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Getting Pumped and Focused: Two Playlists for Competitive Athletes

It’s almost time for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Leading up to this year’s games, the news has reported on major problems that the host country is facing from Zika virus to issues with the athletes’ village and many more troubling bits of information.

For now, however, let’s not worry about that. At this point, the games are going to go ahead as planned. The athletes are beginning to arrive in Rio and their preparations — both mental and physical — are sure to be really ramping up now. As part of their preparations, many athletes like to listen to some music to get their head in the game. So what type of music do competitive athletes listen to when getting ready for an event?

If the short interviews by Vice’s Jonathan Briggins is any indication, a lot of athletes have playlists to pump them up and other playlists to chill them out or focus their minds.

Canadian runner Mohammed Ahmed comments that slower songs are good for the day of the competition:

“You can’t just have the super pumped-up songs where the beat is so hard-hitting that you’re about to explode, you have to slow it down a little bit. A lot of the self-doubt that comes into your head, the slower songs kind of internally instill self-belief. They’re pretty much saying ‘You can do it, you can do it’”.

Teammate and sprinter Aaron Brown has a similar mentality to the music he listens to on the day of a competition:

“Most athletes like high-tempo music that’ll pump them up, but for the most part I like to play songs that put me in a mood that’s kind of calm but serious”.

Other athletes, like rugby player Bianca Farella prefer upbeat, Top-40 tracks. “I also like something with a rave or dance beat. I found a song recently by Carnage on [YouTube channel] Trap Nation. I love it, it really gets me charged and fired inside”.

With this knowledge, I set to researching and creating two playlists for preparing for an athletic competition. One playlist is upbeat, with tracks to get your blood pumping as you work out and/or practice your sport. The other is more relaxed with songs to help you chill out and get your head in the game to focus on the competition.

I’ve chosen 25 songs — mostly hip hop and dance, but I tried to get some variety — for each playlist.


  • Michael Jackson – “Beat It”
  • Bruce Springstein – “Born to Run”
  • Survivor – “Eye of the Tiger”
  • Pitbull ft. Christina Aguilera – “Feel This Moment”
  • Flo Rida – “Good Feeling”
  • Calvin Harris ft. Ne-Yo – “Let’s Go”
  • Beyoncé – “Run the World (Girls)”
  • Swedish House Mafia – “Save the World”
  • Kelly Clarkson – “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”
  • AC/DC – “Thunderstruck”
  • Blur – “Song 2”
  • Kevin Rudolf ft. Lil Wayne – “Let It Rock”
  • Zombie Nation – “Kernkraft 400”
  • The White Stripes – “Seven Nation Army”
  • Darude “Sandstorm”
  • Britney Spears – “Work Bitch”
  • House of Pain – “Jump Around”
  • Young the Giant – “My Body”
  • Clean Bandit ft. Jess Glynne – “Rather Be”
  • Calvin Harris – “Summer”
  • Lil Jon & DJ Snake – “Turn Down for What”
  • David Guetta ft. Sia – “Titanium”
  • Linkin Park – “Bleed It Out”
  • Fall Out Boy – “Uma Thurman”
  • Salvia – “Ladies and Gentleman”



  • Krewella – “Alive”
  • DJ Khaled ft. Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross, and T-Pain – “All I Do Is Win”
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Ray Dalton – “Can’t Hold Us”
  • Vangelis – “Chariots of Fire”
  • Journey – “Don’t Stop Believing”
  • The Chemical Brothers – “Escape Velocity”
  • Lil Wayne – “I’m Me”
  • Eminem – “Lose Yourself”
  • Imagine Dragons – “Radioactive”
  • Fort Minor – “Remember the Name”
  • Kanye West – “Stronger”
  • Destiney’s Child – “Survivor”
  • 2 Chainz & Wiz Khalifa – “We Own It”
  • Zack Hemsey – “Mind Heist”
  • Justice – “Genesis”
  • Linkin Park & Jay Z “Numb/Encore”
  • The Script ft. – “Hall of Fame”
  • Kanye West – “I Am A God”
  • Lil Wayne ft. Detail – “No Worries”
  • Young Money ft. Drake – “Trophies”
  • Drake – “Started from the Bottom”
  • U2 – “Beautiful Day”
  • Ron Artest – “Champions”
  • Tyler Bates – “Fever Dream”
  • Jay Z – “Dirt Off Your Shoulder”

Is there any specific song you use to pump up or focus before playing a sport? Let me know in the comments!

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