What’s on your workout music playlists?
The other day, an old friend and beginning gym enthusiast asked one of the most serious questions a man can ask another man. “What’s on your workout music playlists?”
He’s known me since my obese days and has seen the transformation from a close distance.
As a new gym-goer, I was honored he considered me enough of an “expert” to ask for any pointers that might help him on his new journey.
At the time, I couldn’t really provide a very thoughtful response. “Whatever gets me pumped, I guess…”
I know, this is a pretty half-assed answer. But, I did follow up by sharing my current go-to gym playlist.
What makes good gym music for workout playlists?
Later in the day, I’m at the gym and got to thinking about a better response to my friend’s question.
Turns out, I haven’t been listening to one of my workout playlists titled “Gym” consistently in a while.
In fact, I sing along to all sorts of crazy tunes while getting my sweat on.
Generally, I have extremely varied musical tastes. If you’re ever a passenger in my car or have the chance to thumb through my vinyl collection, you’ll find all sorts of contrasting genres.
In a single listening session, we can go from classic Colombian boleros, face-shredding blues to despairing female vocal-driven ballads. If it sounds good to the ear, I’m in.
While further pondering what makes a good gym tune, I finally came to a realization. Although my preferences vary, my gym music is usually based on my mood for the day.
Create workout playlists with music that fits your mood
I put on whatever amplifies or clashes with my current mood and have somehow found a way to translate that into insane gym pumps.
There really is nothing like music to instantly evoke an emotive experience or transplant you back to a special (or not so special) place and time.
In the weight room as in life, we all hit plateaus from time to time.
When that happens, sometimes all it takes is the perfect playlist to provide that needed kick in the crotch to get our ass back on track.
During a prolonged cardio session, I scrolled through my Spotify to try and identify the criteria for my diverse set of playlists.
Let your workout music playlists transform you to the best time and place in your life
Looking to relive the most ass-kicking epoch of your life?
Go through and identify all the badass beats you blasted back when you were a boss.
For many guys, that might be college, a summer road trip with your boys, or that against-all-odds playoff run from your gridiron glory days. Whatever the era, get these songs in a consolidated list. Use this playlist to channel the best version of you whenever you need to power through a plateau.
I dare you to have a lackluster workout with an adrenaline-pumping backdrop to your personal badassery blaring in your ears. Throw this playlist on whenever you feel down and out. Or just have one of those days where you’re not quite feeling it.
Conversely, do the opposite.
Channel your rage with gym music playlists
Sometimes you want to remember the good times. On other occasions, you might need to summon your darkest demons.
Girlfriend dumped you during junior prom and ran off with that super sexy senior? Pop that tear (and probably dick)-jerking ballad into a pathetic playlist and relive the humiliation.
Use negative emotions for workout motivation
Mentally transform yourself back to that experience. Identify those negative feelings you felt in that moment. Rather than hold them in your gut, as you’ve likely done all these years, allow these negative emotions to fully surface.
Convert this energy into aggression and rage feel it pulse through your veins. Feel that? There’s your fuel.
Use it to punish plateaus and conquer your rust-stained iron nemesis.
Can your Delorean do that Doc? Didn’t fucking think so.
Dark moments create the best building blocks for growth. Many people seek to ride the high and suppress the negative. Let it out and allow it to be the music motivation that propels you to excel.
From seeing red to seeing shred
The moment I discovered this trick was absolutely liberating. Here’s a quick story…
A few years back I was going through the worst moment of my life. Long story short, I was broke, depressed, drunk and out of shape. To top it all off my marine brother was lying lifeless in a hospital room halfway across the country.
And there was nothing I can do about it.
Like many young men in our society, I was taught that aggression was bad. And like most boys, I’d spent my whole life suppressing these feelings.
We all encounter small day-to-day transgressions. They’re normal. But how we react is what counts.
Instead of identifying negative emotions in the moment, allowing myself to experience them and letting them pass, I repressed them. Do this long enough and you’ll end up with a mess of anxiety.
You see, anxiety is a funny thing. It doesn’t exist for no reason at all.
Sometimes this stored energy would try to work its way out of my gut. If I wasn’t careful, it could even overtake my body in the form of a panic attack.
To prevent this, I’d just drown out any warnings from my intuition with alcohol. With enough booze, the feelings would resettle, still swirling in my stomach.
By not appropriately channeling this energy, I was slowly creating a powderkeg just waiting for the right spark to ignite.
One day, the suspicion that my (now-ex) wife had only married me for a green card and had a boyfriend the entire time was confirmed.
The flame had been lit. And I was mad.
Not like a fleeting, that fucker cut me in off in traffic type mad. More like the British understanding of the word. At loss of wits.
As I was driving home from work, I kept trying to rationalize what had happened. You see, men who ignore their intuition and suppress their emotions tend to be overthinkers. This used to be me.
With my life unraveling around me, my mental faculties were absolutely exhausted. Without reason, I was now vulnerable to the cauldron of repressed negative emotions ready to boil over.
Still driving, I recognized the exit to the house of my partner until death do us part’s paramour.
Then, like a blast from a flashbang grenade, I was instantly stunned. It had just dawned on me. I’ve been cucked. Following this newfound revelation, I remained in a daze for a few seconds as I approached the exit.
