As a fitness instructor, I’m well aware of the power music has to make or break a class. Nothing pumps up a group more than the perfect song at the perfect tempo. Want the class to spin a little faster? Put on some Prince, “Let’s Go Crazy” and the class will do just that. Want members to crank up the gear and climb Mt. Everest? A little Black Eyed Peas and its steady beats is all it takes to make it to the summit.
Music has this power to take us back. Hum a few bars of Lionel Richie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling” and I’m in fourth grade with my stirrup pants and jelly shoes. “It Takes Two” by MC Rob Base and DJ EZ Roc is considered a classic in my house. Listening to it takes me right back to the days when my friend Suzy and I used to make up dance routines that included such phenomenal moves as the Roger Rabbit and the Running Man. J. Lo and the Fly Girls could have learned a thing or two from us.
Music is a great motivator. It can inspire. It can drive. It can push. It can cheer. And it can make me a better runner.
I don’t want to debate the pros and cons of listening to music while running. That’s for another blog. I’m aware that there are many who prefer to listen to the sounds of their foot falls as they run rather than the sounds of Lady Gaga and her little monsters.
But there are some songs that just get my legs pumping and my heart surging. Here are a few.
1. “Reason to Believe" by Dashboard Confessional. This song was made for runners. All of the lyrics apply to those of us who love to pound the pavement, especially during a hard run. My favorite line screams, “I have reasons to believe, that I have victories to taste...I can feel them on my teeth, upon my lips and in my chest...I feel the tension in my lungs and every move is filled by my resolve to breath.”
I couldn’t say it better myself.
2. “Time of My Life" by David Cook. Not the most exciting of songs, but the words expressed my emotions at the Boston Marathon so perfectly that I used it with the video I made to capture my experience. It truly was the time of my life and I savored every footstep.
3. “How Far We’ve Come“ by Matchbox Twenty. This song has been on every play list for every race I’ve ever run. It reminds me, in particular, of the Ragnar Relay Races I’ve run and is the perfect song to end a 188-mile race with 11 of your smelliest friends! The fast tempo and Rob Thomas yelling, “Let’s see how far we’ve come.” just gets me going every time.
3. “Kings and Queens" by 30 Seconds to Mars. This happened to be the theme song of the 2010 Tour de France. Remember cute Jared Leto from the ‘90s teenage angst show, “My So Called Life”? Well, that sweet, blue-eyed boy turned out to be quite the rocker and is now the lead singer of this incredible group. When he belts out, “We are the kings. We are the queens.” at the end, my heart soars and my legs pick up the pace.
4. “Closer to the Edge" by 30 Seconds to Mars. Another great song by Jared and the gang. The best part of the song are words that I live by: "I will never forget...I will never regret...I will live my life.” In my opinion, there’s no better way to live life to the fullest than to run.
5. “Holding Out for a Hero" the Powermusic Workout remix. This song is purely sentimental. The lyrics have nothing to do with running. They don’t inspire me to run like a cheetah. They don’t make me feel like a Kenyan. This song does, however, remind me of two of my closest friends, Tonya and Shelly, who have cheered me on from the beginning of my running adventure. I know they secretly think I’m certifiably insane for my passion for running. In fact, Shelly has a play list on her iPod which she titled, “I Hate Running." No joke.
But they bought me my first pasta dinner before my first marathon. Tonya was with me when we reached the 90-mile mark of our first century bike ride and we mutually melted down at the thought of finishing the last 10 miles. Shelly was eyewitness to my most horrible of finishes at the Park City Marathon last year. It’s doubtful she’ll ever consider running a marathon after seeing me limp across the finish line and land in a crying, messy heap at her feet.
When I hear this song, I remember all the long rides we went on together and how this song always seemed to be somewhere in the background. It just makes me smile.
If you find yourself struggling on a run or a hard workout, music can pull you up and carry you through. It can inspire you to push on and be better than you thought you could be. It can put a smile on your face and make you believe you can do the impossible.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, Young M.C. is telling me to “Bust a Move.”
Kim Cowart is a wife, mother, marathoner and 24-Hour Fitness instructor who occasionally still breaks out the Roger Rabbit moves, but only when her kids' friends are around.