My Top Five Workout Jams

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.

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Comments

  1. Neosoulbeauty says:

    Bella, I love Machel and I saw him live at Madison Square Garden when he was in NYC. I also love Isacc Blackman my neighbor who is Kittitian is constantly playing it and I have it my IPOD!! It such a great soca beat and at first I didn’t even know it was a gospel song!! One of my fav tracks when I go to the Gym is Alison Hinds’s “Sweet Like Sugar” and Machel and Patrice Roberts “Band of the Year”!!

  2. Bridgette says:

    I don’t currently have favorite workout jams because I workout while watching the news. Sad, huh? When I was in college, there were aerobics classes held on campus and they were so much fun. We worked out to pop music, hip hop, R&B, whatever would have us in the right mood. The class was an hour long but seemed like it was only 10 minutes. This post reminded me of how much I enjoyed those sessions.

  3. I can’t believe it, Patrice is working out and loving it. God is great. I could name hundreds of soca sounds that could be used for different exercises. The pace of some of them however may be better suited to aerobic type workouts. Nice to see that you still listen to calypso and soca. Great stuff.
    D

  4. Bella! I love your workout jams! It really makes me smile to see a sista embracing such a wide range of music genres. I come from Wales in the UK (it’s a beautiful place with many thriving music scenes)and being a young black woman who loves both Rock, indie and hiphop is often quite difficult. Not wanting to generalise, but the trend in Wales seems to be that if you are black then generally you stick to listening to hiphop and Rnb, so when I attend rock or Indiie gigs more often or not I find myself being the only black girl in the room. Many of my black friends find it strange that I listen to bands such as pearl jam and the Pixies(so called ‘white music’), so it makes me smile to see that your posts include all kinds of beautiful music, from Celia Cruz ( Who I love, Check out La lupe’s song ‘Busamba’, it’s great to wrok out to)and bands such as the Distillers (Brody dalle rocks and is so gorgeous!)I would love to see a post on Jimmi hendrix, not on,y did he rock one of the coolest afros but produced such amazing music (foxy lady is another fab workout Jam.)Keep up the good work! big love from wales!x

  5. Machel Mantano is great fo working out. Soca makes you want to jump up!

  6. I like stuff that makes me feel beautiful, powerful and invincible. Try “Bootylicious” by Destiny’s Child (I know … but it makes me feel great about my body – nothing like singing “I don’t think ya ready for this jelly!”), “Freakum Dress” nad “Get Me Bodied” – Beyoncé, early 90s pop and rap, “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera, “You Can’t Touch This” – Hammer. I also love working out to Shakira and Egyptian pop music (that’s the bellydancer coming out in me).

  7. Hi Bella! I love your site! At 26 years old I am still trying to embrace my own afrobellastyle, some days it works out and doesn’t on others. Thank you so much for all your beauty product tips and suggestions! I like trying out new beauty products, but I always get the wrong ones. I am also trying to embrace my exercise routine as well, so lately I have been listening to the Mark Ronson album Version, which has artists such as Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen (among others) doing upbeat danceable covers of varied genre songs. Keep up the great posts and keep on moving.

  8. Cami, ooh, I LOVE Mark Ronson! I have his megamix in my workout collection. And Toya, I honestly love Get Me Bodied. The video, the song – great pick. I need to download it stat!

  9. Hey Carmen, you aren’t alone. Here in the States if you are young and black your peers kind of look at you funny when you like anything other than the daily sludge that is being pushed on the mainstream hip hop stations over here.
    I’m like the O-Jays, “I love music, any type of music”. I just wish that some of my peers would open their ears and minds up to more than 50 cent and Beyonce.
    I want to thank the Afrobella site too for proving stereotypes wrong and showing that Black tastes are a lot more ecletic than the mainstream may think.

    A great album that I am working out to now is Bruce Springsteen’s, “The Seeger Sessions”, great folk songs put to an almost New Orleanians type of jazzy creole beat, with pleaty of horns to back it up and a lot of soulful, rich singing.

  10. Nikki J says:

    That M.I.A. song is crazy!! I don’t know if your familiar with the Baltimore Club sound, if not thats what it sounds like. Something to get crunk to.

  11. Aww, can I tell you that I love you even more for the shoutout on the Arctic Monkeys, who we’ve been loving in our house for almost two years now. Whoa. But yeah, they’re just so damned fun!

    Now I’m inspired to upload some tunes for the workout later, instead of doing more studying. Bleh.

  12. You listen to Soca! Yaay…*grin* ..ok so now I have to exercise too…just so glad that you have begun!

  13. My workout playlist on my iPod is entitled Black Sweat. Love the song.

  14. Oh! I love listening to “Wanna be startin’ somethin’” on the treadmill! I listen to “FutureSex/LoveSounds” by my boy Justin; that album makes me feel fierce when I’m working out and sexy, especially during “Sexy Ladies” and “Damn Girl”! I also love to listen to Beyoncé’s album too, and when “Get me bodied” comes on, I swear, my heart rate gets a huge boost and I have to refrain myself from busting an old school move on the treadmill! There’s this song by Nicole Wray (remember her, she used to go by Nicole and had a song with Missy: “Why you all in my grill”?, the song is “Take your man” and it has an old-school vibe to it. It always puts me in a great mood to break a sweat!

