The silent disco is the workout room. People are moving and grooving to different soundtracks and experiencing a headphone-fueled tornado of adrenaline swirling through their bodies. Traditional dance moves are replaced with exercise routines:
Raise the roof → Bench press
The robot → Bicep curls
Twerking → Squats
Running man → Man running
Music has a huge influence on a workout’s productivity. We all know how revitalizing it is to have the perfect tune in your ears. It’s an absolute game changer. But there are a wide variety of habits when it comes to genre and technique. What do they say about you? Let’s look at the different music fans at the gym, and get to know them.
These are usually the rock and EDM guys. There’s no shame here. They love their high-intensity guitar riffs and bass drops, and they love letting you know they love it. It’s like they’ve completely forgotten there are 50 other people in the gym. Sleeves are either ripped off or never existed. I fancy myself a little “Enter Sandman” when I need an extra boost, but I don’t need the people around me to feel like they’re in the mosh pit with me. I’m not going to be the one to tell Loud Guys to turn it down, though, because they’re lifting about 3x the weight I am and don’t exactly come off as approachable. So … as you were.
Pop music is everywhere in gyms these days. It’s no surprise a genre short for “popular music” is just that … a popular form of music. Whatever is trending on the top 20 or 40, or whatever cutoff you want to use, is inevitably going to fuel the workouts of a lot of people around you. The common thread is that, much like the music they choose, Pop Stars stick to the hits at the gym. Basic format, repeated exercises, familiar rhythm. They know what works, and they’re sticking to it.
These people usually skew toward being more vain than not. I love the fact that you’re in the zone, but take it easy. I can clearly see you looking at yourself rapping a Drake verse in the mirror in between sets. And listen, coming from a guy who’s not very cool, you look not very cool. I do respect it though. Being able to cockily nod your head and mouth the lyric “Million dollar deals in my email,” like it actually resonates with you, well, that’s an aspirational attitude I salute.
While their muscles are growing, so too is their knowledge. Factoids are the new steroids. Listening to a podcast while working out is an effective way to flex your brawn and your brain. Meathead? More like wow-that-new-fact-I-just-learned-is-pretty-neat-head. These are our future leaders, gathering information even as they perform weighted-vest pullups. I gauge the intelligence of everyone I meet by how many podcasts they’re currently listening to.
This is where I find myself. Just press “shuffle” and roll. We have little-to-no idea what we’re doing at the gym, so we need a playlist that will keep us on our toes. Going from ‘80s synth-pop to ‘90s grunge to Bruno Mars keeps the whole session fresh and exciting. We don’t know what’s next. Our entire demeanor changes every three minutes. Some days the chorus of Jessie J’s “Domino” will get me more riled up than any Rage Against the Machine song. The total absence of routine is dictated by the randomness of the music, but that’s the way we like it.
BEWARE: THE UNPLUGGED
You’re going to get some no music gym-goers. If you don’t listen to music while you workout, you’re making your stance as a sociopath loud and clear. Hearing the pain and struggle of other humans under extreme physical distress is what gets you going? That’s Serial Killer 101.
Just kidding … there are plenty of reasons to workout without your own tunes. Some people enjoy listening to the world wake up around them during a morning run. Birds chirping, feet pounding the pavement, etc. Some people prefer the stylings of club DJs. Fitness club DJs. Aka the song choices of the gym staff. Some people use the intensity of their grunts as motivation to work harder/also a barometer for how hard they’re working. These are all perfectly sensible reasons to be without a personal playlist.
As much as I just ragged on what people listen to and how they listen to it, now I’ll say this: to each their own. Music is all about personal preference. Your style is your style. If you want to carry a boombox on your shoulder blasting “Kiss Me,” by Sixpence None The Richer as you do one-armed curls, more power to you. Listening to “Requiem for a Dream” on repeat? I’ll keep my distance but go ahead.
Music is a powerful tool when it comes to working out and can be used in many different ways. However you want to get in the zone is up to you.
Originally published May 2017