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The perfect playlist for indoor cycling

Dairy cows produce more milk when listening to music in the cowshed. And music motivates people to work out harder and stay focused at the fitness centre. Both statements are scientific facts.
Published 1. July 2018

Kim Lahn is perhaps Denmark’s leading expert when it comes to music for indoor cycling. Now aged 47, he was just 14 years old when he began working as a DJ. At the age of 18 he became a radio presenter, and when he turned 20 he started making his own music and remixing for others.

His first experience of an indoor cycling studio was, he says, frightening yet addictive at the same time. The music was loud, the instructor was demanding, and he sweated like he had never sweated before. But nevertheless, he really enjoyed it – and it proved addictive enough that he had, by the age of 30, become an indoor cycling instructor.

As an indoor cycling instructor, Kim’s key focus has always been – and remains – the music. He prepares new music for each training session, driven by a passion to create soundtracks that help him deliver the best possible workout each time.

He explains: “I always have the same three goals for all my sessions. First, it has to feel as though the time flies by. Second, it has to be efficient training. And third, 10 minutes after the training session has finished, I want the riders to want more.
He adds: “My favourite moment is when I look someone in the eye and I can see they are pushing themselves to the limit, but they are still smiling and singing along. It doesn’t matter whether there are 10 or 300 people in the class – it’s the same great feeling.”

“It’s my experience that music helps me achieve all three goals.”

Mix it up

Most indoor cycling instructors dream of putting together the perfect playlist that everybody just loves – so how do you go about this?
“Unfortunately, there’s no set recipe for a successful playlist,” says Kim. “Discussing what good music is, is rather like discussing favourite colours; it’s very hard to argue why blue is a nicer colour than red.
“There are, however, some useful rules of thumb that can help you create a popular playlist.

“First of all, studies show that the music we listen to when we are 14 is the most important in our lives – the music that means the most to us. If the majority of the people joining your class were born in the seventies, for example, they will most likely prefer music from the mid-eighties. If you prefer remixes because of their more distinct beats, no problem: many of the eighties hits have also been remixed.

“Another good idea is to think like a DJ. If everybody in the room were there to dance instead of cycle, what kind of music would a DJ play to fill the dance floor? Well, that’s exactly the music you should play to fill the cycling studio too. Mix old and new tunes and different genres – rock, pop and dance. Everybody’s taste in music differs, and your personal taste is probably also very different from your riders’, so make sure there’s something in there for everyone.”
He continues: “I do believe the best playlist is one the instructor likes. They have to put their heart and soul into a class, as well as connecting with the riders, and this is easier if the music actually touches him or her and evokes feelings in them.

“However, if you’re a skilled instructor with a good musical understanding, I believe it’s possible to use all kinds of music for your cycling sessions.”

Stay on the beat

So what are Kim’s tips for using the music tracks you’ve chosen for your class?
“Have you ever taken a Step class or a Zumba class and been asked to dance off-beat?” he asks, before answering his own question: “Probably not.”

He continues: “Music and rhythm are equally important tools in a cycling studio. Music comes in so many different speeds, from 30-40 bpm (beats per minute) to 3,000 bpm – and with
all those different beats and speeds available, you really should be able to find music that matches any number of revolutions per minute on the bike.”

And if cycling in time with the music helps riders feel more at-one with the workout, it also distracts them from the exertion by allowing them to enjoy the tunes. Kim explains: “Music – and verbal cuing that goes with the music – make the session fly by faster. The more natural and on-beat it feels, and the more the riders truly feel the music, the easier it is to forget oneself, the pain and all the hard work.”

His final piece of advice: “You also need to be familiar with the music you use. You have to know when the music peaks, when the beat drops and when it slows down. This will ensure you’re able to use the music effectively, not only to push the riders but also for relaxation.”

8 Top tips

Kim offers a few final pieces of advice to take away:
1. There is no easy way to perfection. It takes a lot of hard work to become an even better instructor and create even better playlists.
2. Learn to match your music with your ideas and the pace of your training session.
3. I spend 10–20 hours each week listening to music, finding new inspiration and new tracks.
4. I keep a close eye on international music charts.
5. I subscribe to different DJ podcasts.
6. I follow a number of users on Mixcloud and SoundCloud.
7. I use the Shazam app whenever I hear something new on the radio, at a concert or in a TV ad.
8. I check out DJ set lists.

So immerse yourself in a world of music, know what music your members enjoy, and have some fun!

Usefull resources

  1. The Official UK Top Singles Chart
  2. House music, charts and online shop
  3. DJ tracklists
  4. Charts and online shop – all genres
  5. Leading EDM record label, Spinnin Records
  6. Best free SoundCloud downloads
  7. Drum and bass inspiration: Search for ’UKF Drum & Bass’ on Youtube
  8. “Perhaps the world’s best mash-up artist,” according to Kim – “Happy Cat Disko”
Published 1. July 2018

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