As a nod to New Year’s weight loss resolutions, the Wall Street Journal recently ran a cheeky little piece called “27 Rules of Conquering the Gym,” including helpful tips from writer Jason Gay such as:
- “Great job!” is trainer-speak for “It’s not polite for me to laugh at you.”
- Nope, that’s not a “recovery energy bar with antioxidant dark chocolate.” That’s a chocolate bar.
His sound advice also included the following, which really made me laugh, “No one in the history of gyms has ever lost a pound while reading The New Yorker and slowly pedaling a recumbent bicycle. No one.” That is to say, I laughed until I realized this describes one of my favorite workouts, with one exception; I prefer Vanity Fair. My running partner has a name for this lax routine of mine: the froufrou workout. (He does not mean this as a compliment). But, pish posh to him. I’m not trying to lose pounds; I’m trying to catch up on my reading. Moreover, the rest of my workouts are intense enough that I can get away with mailing it in on occasion. Call me a weirdo/nerd/loser, but I find reading on the recumbent bicycle quite pleasant, entertaining even.
Recumbent bike reading: Buddhadharma, Vogue, and OG Book Club January pick, The Happiness Project.
When I’m not froufrou-ing, I aim for inspiration over entertainment for my workouts– possibly some ass-kicking, too. And, this requires killer music. Hence, here are 27 stop-froufrouing-and-start-sweating songs to help you conquer your toughest workouts at the gym, on the road, or wherever your heart-pumping pursuits take you. The list is comprised of mostly new music with a few time-tested favorites:
- Run into the Light, Ellie Goulding | 30-minutes of electronic adrenaline in your ears, this song was offered as a limited release free download from Nike in collaboration with the British singer. It’s virtually impossible to sit still while listening to it, with the last 5-minutes being my favorite. They make me want to run through brick walls or from a pack of tigers in the Serengeti or through London in sequins rock star pants. (Please don’t laugh at my strange athletic fantasies).
- Till the World Ends (remix), Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, Ke$ha | The title says it all. This triad of divas make you want to dance until the world ends–or run, or indoor cycle–at a maniacally fast and fun pace.
- Take Care of You, Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie XX | I love this song and was sad to learn that the artist recently passed. Rest in peace, Gil Scott-Heron; you are rocking my world from the other side.
- Shake it Off, Florence + the Machine | Shaking off bad things with exercise feels good (e.g. a bad day, boss, mood, relationship), and this is the song to help you do it.
- We Own the Sky, M83 | If you can synchronize this track on your iPod with a stunning sunrise, sunset, or starlit view: Oh, wow . . . motivational running magic.
- If You Leave, OMD | I mentioned some old favorites, and this one is legendary. Please use it to test my highly scientific theory that it is physically impossible to be in a bad mood while listening to 80s music. Go ahead…I dare you.
- All of the Lights, Kanye West | This song is West at his finest, which is important because too often he distracts people with not-his-finest (i.e. Twitter tirades and award show tantrums).
- You, Atmosphere | The title of this album is: When Life Hands You Lemons, You Paint that Shit Gold. Amen to that.
- Sail, Awolnation | It’s not an accident that this song became the soundtrack for extreme feats of athleticism and adventure in 2011, including yoga-inspired breakdancing and a new breed of base jumping.
- Till I Collapse, Eminem | If you push your workouts hard enough, there will be a moment when you feel as though you might collapse. This is the battle hymn for that moment.
- Off That, Jay-Z featuring Drake | For me, everything starts and ends with proud new poppa Jay-Z. This is a favorite song from his most recent album, which manages to be catchy and hip hop athem-y without being overplayed.
- Countdown, Beyonce | Mrs. Jay-Z is a force all her own, and listening to this song will make you feel like one yourself.
- We Found Love, Rihanna | If you don’t like Rihanna, you have issues. And, I cannot help you.
- Memories of the Future, Handsome Furs | Please withhold the vegan hate mail; as far as I know, no animals were harmed in the naming of this band. Your eardrums, on the other hand, might be in danger because it’s hard not to blare this song really, really loud.
- Home, LCD Soundsystem | One of my all-time favorite lyrics, especially if you happen to catch it while running across the Mass Ave. bridge in Boston or along the Falmouth Road Race course on Cape Cod: Look around you/you’re surrounded/it won’t get any better!
- The Show Goes On, Lupe Fiasco | Feeling unmotivated? Tired? Cranky? Hit play. Crank volume. Repeat.
- Sun of a Gun, Oh Land | The whole album is pretty wonderful, but this track is the best for a burst of poppy, peppy energy to your ears.
- Superbass, Nicki Minaj | I give you my favorite running song of last summer. Use her wisely.
- I Need a Dollar, Aloe Blacc | If you were a fan of HBO’s recently canceled “How to Make it in America,” its theme song will remind you why. My hypothesis? You dig hustle.
- Coming Home, Diddy | It’s Diddy. [He's] back where [he] belongs/he never felt so strong and/he’s feeling like there’s nothing that he can’t try/and if you’re with him, put your hands HIGH!
- Lost remix, Jay-Z featuring Coldplay | The equation, here, is simple: Awesome artist 1 + Awesome artist 2 = Effing awesome song.
- Gucci, Gucci, Kreayshawn | Our day-to-day lives often require us to be polite and agreeable when we don’t really feel like it. This song is So. Not. That.
- Moment of Clarity, Jay-Z | Listen to the first 5 seconds, and try not to think of yourself as a boxer headed into the ring, hoodie pulled low, feet feeling light, fists ready to rumble. No, really. Try.
- We Ready, Ya Boy (Music inspired by the film More Than a Game) | Not into boxing imagery for inspiration? How about hoops?
- Merry Happy, Kate Nash | I occasionally catch myself racing through the Common or along the Charles River singing aloud to Nash’s saucy lyrics, complete with faux British accent. It’s mortifying, but bloody fun.
- Somebody That I Used to Know, Gotye featuring Kimbra | Words cannot describe the level of Aussie cool. Video instead.
- Video Games, Lana Del Rey | Confession: This isn’t a track for conquering a workout, but it’s hauntingly beautiful, and I need a musical intervention to stop playing it. (I’ve played it in a few yoga classes recently). Enjoy it while cooling down or stretching out.