Speed Training By BPM (Beats Per Minute)

10 Sep

In order to run faster, you have to RUN FASTER. Shedding minutes off of your race time involves doing fartleks (Swedish for “speed play”) involving speed workouts, intervals, and repeats. Whatever workout you choose to do will most likely involve intervals of running at a speed slightly to moderately faster than you regular “easy” pace. You know, the pace you would keep if you were just going out for a nice morning jog around your neighborhood without keeping time.

Once you decide on the work out drill you want to do, you will need to figure out your current “easy” pace per mile. Your interval training speed will be at a pace that is 10 seconds to 30 seconds faster than your “easy” pace. The goal interval speed you choose will depend on how hard you want to push yourself and how much faster you are trying to get.
Unless you are one of the lucky runners who can just feel that they are going the right speed (some people have this skill; I definitely do not), you will need some way of tracking your speed to ensure that you are hitting your goals. This can be done is several ways:

  • Treadmill
  • Running/Sports watch that tracks pace/speed
  • Choreographed playlist by bpm

I am not one of those “naked” runners. I have always run with an iPod or other mp3 player and I always will. I enjoy feeling the music and using it help keep me on pace and hitting with an even foot strike over and over again. When I am running to work out stress or aggression, a good rock song can help me work out that emotion. If I need a little pick-me-up, nothing gets me smiling faster than running to U2’s “Beautiful Day.”

In addition, I rely heavily on my playlist for my speed training. Since I am personally extremely averse to the treadmill (only succumbing to it if I really have to) and not really loving looking down at my Garmin every second to ensure I am running fast enough, I depend on my specially designed playlist to keep me at running at the right speeds. It literally allows me to tune out and not focus so hard on the workout itself. As long as I am running to the beat of the song, I know what speed I am running.

Choreographing a playlist for a training run or race is highly personal, as only you know what your current speed is, what you would like your training pace to be, and what songs would motivate you to make your targets. I know it sounds a little complicated, but I promise you that it is easier than it sounds. Here is a basic example if your “easy” pace is 10:00 minutes/mile (6mph).

(If the average song is about 3:00 minutes, this work out would be approximately 30 minutes.)
Song 1: 10:30 minutes/mile = 05.71 mph = 145 bpm (WarmUp)
Song 2: 10:00 minutes/mile = 06.00 mph = 150 bpm (Easy Pace)
Song 3: 09:30 minutes/mile = 06.32 mph = 155 bpm (Speed Pace)
Song 4: 10:00 minutes/mile = 06.00 mph = 150 bpm (Easy Pace)
Song 5: 09:30 minutes/mile = 06.32 mph = 155 bpm (Speed Pace)
Song 6: 10:00 minutes/mile = 06.00 mph = 150 bpm (Easy Pace)
Song 7: 09:30 minutes/mile = 06.32 mph = 155 bpm (Speed Pace)
Song 8: 10:00 minutes/mile = 06.00 mph = 150 bpm (Easy Pace)
Song 9: 09:30 minutes/mile = 06.32 mph = 155 bpm (Speed Pace)
Song 10: 10:30 minutes/mile = 05.71 mph = 145 bpm (Cool Down)

Keep in mind that this is just an example and there are countless different speed work outs, ladder work outs, and interval/repeat work outs. If you need ideas, be sure and check out the Runner’s World page on speed workouts. It is a great resource. You can make your playlists as long or as short as you need, depending on your training run or race distance. Having a choreographed playlist is especially helpful in long distance training runs or races because it helps you focus on maintaining good form, proper breathing, and mental endurance without also having to worry about pace.

Now it is time to get started on your list! Below is a basic conversion chart for taking your minutes/mile target goals and determining the bpm (beats per minute) of the songs you need to select.

