Posts Tagged ‘music’


Okay, I’m not just making this up; music does help exercise. In an article at LiveScience.com called “Music Benefits Exercise, Studies Show,” it says:

Picking the right music can have several benefits. Syncing beats per minute with an exercise pace increases your efficiency. In a recent study, subjects who cycled in time to music found that they required 7 percent less oxygen to do the same work when compared to music playing in the background. Music can also help block out the little voice in your brain telling you its time to quit. Research shows that this dissociation effect results in a 10 percent reduction in perceived effort during treadmill running at a moderate intensity.

As I was babbling on to my coach about how I was going to figure out from the Wikis for each song in my exercise mix exactly what the magic ingredient was that made the music work (which is described in the LiveScience article above), he spake, saying “Why don’t you just use Pandora?” If you’re not familiar with Pandora, check it out. I first heard about it on NPR, when they described the music genome project, the parent of Pandora. It analyzes different elements of music you enter to help you find more music like it.

I created a new “Exercise Channel” and fed it my favorite exercise songs.  Pandora has found me some great stuff,  but overall is a little hit or miss, so I’ve also gone through some old albums and found more stuff there, too.  (However, the more I use it and “thumbs up” songs, the better it gets at finding new stuff.) And added some I missed the first time around on the albums I’d looked at. The following is a list of findings from Pandora.

  • Huey Lewis and the News: Heart and Soul, Jacob’s Ladder
  • Celine Dion: (shockingly enough, she has some stuff that works for exercise) Eyes on Me, Shadow of Love
  • Soft CellTainted Love
  • LoverboyWorking for the Weekend
  • JourneySeparate Ways (Worlds Apart), Anyway You Want it
  • Def LeppardAnimal
  • ColdPlay:  Clocks
  • Aerosmith: Walk this Way
  • Scorpions: No One Like You
  • Styx: Fooling Yourself
  • Van Halen: Top of the World
  • Kiss: Rock and Roll All Night
  • Bryan Adams: Summer of ’69
  • Maritimes: For Science Fiction
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd: Sweet Home, Alabama
  • Destiny’s Child: Say My Name
  • Corey Hart: Sunglasses at Night
  • Michelle Branch: Thousand Miles
  • Rick Springfield: Jessie’s Girl
  • The Kinks: My Sharona
  • Billy Idol: White Wedding
  • Madonna: Express Yourself

CAVEAT (aka “Sit up and pay attention!” or “Warning”): I exercise in my own house and use a treadmill. If you are walking or running on the street, it’s risky to use iPods or iTouch or whatever gizmo to blast music into your ears. First, you can’t hear cars coming and are more likely to end up in a pedestrian-car collision, and you’re likely to lose that battle. Second, you can’t hear people coming up on you. There was a serial rapist in Austin who targeted girls running with earbuds because they wouldn’t know he was there until it was too late. Stay alert to what’s around you if you’re not in an enclosed, safe environment.


We’re in San Antonio, so it’s not surprising that we’re Spurs fans. Even after they fall apart at the end of their best season *ever.* (The only thing that makes me feel better is that the Lakers are also out of the running; I think that makes us look a little better than if we were the only major upset.)

Anyway, in years past, there was a player on another team that my daughter dubbed “Whiny Wallace.” I don’t remember which team he played for, whether that was his first or last name, how he spelled it, or what season it was, but I do remember that he would gripe to the referees, the camera, the stadium, his coach — I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him whip out his cell and cry to his momma, who was probably the only one who would have cared.

At any rate, today was my turn to be Whiny Wallace. I hurt. I had a headache of the regular kind, but was worried about it turning into a migraine. I didn’t sleep well last night. It was hot. So I called Coach Husband, who was at work, kind of hoping he’d let me off the hook. I basically said all of the above to him, and the conversation continued:

Hubby: Just make sure you hydrate well first.

Me: [almost audible whine] But what about my headache?

Hubby: You’ll feel better after you work out.

Me: [almost a bitch-out] Have you ever worked out with a headache?

Hubby: Sure. Lots of times.

Me: [considering whether this was actually a possibility, and deciding it was]: And did it feel better after?

Hubby: Sure.

Me: [whining evident in my voice] But I still don’t want to.

Hubby: [wisely, silence]

Me: What will you give me to work out?

Hubby: [laughs]

Me: [now whining like my daughter's chihuahua-pug mix (don't ask; he's evidently the product of a mad scientist's failed experiment)] Tell me something to motivate me. Tell me I’ve been wonderful.

Hubby: [again, wisely] You are doing great. You’re doing wonderful. You’ve improved.