Best workout songs to release anger
My emotional levee finally broke.
Years of compounding anxiety, angst, and repressed aggression burst from my gut, jolted through my veins and surged through my body. For the first (and only) time in my life, I was flooded with rage.
Expressions exist for a reason. From this moment on, I finally understood the meaning of seeing red.
This sudden release of negative energy filled my entire being. Like a stormcloud, I was charged, ready to strike with lightning and in need of a ground.
With the shock of this emotional inundation, I was temporarily out of my mind. My initial (and only) impulse was to take the exit, track down the dude and release my full rage upon him.
Luckily, my mind snapped back and I sought to regain my senses. Still seeing red and ready to explode with rage, I decided to skirt past his exit and to pay another old friend a visit.
Someone or something needed to be punished. Thankfully, I chose the weights.
Although I hadn’t lifted in years, I straddled up to the below-knee level barbell and threw up a single 325-pound deadlift. Then another. And another. Until I was exhausted. Then I did it all over again.
I completed this cycle until I had wrung every last ounce of anger, sweat and energy out of my body.
And you know what happened? I felt GOOD. I was now emotionally level.
Save your saddest songs in a gym playlist now
Now when I hear that same song, I associate the memory of me discovering this new outlet for anger. Regardless where I’m at, the minute I hear that first guitar lick, I get the urge to deadlift.
There’s just something about lifting heavy. For me, it is the single best way for me to release the day-to-day bullshit in a healthy way.
Whatever the era, add the music to workout playlists.
Divorce playlist. Promotion playlist. College playlist.
At one time I blasted a hard-rock remixed 80’s ballad as my go-to depressing divorce song. Now it’s just another song in a playlist of pulse-pounding tunes.
What are your best and worst times?
Create workout music playlists that remind you of physical locations
I have a playlist from every town I’ve lived in or traveled to frequently. Certain cities have certain vibes.
Some feel good. Others gritty.
Jamming to a collection of tunes iconic to a physical location can easily fill you with the energy of a specific place.
Have you ever listened to the Eagles, Beach Boys or Jackson Browne and not thought of 1970s Southern California?
Want to feel hot, sweaty and sticky while roughing up your hands? Head on down to the dirty south by scrubbing off that muddy hip hop or Georgia clay country.
Tired of the rain and just feeling shitty in general but can’t stand all the liberal losers in Seattle? Want to hear how depression feels? Grunge is your genre of choice.
In less than 5 minutes of sloppy guitar playing and heroin-addicted whining, your ears can literally experience suicide expressed through song.
In fact, this effect is so powerful that I find myself tuning into music appropriate to the place I’m passing through.
Austin. Blues. Nashville. Country. Miami. Salsa.
In fact, I’ve yet to drive through LA without dialing into the Doors at some point. And with traffic similar to a sports stadium parking lot, you can probably knock out their entire discography in a single commute.
Pick motivating workout songs to visualize success
Whenever I have a challenging new athletic goal, I like to create an image of how I’ll feel once I achieve the objective.
Visualization is a huge motivator.
You are the architect of your own universe. If you view yourself in a certain way and put in the work, your body will start to take that shape.
I know, sounds hokey. I didn’t believe it either. Until I tried it. And became it.
Right now I’m just about balls deep into a cut. I’m not going to lie. It sucks.
But do you know what doesn’t suck?
Walking around shirtless at a music festival shredded to shit with striations glistening across my body. Not to mention, veins splintering down my biceps like an endless lightning bolt crackling across a cool desert sky.
Even better is being ambushed by ecstasy-fueled raver chicks begging to caress my beard. Or forcibly pressing their bare perky tits against my sweaty chest.
Kinda makes you forget about those carbs you’re missing out on.
This was me at Coachella this year. With some solid offseason improvement in lagging areas, next year will be even better. My current festival playlist will serve nicely as the necessary gym music to put me in the mindset of that moment.
NOTE: If you’re one of those guys who doesn’t think hot chicks like muscled men, it’s time to get serious with your training. Get jacked, add alcohol and music and you’ll have your answer.
My current workout music playlists
I created a great number of my playlists during a specific time, location or chapter of my life. I recommend you do the same too.
Whatever you are listening to now, regardless of genre, start saving those songs in a mix. Name it by season, your job, your city, whatever. Just do it.
Future self will thank you for creating an instant memory bank to bring you right back to the now.
At the moment, I’m creating a couple of workout playlists. Since I’m currently sitting on a stationary bike busting out an extended low-intensity cardio session, I don’t need death metal much. In fact, I’m over here silently singing my lungs out to sappy ballads. Grinning ear-to-ear as I transition to some stair-stepper sidewinders and imagine myself summiting a metaphorical Mount Everest.
Since it’s blue skies and sunny out, I’ll pop on a 60’s folk-rock mix for my drive home. This music just reminds me of a simpler place and time. After a dedicated fat-burn day, sometimes I feel higher than a Woodstock hippy from the combination of keto and extended fasting.
I can just imagine I’ll be cruising down the coast a summertime SoCal sunset in a soft-top German sports car. Hell, might as well throw in a tan-skinned beach beauty sitting shotgun. Complete with tight yoga pants and sun-kissed blonde hair freely flowing in the wind.
But I don’t need to imagine. This is my real life.