Being an exercise enthusiast and a music fan at the same time can be hard; the two passions don’t always line up together. You can love the Grateful Dead with all your heart while acknowledging that they’re a bit too languid for your purposes. Most jazz, impressive as it may be, isn’t something you can appreciate in the throes of a workout. We’ve attempted to square the circle—the black vinyl circle?—with a few songs and bands to include in your workout playlist for a successful outing that still has music cred.
Shannon – “Let the Music Play”
Why not listen to an all-time club classic to get the blood pumping? This hit single laid the foundation for the freestyle subgenre of dance music, which set the tone for the house music of the ’90s. It’s a great leadoff track for your playlist—once you get moving and stop worrying about which song comes next, you are letting the music play, aren’t you?
Van Halen’s Greatest Hits
Let’s get them all under one subhead. There are the fat sawtooth synths of “Jump,” the motivational message of “Right Now,” the primal pounding of “Everybody Wants Some!!”—if you’re planning on breaking a sweat, you need these guitar heroics and soaring vocals in your ears. Worry about the eternal Dave v. Sammy battle later, and get as many of the classics on your playlist as you can fit.
Olivia Newton-John – “Let’s Get Physical”
But only as a self-aware personal joke.
The Best of the Pretenders
The Pretenders weren’t so much a band as they were a concept: lead singer Chrissie Hynde and whoever else was in the room with her at that moment. That doesn’t matter. What does matter is that few bands rocked harder, and your workout will benefit from the addition. The groove of “My City Was Gone” should lock you into a comfortable jogging pace, and if “Back on the Chain Gang” doesn’t sum up the rigors of daily strenuous exercise, what does? And when the hard-driving drumbeat, bass, and guitars of “Mystery Achievement” hit, we’re not telling you to turn up the volume to dangerously ear-splitting levels, but we’re not not telling you, either.
The Clash combined punk, ska, and anything else they could get their hands on in their music. The result is music that sounds equally great from a gym rat’s earbuds and an audiophile’s stereo setup. With an act as stylistically disparate as The Only Band That Matters was, you have to pick your spots. But their cover of “Police On My Back” is a can’t-miss choice: “I’ve been running Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday,” indeed.
Pat Metheny Group – “Phase Dance”
When considering songs and bands to include in your workout playlist, we mustn’t forget the cooldown. What’s cooler than progressive jazz? Wind down the workout with the tasteful but complex guitar work of this jazz outfit’s masterpiece—the kind of cerebral fare that should have you thinking about what comes next in your busy day.