What’s On Your iPod When You Work Out?

By Brian Grim

It seems like almost everyone works out to music in one way or another. Music is an integral part of dance and aerobics classes, and you can hardly find anyone at the gym or running outside without a pair of buds stuck in their ears.
But I used to be an exception.  I believed that music was a distraction and that I needed to be 100% mindful and focused on my workouts and my body’s responses. I suppose part of the problem was that there really is no such thing as background music for me. If music is playing, I have to actively listen to it. I can’t ignore it. The main problem, however, was that I tend to take myself very seriously and make up ridiculous rules about things, like not listening to music while working out.

Luckily for me, those days are over.  I no longer have any pretenses about being a serious athlete or even a moderately good one. And it turns out that sometimes I need something else to think about besides how tired I am or how hot it is or how big that hill right ahead of me is. Besides taking my mind off of my discomfort, music can also lift my mood and energy level. It’s especially helpful on those days when I don’t really feel up to exercising. When I go out for a run, my iPod is almost as important as my running shoes.

What do I look for in workout music? A fast tempo? Not necessarily. Sometimes it’s nice to have a few changes of pace when I’m running. Even something relaxing like a ballad can work. It needs a strong beat or good rhythmic feel though. Classic 70s rock works great, much better than 90s grunge and alternative. The White Stripes and Phoenix also provide pretty good running soundtracks. However, almost nothing beats the inspirational power of songs like Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” or Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”  Eighties power rock for the win! I once tried to change things up with some classical music. It didn’t work very well. But maybe it was just the wrong classical music. I bet you some Wagner could get anyone pumped up! Chopin, not so much.

So what does everyone else listen to when they work out?  Even if my girlfriend thinks I’m a music snob, I’m always open to new listening suggestions.

Brian Grim is a Customer Service Specialist for the Glenwood Branch of Howard County Library System.

He started at the Savage Branch in 2006. Brian is a sporadic fitness enthusiast, an occasional cook, and a one-time musician.



  1. wow, never thought about this, usually I watch/listen to comedy while exercising at home, lol

  2. If I’m running, I’ve been liking The Gaslight Anthem’s “American Slang”. The pace is good and there is still some variance in style. When I’m lifting, it is pretty much always metal/hardcore like Sleeping Giant, Trapped Under Ice, or The Great Commission(low and slow, good for heavy squats).Sometimes I ditch the music if I’m running somewhere awesome like at Daniel’s Dam, but for running around town music is nice.

  3. I always listen to fast aerobic rythms like house, dance, trance. It helps me a lot with my exercises.

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