Top Five Songs ... 05.01.2019
DFM Masthead Disenfranchised FM Cuckoo's Eleven Top Five Songs Armchair Producer Music MD Tin Cans Scratch Take Life and Times Input


The month of May is a welcomed relief from the clutches of winter. Sure, April teases us with momentary weather delights, but we haven't reached the tipping point until May. Tulips and Mint Juleps serve as our reward for the literal and figurative thawing. The drones of buzzing lawn equipment usher us to reset our patio furniture and fire up the grill. The lakefront path returns to life from hibernation, runners and cyclists alike beginning their outdoor season anew. Before long, weather will be pleasant enough to bask in the Sun on the beaches of Lake Michigan. Wait ... that means I only have a few weeks to get "beach ready"? Have no fear, friends. This month's list is all about the music you need to stay motivated for your workouts. It's become an annual tradition to update my workout playlist. Too much continuity can make for a lackluster soundtrack. Others may carry over from the prior year as extended rotations. But then there are the few that sunk their hooks into the playlist and never looked back.

The idea of "giving 110%" has always bothered me (mathematically, that is, not the notion to push to your limit). These songs are what help me push through the temptation to quit, to break through and truly achieve your potential. I think of these songs like Star Power in Super Mario Bros., a temporary sense of invincibility. In the toughest of workouts, these are the songs remind me to suck it up and unlock Beast Mode. This month's guest writer is a master of both brutal workouts and playlists, and he's sure to up the enthusiasm for our theme.

About a year ago, I started taking workout classes at Inspyr Studios, an independent gym which offers a blend of HIIT, strength, cycle, and yoga. Since my college playing days, I've opted for solo training. If it's good enough for Clubber Lang, it's good enough for me. Inspyr made me realize how much I miss the camaraderie of team sports. I can't say enough about the coaches at Inspyr: they're all great people who keep the workouts fresh and definitely get me out of my comfort zone. Not only do they know you by name, but they somehow remember personal specifics like training goals, injuries to avoid, etc. Anthony Campo is Head Coach at Inspyr, and his classes are equal parts brutal and fun. I always know that I'm going to get my ass kicked in his classes, but they go by quickly because of his enthusiasm and music curation. As soon as I realized that he previously toured with a metal band as their lead guitarist, he became the obvious choice for this month's guest.

So let's get this party started. In case you're looking for an extended playlist for working out, I posted my longer list HERE. Remember, all lists need to be exclusive of Beatles and Stones. Something tells me that won't be hard this month ...

Top Five Songs

Matt's Picks

Anthony's Picks

NUMBER FIVE: LL Cool J - "Mama Said Knock You Out" [1991]

BPM: 102

Pairs well with: Squat Punches

NUMBER FIVE: Flo Rida (featuring Fitz) - "That's What I Like" [2015]

BPM: 128

Pairs well with: Gym-to-Club Crossovers

"Shadow boxing when I heard you on the radio."

"I go hard, so don't come lazy."

I think of this song as a more contemporary version of "Eye of the Tiger." Whether you've been caught off-guard by your rival or you're coming off a lackluster workout, it's time to set the record straight: you're down but not out. My college coach used to say, "You either get better or you get worse. You never stay the same." There's no time for licking wounds, because every moment you spend dwelling on the past is a moment wasted on getting better. So muscle up, buttercup, because it's time to get back on track. Just remember: once you're done working out, Grandma wants that trash taken to the curb.

Ever have a day where everything goes wrong? You wore mismatching socks, everybody at work forgot your birthday, you stepped in dog s***, it's snowing in April ... Yeah, we have days like this, but it's crazy how the power of music can flip our mood. Whether you are a casual shower singer, dance inside with your kids on a Saturday night, or you're rocking a workout, this song has the power to make your hips shake uncontrollably.

NUMBER FOUR: Rage Against the Machine - "Killing in the Name" [1992]

BPM: 82

Pairs well with: Medicine Slam Ball, 9-minute miles

NUMBER FOUR: Jason Richardson - "Tendinitis" [2018]

BPM: 172

Pairs well with: Sprints, sprints, sprints!

"F*** you. I won't do what you tell me."

This song also pairs well with shaving your head on the first day of football camp. But hey, if you're past the days of using your clippers, it's all good. You can still put this song to good use. In his memoir, Kirk Gibson wrote about "The Beast," that voice in the back of your head questioning your abilities. You're not fast enough. You're not strong enough. You should just quit. If I've learned anything in sports, it's that there is no shortage of doubters. Why give in and doubt yourself? Stop listening to The Beast. Get up in its face and remind it you're not going anywhere. Let Zach de la Rocha guide your way: f*** you, I won't do what you tell me.