  15. Saw the link to our blog for the new MIA single. It’s a great song. She is a friend of the party (that coincides with the blog) here in Miami. Great girl. Her shows are sick! Full of energy that the entire crowd picks up.

    You have a beautiful blog by the way. It is great when a blog can connect so many people.

  16. Hey AB – Isn’t it great? I wanted exercise to “stick” in my daily life, so I started working out for 20 min a day – now I’m up to 30-50 minutes, and I find myself going to the gym even when I feel like going home – it’s good to be on autopilot for exercise, eh.

    When I work out, I listen to Brasilian music -the rhythms are so good and have a great variety. THe artists are awesome, too – Seu Jorge’s Live in MOntreux 2005 is on my playlist right now, but I also like Farofa Carioca (Moro No Brasil CD) and Jair Oliveira. You can always check out http://www.trama.com.br for a variety of Brasilian artists (from rap to jazz fusion to R&B to the popular bossa nova style).

    Happy Elliptic-izing!
    Nunee

  17. westindiangal says:

    I love, love, love Black Sweat by Prince. If you like M.I.A you might also like Lady Sovereign.

    When I’m on the elliptical trainer, I usually have a reggae megamix going, or hip-hop, or M.I.A/Lady Sovereign. It keeps me going so I don’t notice how long I’ve been on the machine.

  18. AmiJane says:

    Hey Afrobella, I wear a natural fro all the time using Miss Jessies products. But, I wanted to know if you could tell me how to accomplish the afro Lenny Kravitz use to have with the spikey cone look. Macy Gray has a simular look as well. Any info you have would be great!!! Thanks!:)

  19. Brittany Luse says:

    im so glad you tipped readers off to MIA. i have basically been on her jock for the past few years and saw her twice on her first tour and she KILLED it both times!! she is the freshest and flyest of them all, shes down for her people, and shes always giving black music a proper shoutout through her choice of samples, instruments, and sounds. thanks for name checking!!!

  20. Congrats on starting to work out, Patrice! Talk to your bro, he seems to have fallen off the shortlived wagon :-)
    I love anything fast – techno, soca, Prodigy. Once you ride on the music you don’t feel the burn You just go, go, go!

  21. Hello. I wanted to be a respected blogger like you and wanted tips and advice to get to where you are. my video blog is new and i wanted you to check it out at:myspace.com/thegarbagegallery. watch the videos and read the crappy writing lol. Friend me too, that would b great!! I love your work and I hope to hear from you!

  22. love all those tunes you listed! i have an eclectic range of music tastes, but the past month or two i’ve been running into some deep, funk-rock gems. one artist in particular, Betty Davis (2nd wife of Miles Davis) has been wearing out my ipod. she was a baaad mama-jama. everytime i listen to her music (especially “F.U.N.K.”) i can’t help but break out my fierce moves. i’ll admit, i haven’t been checking up on my afrobella as regularly as i should the past 2 months, so maybe you already spotlighted her. keep up the good work in all you do, patrice!

  23. MochaSiren says:

    Bella,

    First let me say…I love when your Dad comments. I have an older sis and a twin sis and even though we’re all growm up…our Dad is still so interested in and proud of all that we accomplish…aren’t Dads just GREAT???!!!
    About the exercise…this is an inspiring post because I am desperately trying to get back in gear. I’ve always enjoyed ellipticals too so appreciate the link as I have considered purchasing one.
    Have you heard of the jazz singer Maysa Leak? She’s the BOMB…a Baltimore native and still so underrated.
    Not only is her music unbelievable but she is trying to get fit and lose weight. And…she is chronicling her process in a diary on her website. Check her out when you get an opportunity! :-)

  24. This post is for me. I will have a long post about my training. I am back into a routine. I have been gone for too long and yes, it does feel great!

  25. I ove MIA, but im not feeling this song, I was so impressed with her last album ARULAR, its a rarity when I like every track on the album.Get post bella.

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  27. I love M.I.A, and I agree with u there is something about Brody. Soco always does it for me at the gym, right now the new Machel is on steady rotation for me .

  28. Thanks bella! I am big supporter of blk woman working it out and I am so glad that you did a post that encourages this. I love rocking it out and getting my body fit. Might you do a post about workout hair care? I have a short natural so I can just wash and go…but natural, straight or whatever many black women use the “hair” haps as an excuse. Thanks again for the post!

  29. jerseybred says:

    When I had cable I use to work out with my “buddies” On Demand. I also use to watch their dating videos [people are truly funny when put in front of a camera]. I love M.I.A., I know she tried to come to the States to work with different producers but she was denied a visa or something like that…my fav work out song “Eye of the Tiger”.

  30. MADRASI says:

    First off, in the MIA video, that beat was done by Madrasi drummers, MIA got that sample from India, because those drums and beats are for hindu ceremonies celebrated by the Tamil(Madrasi) people of India, trust me…I know because I’m from that area. Those are not tassa drums playing in the background, if you want to know more about the beat, look up “urumi” on youtube.

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