Monday, February 6, 2012

A ghost of workouts past comes back to haunt

I found my first-ever workout mix CD. It's from 2001, the summer after my senior year of high school. This CD was the soundtrack to my first sustained attempt at jogging and my first honest shot at being marginally healthy. If I recall correctly, that campaign lasted for about 3 months, but I lost some weight because of it and my plainly titled "Workout" CD was largely responsible. I see now that, whether consciously or not, I was shrewd in engineering this playlist. Because look at what I put in the top slot:

This song is wildly inappropriate and all kinds of offensive. It's about beating the women (or men, but mostly women) in your life when they're pissing you off. Babymama wiling? Bom ba-ba bom bom Rocky Balboa. That's...abhorrent. Awful. I've got a pretty high threshold for tolerating misogynist rap bombast bullshit, because it's pop art not real life and blah blah blah. But after listening to this song enough times, I decided -- out loud, to myself, while driving to the grocery store -- that I simply couldn't call myself a feminist or even a decent human being while regularly enjoying an ode to domestic violence. And yet...

It works as a workout song. Ugly truth.

Because of my so-serious reversal on "Rocky" tolerance, I put that workout CD away and forgot about it for pretty much a decade, until I unearthed it in an old CD case last week. But listening to it again, I realize that "Rocky" functioned as the heavy against my wimpy, fledgling sense of fitness discipline at that time. Putting it first on the mix was like staffing my brain with an unhinged drill sergeant for the first 5 minutes of my run, there to beat down any attacks to my resolve. During that first attempt at jogging (and the second, and kinda the third), there was always a not-insignificant chance that I'd crap out before getting even a quarter mile under my belt and walk home like a chump. 

"Rocky" pounded into my head a ruthlessly simple message: if a bitch gets outta line, show it Rocky Balboa. I say "it" instead of the verbatim "her" because a) it distances me from the song, which even now I'm self-conscious about praising*, and b) ultimately, to me, the only thing getting beat in that song is a whiny attitude about going for a damn run. That's m'story and I'm sticking to it. 

And! Track #2 is your reward for taking Juvie's abuse and getting through those first five "I DON'T WANNAAAAA" minutes of a run:

The best! I have no idea what this song is about, other than "drinking brew for breakfast" and fighting the man, (god I'm good at ignoring lyrics), but it's a marvelously inspiring, sassy follow-up to "Rocky." The two of them together are a bad cop/good cop one-two punch (har har) of motivation.

And track #3? Can you guess? No you can't. I'm still pretty baffled myself.

Yup. Enrique Iglesias. Rhythm taking you higher on the wings of Spanish guitar-plucking angels. 

All of which just goes to show that sometimes, you can't help what songs are gonna chug your choo-choo train. Desperate times call for desperate measures. And for a beginner runner not yet interested in making friends with pain, desperate times abound. As NPR (of all people) pointed out recently, uptempo tunes with a steady driving beat create a "privileged link between the auditory system and the motor system," overriding your pretensions (or actual bona fides) of music snobbery and making you jam out to the darndest things.

So there's my ugly little workout song secret. Ta-da. What songs have you found yourself working out to in spite of your better judgment? 

* - I feel compelled to explain the song's merit divorced from its lyrics. 1) I love Juvenile. I love his flow. I love the way his says "Balbao" like "Bee-al-boa." 2) I love Mannie Fresh, and the beat for "Rocky" is quintessential Mannie: big, bouncy, polyrhythmic, and simultaneously playful yet hard-hitting. I can't fight that.

1 comment:

  1. "I'm blue, ba da bee da ba da, ba da bee da ba da..." or something like that.