Well-Being//

14 Songs to Get You Through a Tough Workout

These songs will remind you that you’re up to the challenge.

Courtesy of Goran Bogicevic / Shutterstock
Courtesy of Goran Bogicevic / Shutterstock

One of the best ways to get through a grueling workout is to listen to upbeat music that reminds you that you’re up to the challenge. Motivational music can positively impact an exercise regimen in a variety of ways; not only does it boost your mood during exercise, it also makes intense exercise more enjoyable, according to a new study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise.

We asked members of the Thrive community to share the songs that motivate them to get through a tough workout. These tunes are sure to give you a boost of energy when you’re pushing yourself to your limits. 

“Cheerleader” by OMI

“After losing 123 pounds, I learned that I rely on outside motivation to get going in a workout. This song gets me motivated every time because it’s happy, feel-good, and reminds me of the days when our cheerleading squad would have more grueling workouts than our football team!” 

—Kathy Haan, business coach and blogger, Denver, IA

“Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner

“This was my late father’s favorite song and opera. I grew up listening to it, knowing that it took him to a great place when he heard it. It was the last song he heard before going into the hospital for an operation. He passed away in recovery, so when I hear it, I know he is with me — the angel on one shoulder and my mother on the other.”

—Elizabeth Agape Tanos-Priest, CFA and wealth adviser, Charlotte, NC

“Money” by Cardi B

“This song is motivational to me as a female entrepreneur, and it makes me feel I can handle anything the world has to throw at me. The braggadocious lyrics are the words your ruthless after-ego would hurl at her haters, but you get to feel just as good mouthing them to yourself in the mirror. Whenever I play this song I am able to channel my inner Xena Warrior Princess and become an absolute beast in the gym! The song is the perfect pace to attack cross training, the stairmaster, or leg press and leaves me feeling ready to face the day ahead.”

—Brenda Gabriel, publicity and sales mentor, London, U.K.

“Galvanize” by The Chemical Brothers

“It’s not just the steady hypnotic beat, but the lyrics that motivate me to push through that wall! The entire Chemical Brothers’ Push the Button album is my go-to music to put me in the zone.”

—Susan Morris, proposal manager, Ottawa, Canada 

“Rollin’” by Limp Bizkit 

“I’ve done many half Ironman triathlons and I love the experience of finishing. Completing tris makes me believe that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. Interestingly enough, I completed my fastest race when I trained the least because of my premeditated training. The three most important factors in completing a tri are mindset, physical training, and then, that perfect playlist! Spotify has specific beats-per-minute songs that are great for pacing, and ‘Rollin’’ is perfect for a grueling 13-mile run. I listen to this song repetitively because I have to keep it rolling to the end!” 

—Bethany Londyn, alignment catalyst trainer, Los Angeles, CA

“War Ready” by Rick Ross ft. Jeezy

“After being in and out of the hospital for the last three years, I have relied on music to get me through workouts as I recovered. This song can get me through any set, especially powerlifting sets. At about 2:46 when Jeezy comes on, it doesn’t matter how tired, how winded, or how unmotivated I feel — it amps me up to crush whatever weight is in front of me.” 

—James Philip, Serial Entrepreneur, Chicago IL

“Take on Me” by A-ha

“This is my super pump-up song because I listened to it as I crossed the last 100 meters of my 10k in London. I have run this race every single year since then. The memory attached to this song is what keeps me going. It’s the feeling and the vibe that I associate it with — there is nothing like it to keep me motivated.”

—Fab Giovanetti, business mentor and author, London, U.K.

“This Is Me” by Kesha

“Whenever I need an extra boost of empowerment to bring a workout home strong, I listen to this song. I reflect on how far I’ve come on my journey as a single mom, and my transition from doing what I thought I needed to do to survive to doing what I want to be doing so I can Thrive. I no longer feel overwhelmed and overburdened, and have lost 60 pounds. Blasting this song always makes me go faster and stronger.” 

—Jen Whitney, international sales, Austin, TX

“Keep Pushin’” by REO Speedwagon 

“This is my favorite song for a tough run or walk. Sometimes, I just sing it to myself. It is my anthem for tough times, personally and professionally. I even use ‘keeppushin’ as my handle in forums. The band is special to me because they are from Champaign, Illinois, which is where my dad’s family is from. Sometimes, in concert, they tell stories about the Midwest that I relate to and understand. As I write this, I aim to ‘keep pushin’’ through the unexpected loss of my dad a few weeks ago.” 

—Teresa Collins, purchasing manager, Indian Shores, FL

“Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen 

“This song is my first thought when I wake in the mornings. It plays as a loop in my heart, and serves as my feel-good daily mantra. It’s a motivator, a self-confidence builder, and an energy that pushes me out front and center and makes me say, ‘Stand back world. Here I come and there I go!’” 

—Roselle Shallah, social worker, Bozeman, MT 

“For the record, I hate working out, but I love checking it off my daily to-do list. This song keeps me going, especially when I want to call it a day. Without fail, it gives me that extra bolt of energy to get through my workout, and helps me have a good time.” 

—Tanya Brown, intuitive business coach, Hoboken, NJ

“Run Boy Run” by Woodkid

“This is my current go-to for hard workouts. I first heard it in an episode of Netflix’s ‘The Umbrella Academy’ earlier this year and downloaded it immediately. The pulsating beat always makes me push harder, move faster, and lift more.” 

 —Shira Miller, chief communications officer, Atlanta, GA

“Running Down a Dream” by Tom Petty

“If I am not listening to driving and compelling music, my runs tend to get closer to walks. This song gets me moving and keeps me at my desired pace.”

 —Michael Ivers, business operations consultant, Kirkland, WA

“Thriving” by Mary J. Blige

“This song opens with five pounding beats that sound as if my elliptical has come to musical life and is cheering me on. It is the perfect workout song because it’s all about positivity, resilience, and reframing. Mary J. reminds us that diamonds come from pressure, and encourages us to keep smiling.”

—Lynne Everatt, author, Toronto, Canada

“I Lived” by OneRepublic (Arty Remix)

“This is my go-to for a tough workout or challenge — the lyrics emit positivity, compelling me to overcome. Every time I hear, ‘I owned every second that this world could give,’ it spurs me on, telling me that I can dig a little bit deeper. The whole song is actually so heavily anchored in my psyche now that as soon as I hear the music, my endorphins start flowing and I just smile. Workout audio bliss!” 

—Stephen Frost, coaching and personal development, Osaka, Japan

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