Cyclist David Stanley with a playlist to beat the cold.
I race bicycles. I live in Michigan. This combination means that I spend most of my offseason training on my bike in the basement. I have rollers. I have a TV with DVD player. I have loud music. Everyone who trains indoors, for every sport, has always known that music is crucial to mental survival, but now there is research to support our intuition. “Our bodies,” lead researcher Dr. Nina Kraus concluded, “are made to be moved by music and move to it.”
When I put together a work-out playlist, I need several things. I need songs with an intermediate tempo for the warm-up. I need familiar songs with great beats for the hard work that gets done during the training. Lastly, I need a down-tempo song at the end for the warm-down. Ready? Hey Ho! Let’s Go!
“Is this Love?” Bob Marley. I started listening to Marley as an undergrad at Michigan State in the 1970s and never stopped. “Is this Love?” is right around 80-90 beats per minute. That’s the perfect tempo for warm-up cycling – 80-90 pedal revolutions per minute.
“Glass Onion,” The Beatles. A favorite Lennon song, full of self-references to his other songs. Plus, it contains two of his greatest lines ever: Well here’s another clue for you all / The walrus was Paul.
“Hanging on the Telephone,“ Blondie. I came of age during the punk movement in the late ’70s. Deborah Harry and the guys—great beat, mad clever lyrics, plus Debbie Harry was (is) smoking hot. Every punk’s wet dream.
“London Calling,” The Clash. One of the most influential bands ever. They were highly political, but they wrote fucking great songs—great beats, great melodies, killer rhythms. If you don’t get chills when you hear “Cos London is drownin’ I… live by the river” get a nurse to check your pulse, ’cause, Jack, you dead.
“Romancing the Stone,” Eddy Grant. Eddy Grant hit a grand slam with this entire album. When I was on the road as a bike racer in the ’80s, I stumbled onto this as a cassette tape. I played it, for the very first time, right before our team got on the bikes for our pre-race warmup. We rode a great race that day. This song became a talisman for the rest of the season. When the beat dropped at the beginning, we knew it was time to get ready to go kick some bike racing ass. Still gets me going.
“Come on Baby, Let’s Go Downtown,” Neil Young. This is the live version, recorded with Crazy Horse, on Young’s album Tonight’s the Night. They’re at the peak of their game.
“Rockaway Beach,” The Ramones. Everything the Ramones ever did was at 120 beats per minute or faster-perfect sprint RPMs for a cyclist. Plus, GABBA GABBA HEY! It’s the Ramones.
“Energy/ Satyameva,” Superheavy. Superheavy is Mick Jagger, Joss Stone, Dave Stewart, A. R. Rahman, and Damian Marley. I love to work out to music that soars. When songs have rhythm changes, a bunch of crescendi, plenty of volume changes, and the requisite “Big Finish” that makes for excellent work-out music. These two songs wail like a bee-atch.
“Whoomp (There it Is),” Tag Team. It’s got a great beat, and you can dance to it. I give it an 85.
“Let It Roll,” Velvet Revolver. Nothing subtle here. We’re into the meat of the workout. Slash has a great riff to open, the drums kick in, and the boys beat you over the head with some stand-up rock n’roll for the next four minutes.
“The Real Me/5:15,” The Who. When you’re getting tired, your tongue is nearly dragging in your front wheel, and you’re looking for a reason to quit, you need John Entwistle’s bass and Keith Moon’s drums to come along and smack you across the face as a reminder that if fitness was easy, everyone would look like an underwear model.
“One Way Out,” The Allman Brothers. The beat drops, Duane’s slide kicks in, Gregg’s singing at the peak of his game, the huge bottom, and as a bonus, the best “Oh, baby, I just don’ know…” ever recorded.
“Barely Breathing,” Duncan Sheik. And we’re done. Forty-five minutes of work have gone by. A little irony with the title, and a nice beat for the warm-down.
The whole playlist times out around 50:00. Perfect for a hard interval work-out on the trainer.
photo bareknuckleyellow / Flickr