Best Exercise Enhancer Ever: If You're Not Using It, Why the Hell Not?

By Crabby McSlacker

So yeah, this blog is usually all about the "we're all different, whatever works for you, go for it!" thing.

And yet... I am a fallible human! I sometimes secretly think there are a few universal Health and Fitness Truths that everyone should subscribe to. And if you do not agree with me, no matter how reasonable you sound and how happy you are, I still might silently but stubbornly continue to believe that your brain and body are not really all that different from mine.

Instead I suspect that you just haven't tried hard enough to be exactly like me! And perhaps if I just explain things properly, you will realize the error of your ways.

And so in this spirit of open-minded sharing of thoughts righteous judgmental jack-assery, I'd like to find out if you are using this classic method for making workouts more efficient and powerful and joyous.  And if not, find out why not!

Plus I wanted to share a new tweak I learned that, for me, leads to 47.3% more awesomeness. Approximately.

(Note: this method still doesn't help make my strength training workouts pleasant. Blecch.  This is another puzzling area of individual differences... I understand some of you actually prefer strength training to cardio. How is this possible?)

Anyway, so, are you good and annoyed yet?  If not, hang in there, you will be!

Music Boosts Exercise Performance!

Longtime readers may already have guessed that I'm talking yet again about the research-proven benefits of listening to music while exercising. You can read the roundup; study after study has shown music enhances athletic performance and makes exercise feel way easier and less miserable.

We humans are wired to respond to beats--a good beat makes your body want to move, even need to move. You know this intuitively, if you have ever tried to sit still and not at least wiggle, tap or thump something when a favorite song comes on.

In fact, the whole reason for this stupid annoying post is that after taking a couple weeks off for the flu, I returned to the gym with a fresh playlist.  I had negligently allowed my tunes to get too old, and my enthusiasm had been flagging.

But with the proper music, I had what could be described as a Fitgasm of bliss, rocking out on the elliptical.  Was I dancing like an asshole and silent-screaming along to the lyrics and pumping my fists and making a total complete fool of myself?  You bet!

Crabby Rockin' Out.. a couple years ago. (But note:
Old flattering pictures = motivation for sticking with damn MyFitnessPal!) 

However, when I look around the gym, there are rarely many others who seem to be enjoying their cardio.  Most people seem to be slogging, trudging, sucking-it-up, or at best, zoning out slack-jawed while watching television.  

I can only surmise these people are either (a) not listening to music or (b) listening to the wrong kind of music.

What Kind of Music is Best for Exercise?

1. Music You Love!

It is a source of much amusement to me how divergent our "ideal" playlists are, music is so personal!  Even great suggestions like Brooklyn Fit Chick's "Crystal Vases" spinning playlist contains songs that wouldn't work for me.

And so many playlists of "best workout tunes" contain dirge-like emo whining, screeching vocals, lame kindergartenish sappy melodies, cacophonous instrumentals, or hideously offensive sexist self-aggrandizing violence-promoting lyrics. Acck!

I think the biggest problem using the Magic of Musical Motivation is that it takes so much damn time and energy to find songs that are not only Not Horrible, but that you truly love.

And then when you find them, you can't keep playing them forever or they don't work anymore! I probably spend more time finding and futzing with music than any other aspect of workout preparation.

2.  Music at the Right Tempo

This is the thing I struggle with most.  Popular songs, apparently, tend to come in around 120 beats per minute, which is too f--cking slow to synchronize your movements to if you are doing something faster than brisk walking. My sweet spot is 150-170 beats per minute for running or the elliptical, though fast walking I can use "normal" songs. Research says lots of treadmill runners like 160 bpm too, it's not just me!  (But the scientists also lie and say faster tempo stops helping after 145 bpm.  No way, they're wrong--145 is still too slow!)

There are music sites that pre-select songs based on a certain bpm, and you may want to google and try some!  But for me?  Well, I'm too damn picky about songs I like.  Only about 1 in 50 or so make me feel like I gotta  move.

My temporary wonderful solution?  I had a Sony Walkman that would allow me to take a 120 ish playlist of good tunes and boost it up to 150+ without changing the pitch, just by hitting a certain setting.  Brilliant! This expanded my tune finding abilities considerably.

But then tragedy struck. 

(Actually it struck last summer--those who remember my menopause and memory loss post might recall that I dropped my sony walkman on the freeway and left it there for an hour or so.  It seemed to recover... yet a small crack widened over time and eventually the sound cut out.)

Anyway, since the walkman recently bit it, I was going to buy a new one but discovered it no longer contains the crucial playback tempo setting that I loved. Sony, you idiots! That was the best thing about the player, because the "Media Go" music management system certainly sucked, sucked, sucked. 

So now I'm back to an iPod, which I abandoned before because they temporarily miniaturized the Nano to the point of uselessness. But the 7th generation is back with a functional player again, yay!

Nano vs. Broken Walkman.
Adhesive tape didn't fix, alas.

But I was again left with the dilemma of songs being too slow and no instant mp3 playback fix.

My new solution?

Speed Up Your Tunes With Audacity!

If anyone has actually read this far and gives a crap, I can tell you more specifically how to do this in the comments.  But Audacity is a free audio editing program, and you can take an iTunes song (though you need to save it as an mp3), upload it to audacity, change the tempo without changing the pitch, and then re-import a new faster version back into iTunes. It may be even easier if you're not starting with an iTunes song.

Is this a hell of a lot of trouble to go to in order to turn a miserable workout into a blissful one? Well, not for me because I'm insane! But I totally understand it might be a bit extreme for normal people who are not so picky about their songs.

Is anyone else this batshit crazy about music and exercise?  And if you're not, why not? :)

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