Using Music to Motivate

Kristi Britt-Stearns is vice president of local sales for Muzak, which creates custom music experiences for the world’s most admired brands, including The Circuit, a high-energy mix of dance, R&B, pop and rock that maintains a minimum 132 beats per minute. For more information, e-mail, call 704-972-7958 or visit

Picture this: You’re driving home after a long day at work, tired and stressed. Now imagine that your favorite new song comes on—and suddenly your stress starts to disappear. You’re feeling re-energized, and you’re moving to the beat.

It’s no secret that music has the same effect on your clients. Music can help improve your clients’ workouts by helping them rev up their energy and maintain their personal drive, whether they’re fitting in 30 minutes of strength or blasting through 60 minutes of cardio.

But what types of music help the most? Do you need a different sound for each part of your facility? And what can you expect to achieve when it all comes together? Consider just a few factors as you think about your music experience, and you and your clients will see the benefits quickly.

Get to the Heart of It
Heart rate is fitness terminology that’s on everyone’s must-know list. Especially since heart rate monitors are becoming more effective and less expensive, plenty of cardio enthusiasts are measuring success by tracking their heart rate. And everyone is looking for an exercise approach that helps raise the heart rate quickly and maintain it over time.

Luckily for fitness professionals, heart rate has a workout partner: beats per minute (BPM). Every song, from a soft melody to a high-energy club track, can be measured by BPM. And it’s easy to use a song’s BPM to gauge how effective it may be as part of a workout music program.

The first place to start within most fitness facilities is the group exercise room. When members are on the elliptical, clients often rock out to their personal playlists. But during group exercise, they need to be able to hear an instructor’s commands. And if those prompts are in sync with a higher-BPM song, participants will be boxing, jumping and stepping fast —and their heart rates will be climbing faster, too.

So what’s the magic number? A BPM of 132 is widely regarded as a minimum standard. Some fitness professionals prefer a higher minimum BPM, but as long as your music ranges from 132 to 170 BPM, your clients will be able to reach and maintain their target heart rate throughout their exercise session.

Think Outside the (Kick) Box
Your group ex studios may be one of the focal points of your facility, but don’t forget the other areas where music can boost your clients’ energy. Think about all of your facility’s amenities: the lobby, juice bar or café, child care center, even your locker rooms. Because these areas aren’t so heart rate-focused, you can design music experiences that include a wider variety of tempos and styles.

Start with your lobby or entrance. This is the ideal place to include some high-energy dance tracks that don’t meet the minimum 132 BPM standard but are lively enough to get clients pumped up the moment they walk in the door—and get their workouts off to a great start. Keep the same idea in mind when choosing music for your weight room. Invigorating rock, pop and R&B can help clients push themselves to work in one more set.

Your weights area also is a great place to balance the needs of different users. While weight rooms were once dominated by power-lifting men, the benefits of weightlifting are appreciated by more women. If your music program includes a lot of hard rock and the like, the experience may intensify the intimidation many women feel when approaching the weight room. Try focusing on accessible music, such as 1980s hits, college rock or funk to help everyone feel welcome.

Don’t Forget the Details
Once your music experience has a solid foundation, it’s time to get down to details, such as the seasonality of your music experience. Just like your seasonal marketing campaigns, a few tweaks to your music program can reflect the changing time of year. Your clients’ goals and workout expectations can vary dramatically from season to season, especially when it comes to outdoor temperatures.

At the same time, be sure to consider how often you’ll be in the facility to adjust your music program. Many facility operators, especially when managing multiple locations, can’t always be on-site. If this applies to you, seek out a music solution that offers online management tools. Online control is especially helpful if you trust employees to handle day-to-day operations while personally ensuring your music experience is consistent.
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