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Positivity in Exercise Music, Day 122

September 15, 2010

Scene from the Opera Transformations

Photograph by Cory Weaver

As an actor, I find it a simple task to recall images like this, losing my mind as a character in the Conrad Susa opera Transformations, based on the poetry of Anne Sexton. I wonder sometimes how many sleepless nights in the cold as a homeless person, for example, it would take me to crack like the man who threatened my friend Nick‘s otherwise safe and calm subway ride to visit me on Monday evening. Thankfully, I have an apartment, no roommate, usually enough money to pay my bills and eat healthily, great friends, and a loving family to whom I can turn for sanity. Still, we all have our demons, and I personally have to take precautions to keep my happiness and mental health in check especially by taking more vitamin D in the winter and working out more regularly for higher levels of endorphins as summer ends and the winds turn cooler.

Although it sometimes feels good to dwell on the negative when depressed or having a bad day, I learned sometime while working out at the University of Maryland’s gym resisting songs like “U-Turn” by Samantha, the “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago, or “Remember” by Disturbed might also save my mental well being. Pity, I know.  I found “Remember” in particular to work really well to keep me in a solid tempo for running. Although thinking about all of this turns my distracted attention to fantastically inspiring and well-written but lyrically dysfunctional songs I adore, for everything there is a season, and that season does not always prove best for happiness and self-improvement while exercising. Personally, my life and outlook magically improves when I don’t use the dopamine induced by exercise to cement torturously dysfunctional lyrics into my psyche.

Of course, what one chooses to reinforce psychologically differs from person to person, but taking the reigns and making an active choice to control one’s influences while exercising can have a profound influence on his or her life. Whether or not I prefer to listen to songs about love or sex, for example, might change depending upon the day, the season, or my circumstances in life, so the work involved in creating new appropriate playlists for an effective workout and happy life never fully ends. The Sport Journal recommends six principles to consider when choosing music for an effective workout, and I couldn’t agree more.

  1. Strong, energizing rhythm
  2. Positive lyrics having associations with movement (e.g., “Body Groove” by the Architects Ft. Nana)
  3. Rhythmic pattern well matched to movement patterns of the athletic activity
  4. Uplifting melodies and harmonies (combinations of notes)
  5. Associations with sport, exercise, triumph, or overcoming adversity
  6. A musical style or idiom suited to an athlete’s taste and cultural upbringing. Choose tracks with different tempi, to coincide with alternate low-, medium-, and high-intensity training.1

Some songs come and go, and I embrace and abandon more current songs fairly regularly based upon tempos, lyrics, and just how they make me feel in the end during and after a workout. Personally, I would love to hear what the Jazzercising Courtney Crouse and Spiegelmeister Nik Quaife have to contribute from their own doubtlessly amazing playlists. Historically speaking, I do have some favorites:

  • Survivor: Eye of the Tiger
  • Matthew Wilder: Break My Stride
  • Bill Conti: Sinnerman, from The Thomas Crown Affair Soundtrack
  • Stevie Wonder: Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours, Uptight (Everything’s Alright), I Wish, and Higher Ground
  • Michael Jackson: Wanna Be Starting Something, Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough
  • Queen: Bicycle Race, Don’t Stop Me Now
  • Leann Rimes: We Can (Legally Blonde II Soundtrack)
  • Janelle Monae: Violet Stars Happy Hunting!, Many Moons, Come Alive (War of the Roses)
  • Nicole Nordeman: Brave
  • Pat Benetar: All Fired Up
  • K. T. Tunstall: Suddenly I See
  • Indigo Girls: Closer to Fine
  • Hannah Montana: Life’s What You Make It – I’m quite serious about this one
  • Rufus Wainwright: Who Cares?, Between My Legs, and California
  • Paramore: Born for This, Hallelujah, Looking Up
  • Switchfoot: I Dare You to Move
  • Paul Oakenfold ft. Brittany Murphy: Faster Kill Pussycat
  • Lady Gaga ft. Beyoncé: Telephone

Today’s Downloads:

Needless to say, having this kind of control over my workout playlist takes a lot of time. Googling “positive workout playlist” brings up a lot of different opinions on what constitutes good and helpful music. Although I’m not a new music junkie, I definitely find the payoff when I walk down the street smiling after a good workout at Planet Fitness.  If you have any favorite songs to share, please comment as often as you like!


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