I didn’t think I’d be able to really say this, and I’m so proud that I can. I’ve fallen in love with working out.
I was never the girl who loved to exercise, and it became more and more difficult to motivate myself as I got older. But through trial and error, I’ve discovered what I like to do to work up a sweat. I love dance workouts, and I love, love, love my new elliptical trainer. It makes me feel unstoppable.
A quick exercise tip — if you love variety and have On Demand cable, the fitness section is chock-full of all different sorts of fun workouts, from Brazilian dance to bellydance fitness to beginners pilates. It’s pretty incredible.
Even though I’ve discovered the kind of workouts I like to do, that’s just half the battle. The rest is y’know, actually working out. And I couldn’t do that without music. The right music is key to my exercise routine. Without it, I’m hyperaware of the time ticking away on my machine, or the fact that I want to flip channels, take a break, drink some water, and do anything else but work out. So I put on tunes with beats that I can’t resist, get in the zone, and let music push me through my lack of motivation. In the spirit of my favorite constant listmaker, E-Fresh, here’s the top five tunes that keep my heart rate pumping and my spirit soaring as I work up a black sweat. Watch out now, I’m about to reveal how random my musical taste can be.
1. Black Sweat by Prince — Hee. But seriously, I love this song, I love this video, I love Celestina! Prince shows such a funny side to himself in the video, and the song is great for the buildup at the beginning of a workout.
*bonus track – Erotic City, which is probably my all-time favorite Prince song. It’s so hard to pick just one, though.
2. The Hunger by The Distillers. Call me crazy, but there’s something about Brody Dalle I find very compelling. Her look is like Amy Winehouse, but tougher. Some of her songs are screaming ragers that are even better for a fast-paced workout, like Drain the Blood and City of Angels, but I just love The Hunger’s slow burn. It’s awesome for interval training. Big shout out to the homie Forrest for turning me on to The Distillers.
*bonus track – You Probably Couldn’t See For The Lights But You Were Staring Straight At Me by the Arctic Monkeys. This band is nothing like the Distillers, they’re more quirky poppy alterna-rock than gritty punk. But the pace of this song puts my feet into overdrive, and I really like their style.
3. Wanna Be Startin’ Something by Michael Jackson. I prefer the recorded version to any of the live versions on YouTube. I miss this Michael Jackson the most, the Michael who seemed limitless. Remember when it seemed like Michael Jackson could do no wrong? When the debut of one of his music videos brought your life to a halt? Oh, man. Thriller was a big, big deal in my house, and this was one of my favorite songs off the album. Seriously, how was this NOT one of the singles? Give me “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” over “The Girl is Mine” any day. From the minute I hear those synthesizers start up, my heart’s pounding in time and my feet are trying to keep up. Ma-ma-se ma-ma-sa, ma-ma-coo-sa can get me through the toughest plateaus.
* bonus track – Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough – soaring vocals and disco rhythm are a match made in workout heaven.
4. You by Machel Montano. A word of advice to Americans who might be looking for high-spirited, fun music to work out to — try soca on for size. Yeah, a lot of it can be misogynistic as anything, but the syncopated, sped-up rhythms are what keeps crowds of Caribbean people jumping and waving through days of Carnival. Machel Montano is one of the genre’s biggest superstars, and you may never have heard anything like him before. Jumbie, Toro Toro, Big Truck and Footsteps are some of his biggest hits, and they’re like Caribbean techno in terms of speed. But You is my favorite Machel song ever. A crossover hit has eluded Machel for the length of his career, and I’m hoping this is the beginning of a new phase for him where he takes Trinidadian music to the American charts. Because if Kevin Lyttle could have done it, I think it’s just a ridiculous oversight that Machel hasn’t yet.
* bonus track – To The Ceiling by Isaac Blackman is a slower track, but the lyrics keep me encouraged. Sometimes it takes divine intervention to get me all the way through a workout without throwing in the towel.
And at last but not least, Boyz by M.I.A. She gets me crunk. I’ve been feeling her flow from the get-go, pretty much the first time I heard Sunshowers I vowed to listen to everything she released. (Let the record show that I think Timbaland slipped up by not including their collaboration, Come Around, on Shock Value). Her latest video, from her as-yet-unreleased sophomore album, Kala, combines so many things I love: Hard beats, bright colors, crazy patterns, and Jamaican dancing. Signal de plane! And being a Trini, I can resist the rhythm of tassa drumming, and MIA must love tassa as much as I do. That beat in Bird Flu could have been done by the Petrotrin Boodoosingh Tassa Group. (Imagine walking into THAT roti shop!)
M.I.A might not be for everyone (feel free to tell me how much you hated this song in the comments), but I feel her style — she’s so fresh and so fly. Those booming drums and chant-along verses give me the sonic stimulation I need to sweat out my frustrations.
What are you jamming to when you work up a sweat, bellas and fellas? I’m all about discovering new music!
*Workout image procured from Fredy’s Black Women’s Network.