For runners, motivation is the linchpin for success. When you're heading into the fourth or fifth mile of the week's most strenuous run, the mental fatigue can far outweigh any physical exhaustion you might feel. It?s at this time when many runners throw in the towel, and it can be tough to push through this plateau to keep climbing towards better performance. How do you stay motivated when you reach that point? It can be hard, but adding music to your routine can make an amazing difference.

There's a reason you see so many other runners on the trail with headphones or earbuds. Running in time to the music can make you more efficient while keeping you "in the zone." What should you listen to as we head into the new year and you press the "reset" button on your running goals? Luckily, we've come a long way from the days when we had to contend with having only a limited selection of music to listen to on our runs. With your smartphone and access to the Internet, the sky is the limit. When you're putting together your playlist for 2018, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Stick to genres that work well for you

The first rule to keep in mind before you start choosing specific artists is a simple one: listen to what you like. Your run is not the time to start trying to branch out and experience new genres of music. Not only can it be distracting, but it can keep you from getting the most out of the music. So, if your preference is to get into the groove with some of the early hits by dubstep artist Skrillex, trying to figure out if you like hip-hop or not is probably not the best idea. That being said, try to avoid uniformity in your playlists. Using songs all by one artist is a recipe for boredom.

If you truly want to stick to the theme of our electronic example, tracks by artists such as Daft Punk ("Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger") and Avicii (like the classic "Levels") can add much-needed diversity to your playlist. It's also worth trying to find elements of what you like in other genres. Is it something inspirational, like "Eye of the Tiger"? Perhaps it's heavy beats, or maybe you like the sound present in contemporary pop music. Whatever you choose, try to select songs that you already know well. When the music becomes a seamless part of your run's background noise, you can slip into the zone more easily.

Explore streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora

What if you don't have a large digital music library to create your own playlists? You're not alone ? but today's streaming services can provide you with an easy way to access all the right music for running. On iTunes, for example, you'll find a wide variety of compilation albums available for purchase. These specially created albums feature music already well-loved by other runners; check the reviews to find ones that match up with your tastes.

For example, there are several "workout remix" albums such as the "Slow Running 2017 Workout Session" mix. These contain remixes to make more of your favourites energetic enough for a run. Dedicated streaming services such as Spotify also offer an easy way to find music that will motivate your feet through the miles. Users can create and share their playlists, making it easy to find something dominated by the aggressive melodies of Kanye West ("Power" is popular with many runners) and Kendrick Lamar or something that leans more on club-style music.

Pandora, an Internet radio-like service, can serve up stations that tailor themselves to your preferences based on a few initial pieces of information. Tell it that you want a solid running playlist, and you'll soon have access to an endless stream of hits.

What are some of the most popular artists runners choose?

We've mentioned a few specific artists already that can slot in well to any running playlist, such as Kanye and Daft Punk. What about some of the other major musical acts out there? Who else should get one of the coveted spots in your playlist? Classic rock acts like The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen are popular with many, as are heavier tunes by AC/DC, Iron Maiden, and Metallica. It can be tough to resist the urge to rock out while you run, but you can funnel those sudden bursts of inspiration and energy back into every stride. It?s just the beginning of the possibilities you can explore. Believe it or not, some people even enjoy turning to classical music for their run.

While it won't necessarily have the beats you might expect, it can be just what you need to push a mental reset button and focus in on your run. Without the trappings of modern music or fast-flowing lyrics to take up your attention, you can lose yourself in the music and fall into the rhythm of the run. Composers such as Beethoven (the 5th and 9th Symphonies are popular for a reason!), Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, and Copland can all provide you with some pretty compelling running tunes.

The songs that always get us ready to run

Let's get a bit more specific now ? how about some of the ideal songs that you can carry with you into your first new playlist for 2018? With plenty of hits that topped the charts or made waves online, it wouldn't be difficult to create a very long list. Instead of an exhaustive account, though, here are some of the best songs to enjoy in the new year:

  • "Don't Stop Believin'" - Journey
  • "Radioactive" - Imagine Dragons
  • "Thunderstruck" - AC/DC
  • "Go Off" - M.I.A.
  • "Party Rock Anthem" - LMFAO
  • "Moves Like Jagger" - Maroon 5
  • "I Feel It Coming" - The Weeknd
  • "I Ran" - A Flock of Seagulls

... and of course, there are many other classics and recent hits that deserve a spot on your playlist as well. Ultimately, you shouldn't stick to the same songs every single run ? some deserve more intense mixes while others can slow down the pace more. In either event, how you stitch your selections together matters.

The basics of building your playlist

So now you have a sense of some of the choices you can make, and which tunes might work best for you in 2018 ? though there's sure to be plenty of excellent new music coming out in the upcoming months. As you put together your playlist, there are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind to ensure you get the most out of your efforts. Stick to songs with a high BPM ? that's beats per minute. BPM isn't applicable to classical selections, but in general, you want songs that clock in somewhere north of 120 bpm, which will keep your mind engaged and tuned in to the music. These faster tempos also allow you the opportunity to try to synchronise your running efforts with the music. When you're slogging through an uphill climb, a strong, steady beat like those found in some hip-hop tracks can keep you on pace. Don't stick all your most inspirational songs right at the beginning. Sprinkle your favourites throughout your playlist. If you need "Eye of the Tiger" to play at the moment when you're most likely to be ready to give up, put it deep in the playlist. There's nothing quite as thrilling as getting the perfect emotional boost right when you need one.

Take the time to tweak your tunes now

With so many options out there, every runner can create a musical playlist entirely unique for their own style. Whether you like the rhythmic beats and flowing lyrics of old school rap or you're partial to the driving synthesisers found in electronic music, there's plenty out there to keep you motivated. With pre-built playlists easily found on streaming services, too, it's easy enough to queue up something new when your own mix starts to wear a little thin. Just remember to keep in mind considerations about your beats per minute, and to avoid using all your best songs right at the start of your run. With that said ? get ready to pump yourself up for new achievements in 2018!

This article was written for Sports Fitness, a fantastic online store packed with running clothing and accessories, as well as loads of other sports and fitness gear.