May 302013

Losing it.

I meant to post this a week and a half ago, when it was more relevant, but football has never been very relevant to the daily chatter at Rock Town Hall, and lately I’m skeptical whether Rock Town Hall is even relevant to those of us who used to make it so. Ugh.

New Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly has introduced a new wrinkle in NFL practices: the blasting of loud music during practices. His supposedly scientifically formulated playlist is coordinated to support the drills at Eagles practices and give the players experience communicating through the loud, hectic surroundings of a typical game day. Welcome to the jungle!

We’ll see how any of this pans out. Quick scans of the playlists Kelly has been programming would pose a challenge for my rock-snob ears to overcome, rather than motivate me, if that is the intent.

Thinking about the role music can play in working out got me thinking about Apple’s failed iLose program. Remember that? As part of the beta testing group I was delivered scientifically selected playlists that promised to help me shed pounds, even if I did nothing but listen to the music while taking a walk around the block. As much as I looked forward to a slimmer, trimmer body through listening to the music of artists I already liked, the program was missing some key components, starting with portion control.

I’ve since gotten a handle on losing weight and getting in shape. Here’s a dirty little secret for anyone else who’s ever struggled with his or her weight: eat less. Eat less every day. Eat much less of the things that are worse for you to eat. And exercise way more than you normally would be inclined to exercise. After a couple of weeks, you’ll feel the benefits and begin using new notches on your belt.

I do listen to music whenever I work out. Usually I select obvious stuff with a driving beat and kick-ass attitude, such as The Stooges. However, I’ve been surprised at how effective some non-macho rock music is for working out. The first 2 dB‘s albums, for instance, fit well with my half hour spent frolicking on the elliptical machine. Beulah is perfect for the nights spent on the treadmill; the repetitive, escalating arrangements keep me going around yet another digital bend.

Sometimes I find it beneficial to hear the voice of a woman in my ears as I work out. I’m not on the market, ladies, but as I get in shape it is nice to imagine that I’m becoming slightly more appealing to the eye. Is that the music of Blondie and The Fiery Furnaces checking me out?

Bands I would expect to love hearing while working out, such as The Clash and Captain Beefheart, don’t deliver as I’d expect. I get caught up in the former’s lyrics, while the latter’s awkward charms contradict my efforts at developing a modicum of physical grace. The music of Pere Ubu, on the other hand, can be very good for working out.

I find working out in the gym—at least the treadmill/elliptical stuff, before I hit the weights—to benefit by the support of repetitive music. Talking Heads get a lot of play on my iPod while I’m sweating. One night I tried listening to Terry Riley, but all I wanted to do was sit cross-legged. Maybe I’ll save him for the day I get into yoga.

Was it LCD Soundsystem that put out an entire album that was structured as a workout? Is that any good? As an aside, I’ve yet to be turned on by that band. I still get hung up on the fact that the song I like best by them is a nick from Pete Shelley‘s “Homosapien.”

What’s your favorite workout music? Most surprising? Artist you love that sucks for working out? Etc.


  6 Responses to “Whistle While You Workout”

  1. Mrs CDM runs. I attempted to make a running mix for her but it was rejected. The reason? The songs were too short. She could listen to 7-8 songs and still not be at the halfway point of the run, whereas if she listened to the Allman Brothers or the Dead, as few as two songs could get her to the halfway mark.

    She recently got an app that sorts through her music and picks songs whose bpm’s match her pace. I think it’s this one:

  2. 2000 Man

    RTH is still relevant to me, but this spring has had The Wonderchick in Fix It Now! mode. There’s new grass in places and doors, and paint and mulch and woe is me, I don’t get to play! I don’t think anyone will mistake me for a workout guy, but when I’m walking around and listening to music I’m always amazed at how fast I walk.

    Haven’t football teams been blasting music at practice for ages? I don’t know how that simulates anything, and if I don’t like a song, that pretty much means I won’t be paying attention to anything except trying to figure out how I can either change the music or leave. I think a recording of a crowd would work better. But Chip Kelly is a genius, HOF coach already, so I’m sure he knows what he’s doing. I’m glad The Browns didn’t end up with him.

  3. Certainly important that the music has a beat that isn’t confusing your body because it’s too slow or erratic, (Cap’n Beefheart???) but I think the more important key is just to get music that distracts your brain enough during the boredom of cardiovascular. Whatever distracts you is what you should play just to take your attention away from left foot, right foot, left foot.

    I like the idea that Coach Kelly is playing that overplayed Dropkick Murphy’s jig song for kickoff coverage plays. That is a violence inducing number.

  4. BigSteve

    I find that something singer-songwriterly works best for me when I start my workout, because I’m in the mood to actually listen to something after working all day. For example, lately I’ve been revisiting my James McMurtry albums. As long as I’m in the weight room I try to pay attention to the music. When I switch over to the recumbent bicycle I’m usually reading a book or maybe Mojo magazine, and I can’t pay attention to the music anymore. When I had an Ipod Nano, I used to switch to something African or electronic, something that would just groove in the background, but now that I have a Shuffle, I usually just let whatever album has been playing continue to play, because switching to another album is too much trouble without a screen interface. I *never* use the shuffle function. Ever.

  5. I do primarily treadmill and elliptical machines at the gym. Probably my most surprising go to album is Hole’s Celebrity Skin — Celebrity Skin, Malibu, Boys on the Radio, Heaven Tonight — for some reason those songs get me going. I also have Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Charlatans UK, and Johnny Marr on playlist that I dig.

  6. cliff sovinsanity

    I can totally relate to the bpm problem. My weekly scheduled runs are of varying distances and pace. Quick runs at race pace, hills or speed, steady jogs, and long slow runs. For most of these runs I’d load up the iPod with random tunes and hit shuffle. This works for the most part except for slow blues songs or fast punk songs. I seem to run better listening to mid-tempo pop songs especially Bubblegum.
    Last summer while training for a marathon some of my long runs were 2- 3 hours long. That is way too long to listen to random music. So, I listened to a lot of comedy podcasts , the occasional episode of This American Life and of course Saturday Night Shut In. These really helped the time go by.

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