Exercise is an essential part of my week. It’s proven to have an absolute bouquet of benefits for the body, mind, and emotional wellbeing.
One of the best things about exercise is that it’s very flexible; you can choose whatever exercise fits your lifestyle and ability; from running (sadly no more for me and my GTPS-ridden hip) to dance to aqua aerobics to weightlifting to yoga to squash to literally any other activity that gets your body moving in some way!
A best friend to exercise is music. For many of us, headphones are a necessity for a workout and there are multiple reasons why. You might be nervous walking into a gym setting and headphones make you feel safer. Maybe workout time for you, like it is for me, is self-care time, which needs focus. And/ or your workout might feel more productive with music.
‘Research has shown that listening to music can distract you from “bodily awareness”. Whether it’s tiredness or a troublesome stitch, the right set of songs could help you push on through, and in fact, increase performance by up to 15%.’
While I mix up my music when I workout, I noticed that there is an overarching, unchanging, set of categories that exist throughout each workout. They work as a double-edged aid to improve physical performance in the workout (specifically helping to motivate in a longer workout session – something like 30-40 mins HIIT cardio on the treadmill) as well as aiding with continuous mental health care.
I’ll start off with my categories and why I listen to them in the order I do, before giving you an example playlist to help you build your own mind-boosting motivation playlist!
Note: Trauma Cuddles and Gym Bro Power are interchangeable. If I’m feeling specifically tender, I’ll build up some rage with Gym Bro before facing the trauma! Sometimes I don’t feel like I even need the trauma cuddling- if that’s the case it’s extra Gym Bro or Proud as Punch reflection.
We start off light; bubbly enough to make your fast-hardening muscles feel weightless. This category is all about building energy and pushing past those first hurdles before getting into a rhythm.
Mental health is a constant balancing act and I balance it best with exercise. So, it makes sense that I do a lot of my trauma processing, habituation, and more general mood-boosting work during exercise. This, alongside journaling (which I have to admit has been slacking lately), allows a great harmony between a proactive and reflective approach to wellness.
Gym Bro Power
This is the sheer confidence boost, ‘I’m hench as f**k’, power up zone. At this point of the workout, I’ve reminded myself of my mental strength through openness and vulnerability from Trauma Cuddling, and now it’s time to hit another level. This category gets me feeling like Dwayne Johnson, Van Damme, Itsuki Hirata, Rose Namajunas, Marie Ruumet and the absolute legend that is Jonathon Cabot (Gymkata) all at once.
Proud as Punch Reflection
Coming to the end of the workout, it’s so important to finish on a high. Even if you didn’t work out as ‘well’ as you planned. If you got a stitch or cramp or the inner voice in your head was louder in telling you to stop – it doesn’t matter. What matters most is that you’re here. You showed up. You’re trying and that is the most Gym Bro Power/ Mental Health Goddess thing ever.
Bathe in that pride with some songs that celebrate you!
Now you’ve got an idea of the categories, I wanted to give you guys some of my most effective songs. You might recognize some from my 2021 Motivation Running Playlist, back when I could run my little heart out.. (enter: wallow in self-pity time).
Cheesy Motivation Songs:
- Flyday Chinatown – EVADE FROM 宇宙’ – This song is an absolute bop for me right now. It’s City Pop, Synthwave, upbeat, and funky as heck.
- Cure for Me – AURORA
- Africa – TOTO – There is a metal cover by Leo that slots well into Gym Bro Power
- Strong Enough – Cher
- The Eve of War – Jeff Wayne (War of the Worlds Soundtrack) – Utilise your inner nerd for emotional and physical gains!
- Affirmation – Savage Garden
- In The Car Outside – The Killers
- Oliver Twist – ArrDee
- The Cult of Dionysus – The Orion Experience
- Zenzenzense – RADWIMPS
- Kung Fury – Mitch Murder
- Elastic Heart – Sia
- Til It Happens to You – Lady Gaga
- Zombie – Bad Wolves
- Praying – Kesha
- I Say No – Heathers Soundtrack
- Not Ready to Make Nice – Dixie Chicks – I heard about this song recently from my book club. We got chatting about rules for women and expectations for us to just ‘get over’ bad things, that being angry is unattractive and it’s much prettier and better for us to just move on. I love this song because it highlights the humanity of emotions, accepting anger as a healthy emotion and something that women are entitled to feel.
- Ito – Aimer
- If You Could See Me Now – The Script
- Sound of Silence – Disturbed
- One Day More – Les Miserables Soundtrack
- I Lived- One Republic – Some may say listening to your dad’s funeral song at the gym is a little counter productive. But for those who’ve read this blog for a while know how I use exercise as a way to healthily grieve my dad. I like to think of him when I work out because it’s a passion we both share.
Gym Bro Power
- Till I Collapse – Eminem
- Packs and Potions – HAZEY
- Watch Me – The Pom Poms
- Face Off – Tech N9ne, Dwayne Johnson, Joey Cool, King Iso
- Heart of a Champion – Nelly
- Sissy that Walk – Ru Paul
- Never Satisfied – CORPSE
- Monet- LISA
- Love to Hate Me – BLACKPINK
- Boss B**ch – Doja Cat
- Panama Ibiza – QV Trap – This came from a playlist merge with Niko. After hearing it once I knew it had to join my gym playlist. The beat is awesome for keeping pace too.
Proud as Punch Reflection
- Vindicated – Dashboard Confessional
- Like a Girl – Lizzo
- Last One Standing – Skylar Grey ft. Eminem, Polo G, Mozzy
- Energy – Tyla Jane
- Stand Out, Fit In – ONE OK ROCK
- The Greatest – Sia
- ‘Over The Rainbow’ by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole
- Sombre Con – Rose
- Space – Biffy Clyro
- Safe and Sound – Capital Cities
There are so many more songs I could feature in this post but I hope this is enough to get those musical cogs turning!
You are fantastic.
You’re living in a time that is terrifying and troubling and yet is still beautiful and inspiring. When/ if you’re feeling down or overwhelmed I hope this post helps to give you a direction. Even if you don’t fancy a workout today – open up Spotify and get a playlist together. I can assure you it’ll help.
I’d love to hear your favourite workout songs. And what do you think of my categories? Anything you’d add/ switch out?
I’m proud of who I am
No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done
Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come
‘Music Use for Mood Regulation’, NCBI