Sunday 17 September 2017

Workout Playlists - Each To Their Own

   Working out without music is like making omelettes without eggs. It just doesn't happen. In fact, sometimes it's the music alone that convinces me to use a certain DVD - I had the opening track to Hard Body level 1 stuck in my head one Friday night a few weeks ago, and the following morning used that very 45-minute workout because of it. I'd associated that track with the feeling of strength and power, and remembered that rather than the struggle. It was only once I started that I remembered how hard it was, but thinking back now, all I remember is music and power. I find the same from Gaiam's Kickbox Core Cross Train DVD. Music is, in itself, a powerful tool when it comes to setting a mood, and not just in movies or games, but in workouts and general day-to-day living, too. Who can't relax when they hear a shakuhachi?

   Anyway, that's all well and good for DVDs and streaming workout videos, but what about those Darebee workouts, or magazine classes, or when you're travelling? Some people can practise yoga in silence, but that's as far as it goes, and even that isn't for everyone.
   It's true that there are lots of workout mixes out there - Ministry of Sound have a few, Jillian Michaels has at least ten soundtracks on Amazon - but, if I'm honest, none of them do it for me. At all. I'm not a fan of pounding club music, I never have been, and while I'm certain its energy can power an amazing workout, I wouldn't voluntarily choose it.

   Now, it's no secret that I am a raging nerd. I'm a fantasy writer, I have to be a little bit off balance, right? My entire life revolves around things that aren't real. In fact my workout is the only time my brain is centred on the present - both time and place. But even then, if I'm left to my own devices, such as the above soundless workouts, I have my own go-to soundtracks.
   Generally, I only buy special/collector's editions of games if they come with a soundtrack, or I seriously love the franchise. And if they don't come with a soundtrack, I hunt it down. And so it is that my CD collection consists mostly of game soundtracks, with a few Lindsey Stirling and Duplessy & the Violins of the World albums, and, best of all, Two Steps From Hell. Who, I can guarantee, every single one of you reading this has heard. Most movie trailers use Two Steps From Hell as the backing music. Top Gear have used them countless times. Even the Reed UK job seeker's ads have used them - specifically Heart of Courage.
   My absolute favourites are The Witcher 3 soundtrack, the atmospheric disc from the Skyrim soundtrack (for quiet yoga or stretching), and, above all, Two Steps From Hell, absolutely any title. Because I like to pretend I am training in a fantasy world to fight whatever villain may threaten my people.

   And so it is that a good set of headphones or speakers (if you work out at home like I do) are just as important as a good pair of trainers, which especially goes when you absorb yourself in epic, atmospheric tracks like I do, where your imagination can run riot. I love Panasonic wireless speakers because the sound quality is some of the best and they can follow you wherever you go. If it's a nice morning - a rarety in this part of the country - I must do yoga in the back garden, and I don't actually have a smart phone or mp3 player (yes, I am still very behind the times) so my neighbours are subjected to my soundtracks. And just because it's yoga doesn't mean that it's always slow-paced. I actually quite like to use Witcher combat music while doing yoga. Each to their own.
   And sometimes it's worse for my neighbours, because when I'm obsessed with a game, that soundtrack becomes a temporary favourite (ie played to death). At the moment that's Destiny 2, which is quite orchestral, but there were also a few weeks of The Legend of Zelda, The Wind Waker, which...isn't so orchestral. But it's cheerful, at least!

   These kinds of soundtracks may not be everyone's cup of tea, but the epic orchestrals and fast-paced game soundtracks always do it for me. My imagination is freed (and actually leads to better writing later in the day) but my concentration isn't compromised, and I put a lot more effort in. Sometimes, if I'm just not feeling it, I'll mute whatever DVD I'm using, assuming I know it well enough, and play my own music over the top.

   What are your go-to workout soundtracks? Are they conventional? Or do you have a guilty pleasure? If it makes you run faster, lift stronger, jump higher and punch harder, it's worthy of a mention.


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