Let me hear your body talk

Posted by in February's Magazine

Or so sang Olivia Newton John in the 1980s. The video clip said it all, sweaty bodies in a gym pushing out reps to a lycra leotard-clad and leg-warmered Olivia. She was one of my heroes (as was Jane Fonda) and through my childhood years I’d make up dance routines and pretend I was an aerobics instructor. Our pet spaniel wasn’t a particularly receptive audience, however I think she was impressed with my Flashdance rendition.

Before I moved to this fine country nearly 20 years ago, I worked extensively in the music industry in Australia. I met the Ramones, used to be in charge of the singles charts in Australia, had my own public radio show and managed a live music venue. In other words, I loved my tunes and still do.



Music and exercise go hand in hand, and as a Personal Trainer I take my playlist very seriously. There are many old classics that tick these boxes, and below is a mixtape of my favourite exercise songs over the years. A good exercise song has the following:
1. A strong beat: not necessarily superfast
2. Catchy melody: to hum along to
3. Uplifting lyrics: ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me’ by Culture Club not appropriate

Lust For Life: Iggy Pop
Possibly the best song in the world for skipping rope to, with a propulsive beat. Mr Pop first came to my attention with the Trainspotting soundtrack (not the fittest movie in the world, but one of the best soundtracks). I served Iggy a pint at an old Aussie bar I worked in and he was a real gentleman.

Connection: Elastica
2 minutes 20 seconds of pure energy. I aim for a good gender balance on my studio playlist (especially as 70% of my clients are women). The chorus goes POW!

Lazy: X-Press 2 featuring David Byrne
Irony is the key word, and the beat is brilliant for bodyweight strength exercises. You don’t want pumping techno to do strength to, it’s bloody annoying and far too fast to exercise with proper form.

Sun is Shining: Bob Marley
Crank up the SAD light and pop on a bit of Bob to exercise your way through the darkest winter. Reggae is surprisingly suitable for weightlifting.

Pass the Dutchie: Musical Youth
A decade ago when I used to run the ‘Monday Night Feelgood’ aerobics class at Pilrig Church hall, this was a
favourite. It always got the group giggling, and is a great tempo for squats or resistance band work. As for the chorus…

Get Your Freak On:Missy Elliot
Takes me back to shaking my thang on the dance floor of Club Mingin’ at
Studio 24 in the early noughties. It was also the theme song for the excellent Sport England ad campaign ‘This Girl Can’ (check out www.thisgirlcan.co.uk), and is a damned fine exercise tune.

Anything by Ali Farka Touré or his offspring
African music gets people moving, and the Granddaddy of music from Mali is no exception. It creates a happy sunshine vibe, with an infectious beat. I amuse myself by making up words as I sing along.

Normal Person: Arcade Fire
Songs that question accepted norms bring out the rebel in people: “I’ve never really ever met a normal person.” Whybe normal when you can be exceptional?

Love Generation: Bob Sinclair
Lyrics that lift you up, up, up. I like songs that put people in a good mental space, and Mr Sinclair is a master of the happy tunes.

Walk Like a Panther: Tony Christie
A favourite song with my aqua aerobics class, this has never left my fitness playlist and has cracking lyrics and a strong beat. I would love to walk like a panther… And fly like an eagle.

Extensive research shows that simply having good tunes on in the background as you workout can increase the effectiveness of your exercising, by a significant percentage. This quote from the Scientific American website says it all:

“In the last 10 years the body of research on workout music has swelled considerably, helping psychologists refine their ideas about why exercise and music are such an effective pairing for so many people as well as how music changes the body and mind during physical exertion. Music distracts people from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort and may even promote metabolic efficiency. When listening to music, people run farther, bike longer and swim faster than usual—often without realising it… One can think of music as ‘a type of legal performance-enhancing drug’.” Just say yes.

In the studio there’s a playlist of over 500 songs which I’m always adding to. What are your favourite tunes to exercise to? Tweet or Facebook me and I’ll add them on. If dancing to live music is your preferred form of exercise, I urge you to visit the newly opened Leith Depot, Leith’s newest live music venue on Leith Walk. You’ll find me at the front of the audience!

Twitter: @tracygriffen
Facebook: /griffenfitnesss

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