12:00 minutes/mile = 05.00 mph = 130 bpm
11:30 minutes/mile = 05.22 mph = 135 bpm
11:00 minutes/mile = 05.45 mph = 140 bpm
10:30 minutes/mile = 05.71 mph = 145 bpm
10:00 minutes/mile = 06.00 mph = 150 bpm
09:30 minutes/mile = 06.32 mph = 155 bpm
09:00 minutes/mile = 06.67 mph = 160 bpm
08:30 minutes/mile = 07.06 mph = 165 bpm
08:00 minutes/mile = 07.50 mph = 170 bpm
07:30 minutes/mile = 08.00 mph = 175 bpm
07:00 minutes/mile = 08.57 mph = 180 bpm
06:30 minutes/mile = 09.23 mph = 185 bpm
06:00 minutes/mile = 10.00 mph = 190 bpm
05:30 minutes/mile = 10.91 mph = 195 bpm
05:00 minutes/mile = 12.00 mph = 200 bpm

All that is left is going through your playlist and picking your favorite songs and you are done! If you need some help picking out songs in your target bpm ranges, have no fear! I have you covered! Check out the list of running songs I have right here. There are over 475 songs there (with at least 10 new songs added each week) and all are organized by bpm and then alphabetically.

So, there you go! Time to make your playlist and get outside and get running…faster, of course! Happy running!

Do YOU do speed work to make yourself run faster? What method(s) do you use to ensure that YOU hit your goals?

10 Responses to “Speed Training By BPM (Beats Per Minute)”

  1. Kristie at 10:50 PM #

    Wow, great timing! I was just thinking about how sick of my playlist I am. I’d never heard Me First and The Gimme Gimmes, and ended up adding most of your suggested songs! Great songs!

    I’d suggest adding: Shots by LMFAO, Memories by Weezer & Jump by Flo Rida. And you look great and are amazing, running at this stage in your pregnancy! Go Girl!!

    • katieRUNSthis at 8:59 AM #

      Ahhh, Me First and The Gimme Gimmes are the BEST! All they do is covers, but in a pop punk sort of way. I love them. There is another band that is similar that you might like, called Lagwagon. The singer is female but they also do pop punk covers.

      Thanks for the suggestions of new songs! I will be sure and add those this week! Woot! And thank you for the kind words…I’m just trying to keep moving each day at this point!! 🙂

  2. Shannon at 8:22 PM #

    I just wanted to leave a comment to say THANK YOU!! I ran a 10k this weekend- my first race ever! And it was great!! I’ve been reading your blog a lot lately, and you have definitely served as an inspiration. So I wanted to say thank you and keep writing!

    • katieRUNSthis at 8:50 AM #

      Yay for you and your first race and first 10k EVER! That is awesome! Seriously, look at you not even baby-stepping into it with a 5k! That rocks! What’s next? Another 10k? Something bigger? 🙂

      • Shannon at 5:51 PM #

        There’s a half marathon in the works- probably too soon for my own good, so I’ve decided that it will DEFINITELY be a run/walk, but I think it’s just the beginning!

  3. katiewisdm at 1:20 AM #

    i was totally thinking of doing a post on this, but you beat me to it! love, love, love spreading this concept!

  4. How are you able to find the bpm for songs? I went to my itunes and made sure that on my main screen it was one of the columns to display on my library. I found that a very small percentage of my library lists the bpm. I can always transfer the info you have for similar songs for my library but I am trying to figure out how to do the rest. Is there a website you went to or a particular trick at getting itunes to find or download this info?

  5. Katie A. at 11:16 AM #

    I’m behind on my blog reading and just now seeing this post. THANK YOU! I have seen lots of things about bpm and what not, but I had no idea what my pace converted to in terms of bpm. Now I do! My only question now is, is there an easy way to determine the bpm of a song? I’ve got lots of songs in my iTunes library and lots of songs I like to run to, but no idea what the bpm is for most of them!

    • katieRUNSthis at 12:16 PM #

      I hear you can check the bpm of songs in iTunes but I don’t use that feature so I can’t confirm. I actually have a DJ software where I it calculates the bpm of songs for me. There are also several iPhone apps (if you have an iPhone) that you can download and it will tell you the bpm of songs on your playlists! Hope this helps!


  1. Running Playlists are an Art | Running is My Island -

    […] understands running playlists loud and clear, check out this BPM/speed training post by her,  and the fact that she’s included BPM is helpful, but only partially so.  Focusing too […]

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