Ask the Expert: How do You Categorize Your Profiles and Playlists

Renee asked me a question about organizing her profiles.

Hi Jennifer,
I’ve been pondering about how to reorganize my binder of profiles. When I first began I used the various SPINNING categories but that no longer seems applicable for the various HR zone profiles I’m putting together and reworking. Is there a way you’ve found that works easily? Do some profile objectives fall into more than one category – endurance & strength or strength and interval?

This is a great question because I’ve been contemplating this myself for the past few years. After 12 years of organizing all my profiles and corresponding playlists using the Spinning® Energy Zones, I too have found that it doesn’t really work any more now that I don’t necessarily break my classes into the five Energy Zones®.


  1. I’m curious to know how many of you pay for songs via iTunes? I live in the US and downloading music is very illegal and people actually go to prison for this!

    I pay for a streaming subscription called MOG but it doesn’t have a lot of the features that iTunes offers (such as the BPM info).

  2. Some additional hints:
    – I have found that iTunes works best for me to collect, search, categorize and rate tracks, to prepare ideas for rides and to manage playlists.
    – Having detected BPM of a track (MixMeister BPM Analyzer is the tool I use), iTunes “Smart Playlist” allows automatic creation of playlist for specific cadence ranges. As an example “Slow Hills” tracks would fit the condition “(>60 BPM AND <70 BPM) OR (>120 BPM AND <140 BPM)"
    - In course of time you will addd more and more tracks to your library, so finding again a track for a specific use will be key. Think of "which track characters will I search in future for" for creating your own categories. Just a few examples beyond "hill" and "seated flat" etc.: how about "Mystic", "Pre-ride", "Post-ride", "French", "Drums", "Irish", "Orchestral", "Intro", "Final" ...

  3. Hey Spence,
    Try Mixmeister BPM analyzer – it’s free and you don’t need MM to use it. Drag the song from the directory (not from itunes) and drop it in the window.

    If that doesn’t work on your computer, you can also use this website
    but you have to tap to the beat. I closed my eyes when I did it so I could focus even more closely on the beat – I got a better result and less variance that way. I used that for many hundreds of songs the past year, until I found out about the MM BPM analyzer.

    I think I’ll make this its own post! Thanks for asking.

  4. Great tips, Jennifer. I like the idea of listing the bpm after the title. For the thousands of songs that I do not have bpm info on, is there an easy way to find out the bpm of a song (I don’t have mixmeister)?

  5. Shirin, put the BPM after the song title, not before. You want to be able to recognize the song immediately when you glance at it on your ipod.

  6. All great ideas. I picked up a few great tips from you and Tom at the Boston conference and have been slowly but surely re-categorizing my music. My library looks similar to Chuck’s 😉 But I like your idea of listing the rpm before the song title. Oh great,….. back to re-doing the library! 😉

  7. It is great to hear how you organize read how you organize your profiles and playlists. It is hard to make changes because it does take a long time. One thing I started doing (one playlist/profile at a time) is to make a “to go” notebook with playlists and profiles. This is great to use when you end up wanting to change your plan for a class because of a special request or the specific students in the class. I started printing out the cd style playlists from itunes, folding them in half, and copying them on the printer while enlarging them by 150 % . Then, I print out the profile for the playlist (quick so it fits on one page). I put the two pieces of papers back to back in a sheet protector. I have a 1 ” binder that I keep these in and I put them alphabetical order by title, just because it is the easiest. Also, I sometimes change the type of profile for a particular playlist, so categorizing them by energy zones does not make sense. It’s nice to have these when students request a certain playlist by a certain song and I cannot remember which playlist has every song. It is also useful as a “to go” tool, so I can still be prepared even when I am in a rush. I take out the playlist/profile in the sheet protector and use it while I teach class. The plastic keeps it from turning into a wet, streaky, dissolving mess (: Just an idea to share.

  8. Hey Chuck,
    you gave me an idea – I need to ask Tom to comment on this, or write a subsequent article, because he does it similar but has his own ideas for category titles. I saw his iTunes folder when I was there last weekend and noticed a few different categories than I had.

    Ultimately, we all have to do what makes sense to us, but it’s great to get ideas from a wide variety of instructors who have found a way to make it work effectively. Then you pull from whomever has the categories or ideas that resonate with the way you think.

  9. Shari,
    thanks. Great point. I’ve been doing the same thing for awhile and it’s very helpful. I actually write the bpm next to the name, like this: 128/64 bpm. So I have the BPM and the cadence at which I’d ride it. For songs with slower bpm faster rpm (like many downtempo songs) I’ll just write 85bpm or 92bpm or whatever.

    Then when I search, and I want a song somewhere in the 70’s for rpm, I’ll enter “7 bpm” in the search bar. That way, all the songs with rpm in the 70’s will show up. Sure, there will be a 67 or 97 as well, but I just skip over those.

    You can’t manually enter the bpm into that BPM column – it’s got to be done by a program, such as Mixmeister. I wish we could enter it! Still, having it next to the title makes it easier when you are teaching – just a glance at your ipod and you see the bpm right there. There’s no way to make that BPM column show up on the ipod window.

    Funny, had a non-Spinning friend recently who looked at my ipod to see the name of a song and said, “what the heck is 180/90bpm?” Freaked her out!

  10. One of the things I try to do is, as soon as I obtain a song, I get its bpm/rpm. I actually include it in the line with the song title. (I know there’s a category column you can use in iTunes, but this is easier for me, personally.) So, for example:
    Sweet Fredom 65 rpm (Feat. Michael McDonald)

    When I know I need a climb with a cadence in the mid-60s, I’ll do a search in the top right corner of iTunes and then I can see what I have with a cadence of 64, 65, 66 etc.

    No, I don’t always ride to the beat, and some songs definitely have a certain energy to them that makes them better suited for a particular type of terrain (some 67 rpm songs are great climbs…others have a more driving beat and should be put to use for surges!), but this step does help me shorten my time spent searching for music.

    Now I need to take this next step and do some categorizing as you’ve outlined above, Jennifer! 🙂

  11. I too have found that my rides don’t always necessarily fall into each of the Spinning zones perfectly.

    Your article represents some of the same things Tom Scotto suggested in Essential Training at Cycling Fusion. By placing types of songs into specific folders, you can “grab” them quickly for insertion into a profile/playlist.

    For so long, I’ve been placing playlists into folders according to Interval, Endurance, and Strength. I’ve titled them with the date (ie 2011_1029) and the specific type (ie in strength–fast climb, rolling hills, musc endurance, etc), so that I can ensure I don’t do a re-run with the same class.

    It does take time to organize, but the folders for specific types of movements/drills are exactly what I need!


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