I have a complete playlist curated for my sessions at the gym. It’s called “Work It Out,” and includes everything from Beyoncé to Migos, Kendrick Lamar and even a little bit of rock (shout out to Paramore). Basically, that workout playlist consists of any and everything I can think of that is upbeat and will get me hype enough to get through a workout I’m about 95 percent sure I don’t feel like executing. But more often than not lately, I’ve found myself trying to run, lift, stretch, jump rope and do just about everything else these days, to slower music. And by slower, I mean midtempo to just a basic slow jam.
I have another playlist I created for when I’m working or cooking or cleaning the house (it’s called “Make It Funky”), and has a lot of funk, jazz, neo-soul and slower hits from the likes of Nina Simone, Erykah Badu, Solange, Haitus Kaiyote and D’Angelo. And I was surprised to find that such music didn’t hinder my ability to work up a sweat, and at times, actually made me feel more centered and ready to get through my workout. I find myself focused and calm actually.
But that’s not to say that upbeat tracks, preferably a lot of hip-hop, don’t have their place when you’re trying to grind it out and pull something out of yourself during some tough sets and sprints. However, you might be surprised at how the quiet tracks can aid in your workout if you give them a try.
Even Olympic skater Michelle Kwan told NPR a few years ago that she liked to keep her playlist more on the chill side (no pun intended in reference to ice skating), with songs like Adele’s “Someone Like You” playing as she trains.
“Because I’m pushing my body so hard already, the last thing I want to do is have music that’s really too strong, in my head,” she said. “I actually prefer soothing music — and maybe that’s the skater in me.”
And as pointed out by Healthline, slower music can help reduce cardiac stress as well as regular stress during exercise. When you’re stressed, you might find that your workout requires much more than you feel like you can give. Not to mention that a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that runners who listened to slower songs in between fast jams recovered faster when doing intervals and were able to take off sooner after the fact.
Aaaand, for the record, Serena Williams (and Kevin Hart — if you care) says she exercises to slow music.
With all that being said, here are 10 slow songs you might want to add to a playlist that are just as good for warming you up as they are for cooling you down. They’re a few of my favorites for such activities, and include something old, something throwback and some newer stuff. Feel free to share your own if you’re a slow jam fan, even during an uptempo workout.
Chaka Khan – “Everlasting Love”
Faith Evans feat. Carl Thomas – “Can’t Believe”
SZA – “Love Galore”
Aaliyah – “Four Page Letter”
D’Angelo – “Brown Sugar”
Sly and the Family Stone – “If You Want Me to Stay”
Jhene Aiko – “The Pressure”
Childish Gambino – “Redbone”
Bobby Caldwell – “My Flame”
Shalamar – “This Is for the Lover in You”