The Best Running Playlists to Power You to a New P.R.

In search of fresh pump-up songs to run to? Check out these three expert-curated playlists — two from a running coach, and one from some of the top pros in the game: our #ShapeSquad IG followers.

The Best Running Playlists You Need to Power You to a New PR
Photo: Getty Images

Music inspires movement. When your jam comes on, you'll naturally start bopping your head in the car or run — not walk — to the dance floor at a wedding.

There's a reason for that. In the past few years, new science has emerged suggesting that music can boost running performance and fight mental fatigue. One study in particular indicated that upbeat, quick-tempo tunes had the potential to boost performance in both interval training and endurance workouts.

CSCS and certified personal trainer Evan Williams of E2G Performance agrees — curating the perfect playlist is a surefire way to help propel your run to the next level. (

As Williams notes, the best running songs will vary depending on whether you're doing an interval or distance run. Regardless of run type, though, you'll want to keep two acronyms in mind when curating the playlist: BPM and RPE.

Here's a quick explainer on each:

  • BPM, or beats per minute, translates directly to the number of beats a song has per one minute. Naturally, the higher the BPM, the more uptempo a song feels. Williams uses an online tool called run2rhythm to calculate the BPM for songs he incorporates into his running playlists.
  • RPE, or ratings of perceived exertion, is a little less numeric (as the name suggests), corresponding with how hard you believe you're working. Although accredited exercise bodies like the American Council on Exercise (ACE) use a 6 to 20 scale, Williams prefers a 0 to 10 scale, where 10 is an all-out sprint and 0 a light walk.

So why doesn't MPH, or miles per hour, factor in to the mix? Williams notes that variables like height, experience, and fitness levels can all affect a person's MPH during a run, and running is a personal journey. Going by feeling on an RPE scale instead is a way to use music to maximize — and customize — your efforts.

Here, Williams offers up two of his favorite interval and endurance running playlists, plus, a third playlist curated by some of the top pros in the game — our #ShapeSquad IG followers.

How to Create a Supercharged Interval Running Playlist

For HIIT, or interval-based, runs, Williams suggests finding tunes with a 140 to 180 BPM. (

Why? "These ranges feature up-tempo and fast-paced beats," Williams explains. "Faster-paced music makes you want to move faster and work harder. Most songs at this BPM have motivational context, which will encourage you to go all out during sprint intervals while improving your MPH during your bouts."

Williams typically doesn't choose special songs for recoveries, preferring to keep runners motivated during non-push periods with high-energy jams throughout. It also makes it easier — intervals are typically shorter than a full song, and he says runners don't want to have to worry about constantly changing the tune.

If you don't have pre-planned interval and rest times, Williams suggests letting the song dictate it by pulling back during the chorus of the song for recovery and sprinting on the verse, or vise versa.

"This is a fun way to challenge yourself," he says. "It keeps you focused and engaged with the music instead of worrying about the time. Be warned, though, you may develop a love-hate relationship with certain songs depending on how short your rest time ends up being."

Aim for a 6 to 10 RPE, Williams recommends, during intervals of two minutes and an 8 to 10 RPE for 30-second pushes. Recoveries should be 2 to 4 on the RPE scale, which could be a fast walk or jog.

40-Minute Interval Running Playlist

Length: 40 minutes

BPM for most songs: 140 to 180

Warm-up: Aim for the Moon — Pop Smoke ft. Quavo (2:55)

Way 2 Sexy — Drake ft. Future and Young Thug (4:17)

Williams recommends: Interval during the 30-second chorus at 8 to 10 RPE. Rest during 45-second verse at 2 to 3 RPE.

"This is a perfect warm-up song for interval training," Williams says. "The tempo is in the lowest range when it comes to interval training and is 140 to 142 BPM. During the warm-up, you should go at a 2 to 3 out of 10 effort on the RPE scale."

Backstabber — Ke$ha (3:06)

Williams recommends: Interval during the 35-second verse at 7 to 9 RPE. Rest during the 35-second chorus at 2 to 3 RPE.

Monster — Imagine Dragons (4:09)

Williams recommends: Interval during the 25-second chorus at 8 to 10 RPE. Rest during the 45-second verse at 2 to 3 RPE.

Runnin — 21 Savage (3:15)

"This song has a hard-hitting beat with rocking bass," Williams says. "It's a great song to motivate you during your intervals."

Williams recommends: Interval during the 30-second verse at 8 to 10 RPE. Rest during the 30-second chorus at 2 to 3 RPE.

