Further thoughts on music to exercise by

I listened to my new running playlist this morning on the way in to work, and realized another thing about it (and playlists like it in the past).

I start my runs (in general) with the dark, the sarcastic, the angry.  The first three songs on this new playlist are each, in their own way, a solitary middle finger with a backbeat. 

The emotional arc of my music and the emotional arc of my runs are pretty much in synch, and I don’t think it’s any accident that I’ve ended up packing the front end of my playlists with “…and the horse you rode in on” music.  Like many (most?) people, exercise is only partly about corpore sano – it’s also about mens sana.  I’m clearing my head as I burn calories, and the first things I need to deal with (at least lately) are feelings of anger and frustration.  These are pushy emotions in me – dominant and aggressive* – and they end up leashed in tightly in a lot of daily life.  On my own, on the trail, they can rampage around a bit and help to get my physical motor turning over in the first 10 minutes or so of exercise.  It’s a healthy way to cope, I think.  These “negative” emotions can be put to good use, fueling my pace as the first few hills put my body to the test.  After that first ten minutes, “angry and frustrated” morphs into “fierce and strong.”  And “fierce and strong” is a nice pivot point for me emotionally.  From there, I can pretty much go anywhere -  good or bad.

For anyone not familiar with that internal landscape transformation, the transition from the baffled confusion in Richard Thomson’s moody, angry Read About Love (lyrics here) to Help Me Suzanne, which is a light, classic pop song with a happy chorus oozing with shiny gratitude (You gave me the reason/For feeling like I do/You gave me the reason/I’d like to thank you) would have to constitute some sort of musical whiplash.  Having burned off my initial exercise-rage, however, this is exactly the sort of thing that helps me pivot off to a more positive range of emotions, extended by Spoon’s groove (never mind the fact that I don’t ever want to know anyone who can remain filled with rage in the face of Keepon) and The Scissor Sister’s bouncy silliness.  Shawn Colvin simply puts the mellow frosting on the new-attitude cake.

*Yes, I’ve been watching a lot of Dog Whisperer lately.  More on that later.


  1. I like your ideas of what kind of music to play when, I usually just have my mp3 player go random, and then I end up with a slow song and notice that I’ve been happily chugging along with a barely elevated heartrate :) And then I wish I had a playlist….