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Group Exercise Music Playlists

Group fitness instructors share tips for curating the best soundtracks for their classes.

Group exercise class workout out to music playlists


How much time do you spend creating your music playlists, and what is your “method”? What advice can you share with other instructors about how to create music playlists that appeal to as many as possible?

From the Experts

Practical Music Mapping

Rob Glick, senior director of programming and innovation for group fitness, yoga and indoor cycling at Life Time®, Aliso Viejo, California:

I put a lot of time into my playlists. I feel like it’s one of our main controllables to create an extraordinary experience in every class, which includes:

  • making real connections with our members;
  • delivering and meeting the objectives of the class in a fun, inspiring and motivational way; and
  • the playlist!

I change my music almost every class. However, I’ve developed a few methods to speed up the time to create great music for every class.

  1. For classes that need a steady beat throughout, I use the following trusted sources:
  • FitRadio (DJ Steady 130, or I do a search by beats per minute)
  • Abrea Wooten’s playlists on Patreon
  1. For yoga and indoor cycling, I create folders for bpm, warmup, cooldown, the interval break down (e.g., 2×30, or 1×30, 2×4), which is great for flow, yin, etc.
  2. I use Sort Your Music to quickly check bpm for cycling classes.
  3. To quickly map songs, I scrub them by going to the obvious points. For example, I listen for the first drop—usually around :45 seconds to 1:00 in—then I check how long that interval lasts and look for patterns. Once I’ve mapped a song, it goes into the right folder(s).

Please feel free to friend me on Spotify (Rob Glick – 1214395787). You can share my cycling and yoga playlists or grab something from a folder.

Method and Mindset

Doris Thews, 2019 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year, fitness industry consultant and CEO of Team Thews Fitness, Laguna Beach, California:

I always start with a class design that supports the members’ needs. Once I have a clear goal, I then create the work, or the class content and design. That first step ensures member satisfaction. The fun begins when I put together my playlist, which supports the content with energy, emotion and the effort I’m coaching members toward so they can meet their goals and see the desired results.


It only takes me about 10–30 minutes max to put together a playlist because my music is very organized. (I’ve taught indoor cycling for a few decades and have quite a music collection.)

I organize my music in the following categories:

  • warmup
  • endurance
  • intervals
  • recovery
  • cooldown
  • fan favorite/fun songs

Once I know the class content, I can then “plug and play” or choose which songs go where in my class designs. I am very intentional about offering a wide variety of music so that I can add “texture” to the class and create an inclusive environment for all music lovers.

My advice is to know what your members’ goals are and to start capturing and organizing music so that you can create incredible member experiences made up of result-driven content with a rockin’ playlist.

See also: New Music and Exercise Research Findings

Choose Music Mindfully

Pete Guinosso, yoga instructor at Yoga Tree, San Francisco:

Music can either make or break a yoga class, so it’s very important to be mindful of which songs you choose to share with students. Putting together a playlist for a yoga class is very different from selecting music for a Friday night dance party at your house. When you select music that inspires you and your own practice, it helps create the mood and sets the intention for the practice.

There are many factors that influence the music you play. For example, what time of day are you teaching? What kind of yoga are you instructing? What is the theme/intention? What is the average age of your students? Contemplate these elements, which shape your class, and adjust the playlist accordingly. For a morning class, you might choose music that’s more contemplative, chill
and introspective; and for an evening class you might choose something that’s more upbeat, inspiring and soulful.

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Play music your audience will appreciate.
  • Match music to your se–quence: slow for warmup and cooldown; upbeat for sun salutations; and chill for savasana.
  • Be aware of the music volume. Be willing to turn down the music when demonstrating and turn it up when flowing.
  • Follow other yoga teachers on Spotify or Apple Music listen to their playlists and share them with your students. You can also use their playlists to create new playlists from the songs that inspire you.
  • Use Shazam when you hear music that touches your heart while watching movies or at the cafe, etc. and put it in your playlist.

See also: Fast-Tempo Music Motivates During Exercise

Sarah Kolvas

Sarah Kolvas is the associate editor for Fitness Journal.

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