It's easy to get distracted in the spring. With beautiful weather, Sunday trips to the Fly and indulgences in early snowballs, it can be hard to remember priorities — like that workout regimen you were so committed to at the beginning of the year.
Don't get discouraged; this is a perfect time to re-energize your workout. Your running shoes and water bottle will help, but don't forget to add an equally important piece of equipment: an MP3 player loaded with a great playlist.
"Music can either make or break your [fitness] class," says Bonnie LeBlanc, manager of group exercise classes at Elmwood Fitness Center. "If you're in a step class or a kickboxing class, you want that really hard-driving kind of music that's going to get your blood flowing."
Salire Fitness owner Nolan Ferraro believes music helps students push through the pain of vigorous exercise.
"Conditioned and nonconditioned people will tell you that they feel like they perform better to music," he says. Ferraro is such a believer in the transformative effect of music on the exercise experience that he brings his own Lady Gaga and Rihanna-loaded iPod to his personal training sessions, Pilates classes and charity boot camp workouts.
"I don't think that studies show that it has more of a physiological effect conclusively, but it definitely has ... an emotional effect," Ferraro says.
Fitness scientists have different theories as to why people seem to get more out of exercise when it's accompanied by music. A study conducted at the Ibaraki Prefectural University of Health Sciences in Japan called this phenomenon a "distraction effect," saying positive associations with music increase the comfort level of exertion. A similar study, which appeared in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, adds that music can help mask "unpleasant stimuli," like the heavy breathing that accompanies strong physical strain.
Some soundtracks are more conducive to sweating than others. Dance mixes by artists like Groove Armada and Kosheen have all the right attributes for working out, according to the Brunel Music Rating Inventory. Costas Karageorghis, a member of the sport psychology faculty at Brunel University, created the scale to rate the motivational impact of songs on exercise. So far, his research indicates a 120 to 140 beats per minute (BPM) "sweet spot" for workout tunes.
Erica Lindig's group exercise practice supports this theory. An instructor at St. Charles Athletic Club, Lindig looks to dance music to supplement workouts.
"I usually prefer techno, anything that's energetic ... and no country and western ever," she says. For her group exercise classes, Lindig chooses club mixes, like those composed by DJ Paul Oakenfold. These mixes have continuity and relatively consistent intensity, as well as a moderate pace of 120 to 140 BPM.
LeBlanc says she hears dance, hip-hop and Latin music in the spinning, kickboxing and toning classes she teaches, as well as plenty of Britney Spears and Lady Gaga, but says there's something for just about everyone. Exercise programs like Bodypump and Zumba even have an official monthly soundtrack, guaranteeing a fresh sound for students every few weeks.
If dance grooves aren't your thing, have no fear: Saints-themed covers of Top 40 songs have made their way to the gym. It's never too early to get pumped up for next season, or at least to build stamina for marathon tailgating.
TOP FIVE WORKOUT JAMS FOR 2009
Beyoncé — "Diva" (Karmatronic Remix). This remix of the saucy gal-power anthem features triumphant, clubby builds. It's guaranteed to make your Stairmaster routine feel like a climb to the top.
Jordin Sparks — "S.O.S. (Let The Music Play)." In this new single from Sparks, the sexy stomp beat of the verse gives way to a high-energy, Bangles-influenced chorus. The varied tempo is perfect for interval training.
September — "Cry For You." Channelling Ray of Light-era Madonna, September sings about dumping that loser once and for all. Great for one of those the-best-revenge-is-looking-good-inspired workouts.
Katy Perry — "Waking Up In Vegas" (Calvin Harris remix). This joyful, synth-y remix of Katy Perry's popular song will leave you glowing. Add it to a running playlist with feel-good favorites like Passion Pit and MGMT.
Ke$ha – "Tik Tok." Ke$ha's voice struts all over this tune, while a heavy bump-and-grind beat plays in the background. Try it during a step class, or blast it in the car on the way home after a great session.
Where to get the right beat:
www.workoutmusic.com and www.inthegym.net — These sites sell preorganized collections of workout tunes, often without song breaks to keep your pace steady. Collections are available in every genre, from 1970s disco hits to the best of country pop.
www.cadenceapp.com — This app for the iPhone or iPod Touch instantly organizes your playlist at an intensity you select.