Me: [slightly astonished by the multiple rephrasings; I wouldn't have been surprised by a verbatim repetition of what I said] Okay. I guess. [not done whining, but down a notch]

Hubby: Just worry about getting it done today. Some days are like that. Don’t worry about increasing your intensity; just concentrate on your form.

Me: [Still not convinced and still a little whiny] Okay.

I hung up, cranked up the exercise mix, and got Billy Joel’s Second Wind. Someone has a sense of humor, I thought: The lyrics begin with “You’re having a hard time and lately you don’t feel so good.” I reluctantly got on the treadmill, set it to my blazing speed of 2.5 mph, and began walking my ten-minute sentence.

Five rounds of eight reps each of overhead presses (hyperlite bar only), situps, squats with my helper box (that I pretty much took a pause on between going up and down), and shrugs with the 10 lb. medicine ball, I was done. Took me a total of 25 min. and 45 seconds, a full minute and a half longer than yesterday, but I did it, damn it.

And then I saw this video, which put my whines in perspective:

So, goodbye again, Whiny Wallace. I’m afraid I’ll probably see you again, but I hope it’s a while from now.


Consistency is defined by Webster’s New World College Dictionary as “conformity with previous practice.”  The dictionary also provides some synonyms: “steadiness, persistence, sameness.”  For an exercise (or weight loss, for that matter) program to work, you must be consistent. Not my forte.

Consistency meant a lot of things to me that the dictionary doesn’t cover. I’d have subconsciously defined it more as “boring” or “inflexible” for most of my life, which tells you more about me than about the word. I would not have said, if asked, that  consistency had negative connotations, but I have treated its existence in my life as largely a bad thing.

I can come up with lots of reasons for why I have felt that way, but they do not excuse the lack of consistency in many areas of my life. One is that I was a military brat; the reality of that life, even more in my childhood than now, was constant change. No one stays; everyone moves. The parent serving in the military is often gone. It was just the way it was, and shaped my view of reality. Even now, some 37 years after the last time I moved (with the exception of two academic years at Baylor University), I still get an itch to change locations about every three years.

I also hate, with a purple passion, the merest shadow of something external controlling me. My mother often tells the story that the first time I went to school, when she tried to walk me in, I refused her assistance, saying “I can do it by myself.” So it’s a deeply entrenched, possibly genetic, tendency. I was almost always late to everything in my life until about 10 years ago, when my shrink explained to me that tardiness was a metamessage to others that their time wasn’t important. That was an eye-opener; it may seem obvious to anyone else, but I just never looked at it that way before. My feeling was “I won’t get worked up if they don’t show up on the dot, why do they?”

But, in a way, I suppose that was not far from the underlying message I was trying to give: “You can’t control me.” Or “The clock can’t control me.” Don’t tie me down, damn it.

I’m also a bit (okay, a lot) ADD (I know, ADHD is the more commonly used term, but I’m not particularly hyperactive, and I prefer the in-between version which is more inclusive), and, therefore, easily distractable unless it’s something I am engrossed in, and then I get into hyperfocus mode. At that point, a tornado could sweep within 10 feet of me and I’d probably not notice.

But if it’s something I’m not particularly interested in,  I tend to be in the middle of some task and then notice “Oooh, shiny,”  and leave the task unfinished to pursue the new and attractive. And then abandon it for the next cool thing that crosses my path.

Or there’s simply the “bored now” response, as in vampire Willow.

So I resisted routine. Over and over again. “How’s that working for you?” “Not so hot, actually.”

Now I’ve finally figured out that routines, the key to consistency, are the key to getting better. First, it was just taking meds regularly. I’d forget and miss dosages (probably how my son came into being) of pretty much anything ever prescribed until a little over 10 years ago, when the consequences of missing a dose of whatever became immediately apparent and painful. And then I added taking Metamucil to the repertoire of daily routine — easy enough, just take drugs with the orange goo.

But that wasn’t enough for me to consider consistency in my overall day: my sleep patterns changed from day to day, eating at odd times, and exercise? Puh-leeze.

Now I find that, gee whiz, the experts might have a point. Sleep problems are associated with various health issues, notably fibromyalgia and migraines, and they all recommend a consistent sleep/wake pattern. What? Naw, they can’t mean me. Studies on weight loss have suggested that people who regularly track what they eat will begin to cut back on their eating simply because they’re paying attention.

And, of course, exercise. One of the posts on CrossFit’s website posed the question to coaches: What do you tell your overweight clients? The best tip, and something my husband emphasized as well, was “encourage them to be consistent.” That’s an overall concept CrossFit has preached, but it is particularly important with someone like me, whose obesity puts them at an increased risk of injury. Gary, the hubby, has also emphasized keeping a log of my exercise to track my progress — another thing requiring the dreaded consistency.