Jumpman — Future and Drake (3:25)

Williams recommends: Interval during Drake's one-minute verse at 6 to 7 RPE. Rest during Future's one-minute verse 2 to 3 RPE.

I'll Be Waiting — Adele (4:01)

Williams recommends: Interval during the 30-second chorus at 8 to 10 RPE. Rest during the one-minute verse at 2 to 3 RPE.

Ima Boss — Meek Mill ft. Rick Ross (4:06)

"This song is sure to keep you going and will push you during your sprints," Williams says.

Williams recommends: Interval during the 25-second chorus at 8 to 10 RPE. Rest during the one-minute verse at 2 to 3 RPE.

Don't Let Me Down The Chainsmokers (3:28)

Williams recommends: Interval during the 15-second chorus at 8 to 10 RPE. Rest during the 45-second verse at 2 to 3 RPE.

Go Legend — Big Sean ft. Travis Scott (4:28)

"This is a great song for that last and final push to the finish," Williams says. "The beat and lyrics to this song will make you want to finish strong."

Williams recommends: Interval during the 40-second chorus at 7 to 8 RPE. Rest during the one-minute verse at 2 to 3 RPE.

Cool Down: Victory — Diddy ft. Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes (4:57)

"Cool down and celebrate your successful run," says Williams of the song, which has a 92 BPM ideal for pulling back to a 2 to 3 RPE. "With this Rocky movie-themed beat, you will feel like the world champ after your run." (

How to Choose Music That Will Keep You Going the Distance

As for endurance, Williams recommends selecting songs that are 120 to 140 BPM — slightly slower than endurance.

"This is the typical range when it comes to running at a moderate pace," Williams says.

And Williams explains it's important to run at a maintainable pace — about 3 to 6 on the RPE scale — during endurance training and distance races, such as half marathons, when conserving energy is essential for crossing the finish line.

"When music is faster paced, it may cause you to want to run faster to try to keep up with the tempo of the song," says Williams. "This may cause you to fatigue earlier in your workout than you may like. Motivational and moderately paced songs will keep your MPH steady and on point for a strong finish."

60-Minute Endurance Running Playlist

Length: 60 minutes

BPM of most songs: 120 to 140 BPM

Warm-up: I Got a Feeling — Black Eyed Peas (4:30) and Go Hard — DJ Khaled ft. Kanye West and T-Pain (4:32)

"A great motivational song that will keep you on track…[and] hard-hitting beat with the perfect tempo for your distance run," Williams says.

The New Workout Plan — Kanye West (5:22)

"It has a perfectly paced beat and great lyrical context for your workout," Williams says.

On the Floor — Jennifer Lopez (4:44)

Party Rock Anthem — LMFAO (4:22)

S&M — Rihanna (4:03)

Dedication — Nipsey Hussle ft. Kendrick Lamar (4:05)

"This song keeps you pumped up and motivated," Williams says. "With the words 'dedication' [flowing] throughout the song, this track is perfect for getting you through the distance."

Gossip Folks — Missy Elliott ft. Ludacris (3:54)

"You can always count on Missy Elliot for a great-paced workout…song," Williams says.

Firework—Katy Perry (3:47)

Just Dance — Lady Gaga (4:01)

OMG — Usher ft. (4:29)

Till the World Ends — Britney Spears (3:57)

Why Would I Stop — Big Sean (2:32)

"If you need to get through that hard push during your run, this is the perfect song for that," Williams says. "The title of the song says it all. With the line, 'Why would I stop? I am unstoppable,' it's sure to keep you on track and motivated."

Push It — Salt & Pepper (4:32)

Big Tyme — Rick Ross ft. Swizz Beatz (4:33)

"This song's pace and [the] tempo [are] perfect training for distance," Williams says. "It's a song I would put towards that final push to the finish. It makes you want to…run faster during your workout."

Cool Down: I Did It — DJ Khaled ft. Post Malone, Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Baby, DaBaby (2:45)

"This is a great song to help you cool down from your distance training," Williams says. "With lyrics that constantly let you know, 'I did it,' this song makes you feel accomplished and victorious."

The Ultimate #ShapeSquad Running Playlist

Structuring a playlist based on BPM and RPE can be helpful tools in pushing you through a tough run, but sometimes, it's a tune's mood, nostalgia, and literal *vibe* that makes it so motivating.

Recently, we polled our IG followers for the running songs that keep them powering through one P.R. after another. No surprise here — the squad pulled through. Here's a list of some of the top picks curated into your very own #ShapeSquad running playlist — with over two hours worth of tunes!

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