Should you lift weights to heavy metal? Should you cardio dance to hip hop tracks? Should you run the streets listening to podcasts? NO.
Should you work out to techno? To Beyonce? To 50 Cent? To enlivening hard rock? To soothing Sade? Should you jazzercise to jazz and cardio dance to hip hop and do Pilates to Enya and spin class to, I don't know, that fucking horrible shit they always play in the glass room with all the exercise bikes in there—some sort of boy band shit, maybe?
What's your playlist? What's your playlist? What's your playlist?
Here is your playlist: the sound of silence. Here is your playlist: the blood pounding in your throbbing head as you gasp for breath. Here is your playlist: the faintest echo of a droplet of sweat hitting the concrete floor in the empty warehouse where you have gone to escape from humanity and do burpees. Plop. Dig it.
Some people seem to be under the mistaken impression that working out requires musical accompaniment. Why do they believe this? Because they are escapists. They perceive music to be a mental escape from the immediate pain of the situation in which they find themselves. They seek refuge. They don't want to be here now. They don't want to be out of breath, quivering, muscles aching, gut seizing, on the edge of heat stroke. They want to be somewhere else. They want to be in Beyonceville.
Sorry—this isn't Beyonceville. This is anywhere but Beyonceville, mi amor. This is Hardcoreville, and you're trying to leave it, but you forgot—there's no exit. Each and every exit from Hardcoreville is locked and if you think that the key to that lock can be found in loud musical distraction? Such as Beyonce? You're wrong. The key can only be found when you stop looking. You stopped looking because you were too busy doing burpees, until you went blind (temporarily). Then everything worked out well for you.
Buddha probably said something like, "Embrace the moment of where you're at." It's amazing how much he understood exercise wisdom even as a non-mobile man. Exercise works through pain. Its mechanism of progress is pain. Pain is its purpose. As a rich person once said, "Lean In." Was she referring to "leaning in" to the pain of exercise in order to reap the rewards of progress? What do you think? Why or why not? Write your answers legibly on a lined piece of legal paper while doing burpees—if you can. Can't? Good. That was a test. Needless to say you passed—this time. Yes, I just slapped you gently in the face. Calm down—that was test number two. Did you pass? Let me answer that question with a question of my own: what do you hear right now? Nothing? You didn't even notice the music was off, did you? Whether nearing cardiac arrest due to exertion or becoming the sudden victim of unprovoked violence, you were wholly present in the moment. It's called focus, my friend. I'm not talking about a camera—I'm talking about what's upstairs (your mind) (and its connection to your physical body).
"Upbeat music helps motivate me!" you say peppily like a pepita. Here's better motivation: you're holding a weighted bar that will crash down upon you and render you unconscious if you do not manage to lift it up right now. Take that song to the radio station and play it, metaphorically.
Imagine the average gym. Now, using your mind, remove the music that blasting in the background. Now, remove all the rest of the people there. Now remove the Nautilus machines and the ellipticals and the other machines and the place where they pile up all the towels and the juice bar and the snack bar and the showers and the locker room, except for one dirty hook, where you hang all of your worldly possessions, which are few. There you are. Just you and a silent, empty room. Is this your "Happy Place?" No. Exactly the opposite. This is your Unhappy Place—because of the pain of the exercise you're doing there. Since you're deriving great benefit from it just suck it up for now and think of the payoff you get in the future! In silence! I forgot to mention in this big empty room is some kind of weighted sled, and you're pulling it, until an imaginary "man" tells you to stop. (The man is mute.)
"[Sound of panting.]" "[Sound of sharp inhalation]." "[Sound of sharp exhalation]." "HUP [you just picked up something heavy]." These sounds are your music. These sounds are your constant companion. They do not fill you up with false encouragement. They will not abandon you when the electricity goes out, or when the battery runs out, or when armed gunmen seize the radio station in order to broadcast radical political messages. They will stay with you, always, through your painful journey. They are a reminder that you are, at that moment, in the midst of hell. And when they leave you, the hell has passed. And when the hell has passed, you can rest, and recover, and turn on your fucking music. Until then, savor the silence. It is all that separates us from the people who go to "day clubs."
I don't really care what you listen to when you work out, do what you want.
[Image by Jim Cooke]