I’m not going to even begin to talk about my housekeeping, or, rather, the lack thereof.

So I’m finally seeing consistency not as boring, but as a foundation for variations. Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert cannot be charged with being uncreative, yet they each wrote variations on their own or other’s work. I think I can live with aspiring to be like them.


I never imagined making exercise mixes would be so time-consuming; I haven’t kept close track, but I looked up during one session of going through my music and adding them to the mix and three hours had gone by. I’ve now burned three CDs, and every one of them has more than one track that really doesn’t  have enough oomph.

But I never realized just how useful they could be for keeping up your pace while exercising.

A couple of years ago, I was, for a few months, very consistent about walking on the treadmill in the evenings and would watch television while walking. I thought that was the way to go, as it kept my mind off the fact I was, in fact, exercising, even if at a very slow speed. But using music actually has been better; the right music gets you hyped up.

My 26-year-old son, who is a music snob in general, was completely unimpressed with what I’d come up with; the Moulin Rouge version of Lady Marmalade  made him feel like he was “getting an estrogen flash.” (Yes, I raised a smart ass.) But for an out-of-shape 50-year-old woman, I think the following songs work quite well:

  • The aformentioned Moulin Rouge version of Lady Marmalade as well as its version of  Rhythm of the Night
  • Queen: Another One Bites the Dust, Don’t Stop Me Now (which now always makes me think of Shaun of the Dead), Crazy Little Thing Called Love, and Killer Queen. Surprisingly, there were fewer Queen songs than I thought would work. Sometimes the problem is that they’re slower than you realize because they get you hyped up anyway (e.g., We Will Rock You) or that you remember the fast bits, but the song changes beat at some point (e.g., Bohemian Rhapsody or The Prophet’s Song).
  • Billy Joel: We Didn’t Start the Fire, Only the Good Die Young (even though I keep wondering how I can like a song that basically says “You’re going to lose your virginity at some point, might as well do it with me”), Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song), You May Be Right, It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me, Pressure and You’re Only Human (Second Wind)
  • Elton John (Yeah, I couldn’t do one Piano Man without the other):  I’m Still Standing, Crocodile Rock (although I can only listen to it once in a while — not a personal fave), Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, The Bitch is Back and Philadelphia Freedom.  I was surprised how slow Bennie and the Jets is.
  • Fleetwood Mac: Second Hand News and Go Your Own Way.
  • Huey Lewis and the News: The Heart of Rock & Roll, I Want a New Drug (can’t listen to it without thinking about the lawsuit Lewis brought against Ray Parker Jr. over the Ghostbuster’s theme; saw something about it on tv at some point and thought, geez, why didn’t I pick up on the fact that they are almost exactly the same song, different tempo), Walking on a Thin Line and You Crack Me Up.
  • Kenny Loggins:  Danger Zone and I’m AlrightFootloose is iffy for me, but it may be that my ancient boombox won’t play it quite right.
  • Men at Work: Down Under
  • Bob Seger: Old Time Rock and Roll
  • Simon & Garfunkel: My first thought was no way they’d have something fast enough. Shocked me to find Cecilia works.
  • Styx: Rockin’ the Paradise, Nothing Ever Goes as Planned and Too Much Time on my Hands
  • The Eagles: Life in the Fast Lane

Some of these may get cut as I get faster, but right now, they work fine. According to Windows Media Player, the above list is two hours, 13 minutes, and 36 seconds, so I’m pretty good for the moment. Most workouts have come in at under 30 minutes, so that’s four workouts before I would have to repeat.

Hints for finding music for your exercise mix:  A song  may be a good candidate if : 1) It’s an angry, screw-you break-up song, or, 2) It’s got “Rock and Roll” in the title. No guarantee, of course. I’m sure there are some Michael Jackson songs that would work, but I’m still creeped out when I hear him.

YMMV, but I didn’t find anything in any of my tracks from Seals & Crofts, Sarah McLachlan, or Christopher Cross. If you have any nominees, I’m listening. That list and the one above is enough to give anyone an idea of my era and taste.

I’ve also realized I know fewer of the lyrics of most of these songs than I thought I did. Elton John, well, that’s no surprise: I’m generally surprised if I understand anything but the title, which he always managed to articulate quite clearly. But some of the others I thought I knew well, and most have at least line that I’ve no idea what the lyrics are.  Thank God for the internet, where multiples sites offer you the lyrics. I guess that’s why they stopped putting them in the CDs.