This all started when I couldn’t find a decent kickboxing playlist anywhere. So I had to create my own, which I’m now sharing with you.
The only thing I’m confident of is this: you will either love it or hate it. In listening to track after track of these iTunes and Spotify compilations, I realized that either (a) I am hopelessly out of sync with what the average person wants from a workout playlist; or (b) there are a lot more of us than I thought left staring up at the gym ceiling speakers silently mouthing “WTF?”
There is a third possibility. Somewhere on the interwebs, controlled by the Illuminati of music sharing (or one very selfish DJ), there is a secret location untouched by Google where all the really good workout playlists are being hoarded and traded by those in the know. If you are one of those people, I hate you. But I also want to be your friend. (Message me privately.)
Gotta make it on time for Ryan’s class.
I wasn’t the only one who raced from work to the boxing gym where he instructed. Clearly others had the same idea; if you weren’t there 15 minutes early to line up and reserve a muay thai bag, you discovered you were too late. Locked out. Forced to sit, stew and wait out the 7pm class. And because your dinner hour had now been hijacked, you were doubly pissed.
The other instructor was OK. But he wasn’t Ryan.
Why was Ryan’s class in such high demand? Yes, he was a great kickboxing instructor with an impressive background in martial arts. Yes, his routines were well-planned and tightly executed. Yes, he was high-energy, and could command 100% of your attention and effort without being snarky, abrasive or condescending. (Note to all kickboxing instructors out there: trying too hard to channel Lou Gossett Jr. in An Officer and a Gentleman doesn’t make you a badass. It just makes you an…ass. And nobody wants to do TEN MORE CRUNCHES! for an ass.)
What made Ryan’s classes stand out most was the music. His playlists were pure gold. Never, or rarely, a bad apple in the bunch. Some of the driving beats and lyrics became so ingrained in my muscle memory that whenever I heard them outside of the gym, I had to suppress the urge to immediately drop into my boxing stance and start throwing shadow hooks and uppercuts in time to the beat. (In my mind, I can still hear Ryan’s voice over specific choruses, calling out the combinations.)
So naturally, when I started sniffing around online to try to recapture that driving soundtrack for my own DIY fitness routines, I assumed I’d find something comparable, already compiled with a nice red bow on top. And that’s when I realized Ryan was the purple unicorn of the workout music realm.
I came up with squat. (No exercise pun intended)
Here’s the problem. I can’t exercise to music that I wouldn’t be caught dead listening to in my non-exercise hours. Or that doesn’t pass the “road trip” test. (Where you crank up the volume on your car stereo, bob your head rhythmically and start singing along at the top of your voice.) Sorry, but I just don’t get all the uber-synthesized “workout mixes” that are stripped down to a monotonous house beat and very little else. Maybe I’m just old, but I like to sing along when I’m working out. I don’t mind a techno beat spliced in here and there, but it can’t form the essence of the entire track. I need a groove. Some flavor. Some funk. A bit of an edge. Slamming bass. An interesting hook or catchy melody. I need soul. And much of what passes out there for a workout playlist lacks any at all.
It’s 5am, for crying out loud. I’m a human being with a spirit and soul, trying to keep my willpower and motivation from sagging during a strenuous workout…not a freakin’ automaton just executing reps.
Introducing WellChick Workout Playlist Vol. 1.
So many new songs kept coming into play that I had to cut things off and divide it up. (Not to worry, a post with Vol. 2 is on the way.) The playlist is timed at around 60 minutes, and tracks run anywhere between 126 and 134 BPM, which is ideal timing not just for most bag work combinations and kicks, but also for quick-paced cardio steps. (You wouldn’t believe how many dozens of variations of the same song I had to sample on iTunes before landing the correct one.) I’ve tested it during a cardio kickboxing workout. On a 3-mile speed walk. On a road trip to Costco. In all cases, it passed with flying colors.
You might also use it for running or cycling, though personally I’d opt for a different playlist with a faster BPM. (Working on it.). Speaking of speed, I made sure to include one or two less-intense, down-tempo tracks that you could use for the start or end of a workout. But I expect you’ll want to add in your own, as different people need different types of music to amp up or close out their workouts. The tracks are a mix of old and new, and designed to be ordered anyway you want.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t include one of my current faves from my own playlist: Beyonce’s Drunk in Love – Tiesto Remix. I searched high and low for you, but it’s not available for sale anywhere. That said, you can find it online if you know where to look. (And that’s all I can legally say about that.) Another great cut I had to leave off was American Boy by Estelle, which I find ideal for set transitions and/or interim circuit reps involving crunches, push-ups, squats or other drills. We all have that idiot Kanye to thank, who couldn’t manage to get through one guest cameo on a song without glaring, in-your-face (and unnecessary) profanity. He completely destroyed an otherwise stellar track with his potty mouth, and why iTunes didn’t have a radio edit version available is beyond my comprehension. (If you find it, send me the link.) Speaking of profanity…
*Disclaimer*: Where available, the clean version was always my default choice, but I’m not going to lie: that option wasn’t always on offer, and so you might find one or two random, mild obscenities in an otherwise clean track. For example, just because Will.I.Am dropped the “s” bomb in a chorus – which you have to strain to hear – I wasn’t going to omit the Black Eyed Peas’ Boom Boom Pow. I mean, come on. That would be crazy. It has the words “Boom” and “Pow” in the title. It cannot NOT be used in a kickboxing playlist. So discretion and concessions had to be made. (One thing I hold the line on is music that is over-the-top obscene, with gratuitous and pervasive cursing, and that has no other redeeming artistic quality. Nobody needs to hear that $#@# while they’re working out. Especially if you’ve got young kids around.)
Remember that you are always in control here. If any fleeting instance of colorful language bothers you, or you are particularly devout-slash-conservative, know that iTunes has a number of Christian workout playlists available. Just saying. It only affects one or two on this playlist, at the most. Swap out songs as needed.
Note that I dig all types of music, but when I’m working out I’m aiming for a very particular vibe. What works for me when my husband and I are engaged in a silly singalong in the car, when I’m writing or reading, when I’m at a raucous cookout with family, or just when I get in one of my weird 70’s AM-Radio moods (usually triggered by some random hearing of Benny and The Jets or American Pie in a department store restroom), won’t work for me when I’m in the gym.
Along that vein, musical preferences are all over the place, so it’s possible some of you whose tastes run more towards country, rock, heavy metal, punk, or Taylor Swift (or any of the other tons of musical genres out there) will be left a little Meh by this playlist. Them’s the breaks, as they say. And it’s totally OK. Do what I did, and get busy creating your own. You do you, baby.
Whatever gets you through your workout is all that counts!