Having doubled in weight since my teens I’ve been visiting the local gym of late, doing what I can to chip away down to a BMI that’s under my age and not the speed limit on a dual carriageway.
The simplicity of the gym appeals to me, although it is difficult to keep to a slow pace (I’m told that a heart rate of 156+ is not a good thing). I’ve found over the last few sessions that the best way to focus is to deafen out the gym’s own sound system with my own choice of tracks, streamed over my beloved Creative ZEN X-Fi.
The problem with the gym’s music selection is that it seems to have been edited and compiled by some kind of nineties hardcore techno DJ with a speed-core addiction; this may be really useful to the kind of ‘roid head beefcake that scowls at me, whilst I’m on the rowing machine but it doesn’t help me one bit.
So during my last session, whilst my legs were pumping away at 100rpm, I compiled my top 10 workout tracks. I will add the caveat that the playlist I was listening to has a limited selection of around 500 tracks on random play. I’ll also add the caveat that this is more of a good, solid, bike session play list following guidelines for warming up and cooling down.
10 – Moloko – Familiar Feeling (video)
A great track to start out to; a steady increase in tempo until it quickly reaches a steady rhythm. I love Róisín Murphy‘s voice, she can evoke so many emotions and I’d consider replacing this track with something like Pure Pleasure Seeker or Statues but they would actually end up being more of a distraction.
I think Róisín actually tempers herself with Familiar Feeling and that is what makes this such a great warm up track.
9 – Nirvana – Territorial Pissings (video)
I always feel a little childish when I revert back to Nirvana. Nevermind and Bleach were the soundtrack to my late teens.
Territorial Pissings has a good pace to it, I find that I can build up a good speed whilst this track briefly plays; I also don’t feel too guilty for getting my heart rate too high, seeing as the track is only a couple of minutes long.
8 – Pendulum – Propane Nightmares (video)
As I understand it, this is not the usual fare for Pendulum. I first came across this track on the XBOX shortly after switching to the 360. It was a free music video given away to advertise the music marketplace I think.
To me the track has a similar energy to running a race with a pack of dogs chasing you.
7 – Butthole Surfers – Human Cannonball (video) (video)
From their classic 1987 album Locust Abortion Technician, Human Cannonball is another of my favourite “Rage” tracks. Whilst it might not have a specifically angry content, it does keep me in a tightly wound state and is great for maintaining focus.
6 – Nneka – Heartbeat (video)
I stumbled across this track during the back end of last year; it was playing on one of the music TV channels and hooked me the moment I heard it. It has an empowering rhythm and Nneka’s voice is truly enchanting. Like the other tracks on this list, Heartbeat has a great pace: steady, strong and constant; kind of like a heartbeat I guess.
5 – China Drum – Wuthering Heights (video)
As a child I remember watching the VHS version of Kate Bush’s Kate Bush – The Whole Story [VHS]  over and over again to the point of obsession. Later in life I remember hearing China Drum’s cover for the first time; we were in a club called Abrahams on a Rock Society night (Huddersfield University Rock Society, Re-enacting Society and Roleplay Society seemed to meet in the same venues, share the same members and do pretty much the same kind of thing, socially at least).
Energetic, bordering on the violent, this version of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights is another pace setter, helping keep pace and focus without letting the mind wander.
4 – Jonathan Coulton – Re: Your Brains (video)
More of a cool down song but still a great one to pop up in the workout play list. It may not be as fast paced as the other tracks on this list but that is why it makes such a great addition. It manages to hold your attention whilst encouraging a steady drop in pace.
I’d really hoped we could get everyone singing this at the last Huddersfield Zombie Slouch but didn’t think to actually put any effort into it.
3 – Killing Joke – Extremities (video)
From the phenomenal album, Extremities, Dirt and Various Repressed Emotions this track maintains Killing Joke’s usual rage but at a slower pace. It makes for a great warm up or cool down track. Other tracks on this album would suit a slower session; in fact I sometimes substitute the album in place of a mixed playlist.
2 – Killing Joke – Exorcism (video)
Track 2 from Killing Joke’s Pandemonium, this is such an evocation of rage! Pandemonium remains my favourite Killing Joke album, probably because it is the album that introduced me to the band.
At over seven minutes duration, Exorcism is a good focus to move from warm up into your core workout. I also find the track therapeutic, as the title implies it makes for a good exorcism:
Get it out – get it out – get it out now
Let it rise to the surface – let it rise – let it rise – guilt
All your guilt and the pain and the hurt you cause
All the tears in the child’s face
All resentment undeclared
Let it rise
Let it rise let it bubble to the surface
Not an exorcism in the Ama Nazra spirit rescue sense of the word, more a personal emotional cleansing. In fact, Exorcism always strikes me as being almost like a Sith prayer, so full of passion and hate.
Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion I gain strength.
Through strength I gain power.
Through power I gain victory.
Through victory my chains are broken.
The Force shall set me free.
1 – Kava Kava – Maui (alternative video as Maui isn’t on YouTube)
From the album of the same name, Maui is incredibly energetic.
Uplifting and vibrant, this track and most of those on the album surpass any other in my collection; the only reason I don’t just play Kava Kava and nothing else is that I need variety in music. If I listen to one band at the expense of others then my appreciation for that band wanes.
Kava Kava are also great to see live, I can highly recommend tracking them down if you’ve not heard them before.
The video linked above is actually the track Bank Job, I could just as easily substituted Sicfuck or Terrorists in place of Maui – honestly, Kava Kava are awesome!