on March 28, 2014 at 11:32 am

    I’ve been doing a lot of Les Mills and yoga lately so either the music is chosen for me/the instructor or there is no music. When I run, I will have to take tip #6 and save my power song for the end! I’ve been finding it really difficult to make time for running lately!

  22. Kailey on March 28, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    I always sneak in showtunes as cool down songs- Idina Menzel’s solo version of “Defying Gravity” is gorgeous, and also love Seasons of Love <3

    • Fitnessista on March 29, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      LOVE showtunes, too ๐Ÿ™‚

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