‘shopped by John Kalmar, @johnkalmar
I used to be as inactive as it gets. My life was just sitting and watching other people being active in high school. I’d sit around and listen to music, play video games, watch movies, watch sports. But I wasn’t really getting around and doing much. By the time I was 16, I started to realize that if I wanted to, I could really go out there and be physical in my spare time. In order to motivate myself, I decided to get into the podcast scene. I’d throw on a podcast, and go for a walk. Walks turned into sporadic running and sporadic running turned into running, no walking. Eventually, I wanted to be better, faster, stronger. I began to find that there were certain songs I could listen to that would actually dredge up emotion within me that would push me to limits I could not usually reach.
For your enjoyment, here are my top 5 songs to listen to while running (or working out). These songs make me feel like I’m in my own movie montage.
(5) “Til I Collapse” – Eminem
Best used: at the beginning of a run.
You’re gonna need a song to get you going. For that, this song is perfect. As a general rule of thumb, most hip-hop, rap, techno (yeah, techno) is usually good for this sort of thing. Songs that are repetitive and rhythmically-based provide for a solid mental bearing whilst running, or doing any sort of workout. I could have chose really any Eminem song. A lot of his music is on the angrier side and many of his songs are lyrically steeped in busting through the pain to get something done, which is a classic theme for working out.
“Til I Collapse” starts off slow, with Em reminding us that no matter how weak you feel, you gotta step up to the plate, dig deep, and find some way to put the ball in play. Eminem samples the drum beat from Queen’s “We Will Rock You”, which is like one of the biggest pump up songs of all time. This track is sure to get your run going off to a good constant pace, while providing some emotion to back your physical strength. Careful, though. I’ve found that when I listen to rap songs on the treadmill, I always have to stop myself from screaming the lyrics.
(4) Mony, Mony – Tommy James and the Shondells/Billy Idol
Best Used: in the middle portion of a run.
Not every song you listen to during a run can be angry. If you use all of your emotion and adrenaline at once, you’re gonna burn out pretty quickly. In the middle portion of your run, you’re gonna need to take a mental break. You’ll need a song that has some constant rhythm and motivational grooves, but also allows your mind to find some joy.
Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Mony, Mony” is perfect. Play this song in the middle of your run, and you’ll find yourself devoid of thought and lost in cross country joy. You might even crack a smile listening to this 60s tune as meddlesome neighbors and their dogs wave to you as you jog through a pot-holed, riddled street. “Don’t stop now, come on, Mony!” the lyrics speak to the inner runner in you, even though you have no idea what they mean.
This song has always been an underrated aerobic anthem. And ya know what? It’s good to change it up sometime. You might even prefer Billy Idol’s version, which also provides as a really good montage song when you need to get things done, as illustrated below in a video created by my friend and former Michigan State roommate, Danny, back in high school:
Admit it. You want to get up and do something.
(3) Van Halen – Right Now
Best used: at the end of run.
Time this out for the last four minutes of your run. There isn’t a tuxedo salesmen in the world who could make more of a guarantee than I could that this song will absolutely shave seconds off of your average mile.
Everything about this song is an incredible, uplifting, inspirational piece of majesty. First off, check out this music video. I bet once or twice you get chills watching it. It might be one of the best music videos ever made. But beyond the visual images and words accompanied with this slice of early 90’s pop culture, is the recording that has surely filled the ear holes of millions of us that are trying to work harder every day to make our lives a little bit more satisfying.
The piano part at the beginning will get your mind and body ready for the last leg of your run, Sammy Hagar’s voice will carry you to the mountain top, and Eddie’s solo won’t leave you any choice but to capture the flag. By the time you know it, you’ll have ran a mile or two miles or three miles quicker than you ever have before in your life. Right now, running is easier than it’s ever been.
(2) Vanessa Carlton – Thousand Miles
Best used: benching.
Perhaps to your surprise, I don’t really listen to this song when I run, though I am sure it works great. Personally, though, this is the best song to listen to on the last set of bench press. I will try to explain, but I am not sure if I can. Some songs are left unexplainable in the ways that they reach us. This is one of them, but I can assure you it works more frequently than Colt 45.
Something about that piano riff, those drum hits, and Vanessa. It’s actually the perfect recipe for a good bench song. The lyrics are inspirational. I mean, this chick would walk 1,000 miles for someone she loves. That’s obscene! Just to see him or her, she’d walk 1,000 miles. That’s literally like walking from West Bloomfield, MI to Jacksonville, Florida. So if Vanessa will do that for someone she cares about, well then gosh darn it, you can get that last rep up. Throw in some triangle and orchestra hits, and you’ve got yourself one helluva workout song.
This one is a dark horse whenever this discussion comes up, but try it and your world will be changed.
(1) Rocky IV Soundtrack
Best used: full workout.
That’s right. Screw the workout playlist, just throw this on and it will cover every bit of physical activity: running, legs, biceps, bench, whatever! It’s no outlandish statement: Rocky is the king of workout music. To be fair, the best song to finish a run with is actually “Gonna Fly Now” from the 1976 film (and if you can find a hill or stairs to run up at the end of it, oh man…). But as an ensemble collection of inspiring songs, it doesn’t get better than “Rocky IV”. In fact, this is probably one of the greatest soundtracks of all time, period. Yes! Up there with “American Graffiti”, “The Big Chill”, “Do the Right Thing”, and anything Martin Scorsese.
This soundtrack will uplift you to the maximum of your capabilities. When you really need to dig deep, press play and let shuffle do the rest. Especially, Vince DiCola’s “War”, “Training Montage”, “Hearts on Fire”, “Eye of the Tiger”, “Burning Heart”, and “Sweetest Victory”, are you kidding me? Even Gladys Knight and Kenny Loggins’ “Double or Nothing” serves as one of those great, middle-of-the-run songs. There’s no batch of creatine or steroids in the world that could make someone want to workout more than this soundtrack does. And it’s all topped off by the greatest motivational song of all time, “No Easy Way Out” by the single greatest 80s-hair-rock-for-Sylvester-Stallone-movies musician, Robert Tepper. Here’s this version to give you an idea of just how much power is behind this song. And yeah, sure, he’s lip-synching here. But dat energy. Tell me you don’t wanna go out and run in the rain when you hear this song. If this song doesn’t make you wanna do that, it probably makes you want to get in your Lambo and go driving while you think about how you could have saved your friend from being killed by a Soviet boxer.
-Anything Rage Against the Machine
-Anything Dream Theater
-“William Tell Overture” by Rossini—seriously
-“Lose Yourself” by Eminem
-“Hate me Now” by Nas
-“Fred Bear” by Ted Nugent
-“Heart of a Champion” by Nelly
-“Roundball Rock” by John Tesh
-“The Final Countdown” by Europe
-“Cherokee” by Europe
-“Rock the Night” by Europe
-“Livin’ On a Prayer” by Bon Jovi, especially when you’re half way through a run
-“It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi
-“Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore
-“Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” by Daft Punk
-“Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel
-“Through the Looking Glass” by Machinae Supremacy
-“Listen to Beethoven” from the film, “Warrior”. Also, go watch “Warrior”
What do you think are the best songs to workout to? I am always looking for new motivation.