Everyone has that song in their playlist that has a bit of grit to it. It's that song where your facial features scrunch, your head starts to bob, you throw your rock fingers up in the air like you've been bitten by the metal bug. Jason Richardson will do just that for you. If you are looking for jaw-dropping guitar solos, heavy distortion, and incredible drumming, look no further. Great song to push you through some of the toughest workouts. LET THE METAL BEGIN!

NUMBER THREE: Eminem - "Lose Yourself" [2002]

BPM: 172

Pairs well with: 8-minute miles on 8 Mile

NUMBER THREE: Motley Crue - "Kickstart My Heart" [1998]

BPM: 88

Pairs well with: Up-tempo cycling climbs

"Success is my only motherf***in' option, failure not."

"When I'm enraged or hitting the stage / Adrenaline rushing through my veins."

You knew there was going to be a little 313 in this list! I'll never forget the exact moment I heard this song. Heck, I can even tell you WHERE I was: I was tapering for my first marathon, and a Chicago radio station played a leaked version of the song. Over the opening chords, Marshall Mathers posits: "If you had one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted ... would you capture it, or just let it slip?" If you tell me you didn't want to set a personal best in SOMETHING when you heard that ... well, I am pretty sure that we can't be friends. For me, this song is a reminder that when you pursue a goal - whether that goal is sports, school, a promotion - you pursue it with an unbridled sense of urgency. Not for show. For yourself, because what matters most is what you do when nobody is watching.

Maybe you're throwing an 80's party, maybe you're looking for a stroll down memory lane ... or better yet, maybe you're looking for a kick-ass song to ride on an indoor cycle bike. With over 117 million hits on Spotify, this is arguably one of Motley Crue's best songs. This is the PERFECT song to jump on that indoor bike and rock with electricity out of the saddle. I challenge you to keep up with the tempo! If you looking for a classic song to rock your socks off, this is it!

NUMBER TWO: Beastie Boys - "Sabotage" [1986]

BPM: 168

Pairs well with: Burpees

NUMBER TWO: Far Out - "Worlds Apart" [2001]

BPM: 176

Pairs well with: Pre-Workout Centering

"I'll tell you now, I keep it on and on."

Everyone's favorite fauxback 70s cop show, starring: Nathan Wind, Vic Colfari, Alasandro Alegre, and Sir Stewart Wallace, as himself. Just like fans weren't ready for Paul's Boutique, they weren't expecting Beastie Boys to return to their punk roots. Ad-Rock and MCA lay down the power chords while Mike D unabashedly joins in with a simple snare pattern. Add in Ad-Rock's harmonic overdub and MCA's bass run, and you've got one of the greatest songs of the 90s. My position coach was a big fan of training us both physically and psychologically. During drills, he'd shout, "Sudden change!" and up-end the parameters of our drills. Sometimes that meant your running group didn't get a break and ran twice. Other times, the reps doubled. It trained us to embrace the chaos and respond with ferocity. All these years later, this song is a great reminder to embrace the suck.

Every playlist that I put together, whether for a cycle class or for my own workout, has to have one song to lock my mind in the right direction. It's that one song that speaks to you emotionally when you say "I'm too tired" or "I'd rather eat a pizza." It's that push-back that you need to empower your workout before it starts, to uplift your mind and give your workout a purpose. Every time I pop this song on my "why" floats in my mind like a carrot dangling above my head. Don't expect to get hit hard. Close your eyes and find your "why...".

NUMBER ONE: AC/DC - "Thunderstruck (Live)" [1992]

BPM: 136

Pairs well with: Pre-dawn long runs

NUMBER ONE: WAR*HALL - "Play with Fire" [2003]

BPM: 92

Pairs well with: Seven-minute miles, Lifting

"Sound of the drums / Beating in my heart / The thunder of guns / Tore me apart."

"I don't know any other way / I never lay down, never walk away / I keep pushing like a tidal wave."

No question, the studio recorded version of this song is fantastic. However, it's the live album version that pushes this song to the top of the list. Recorded at the 1991 Monsters of Rock festival, Live dramatically fades in to the sounds of the crowd chanting for Angus. There's no better start to a pre-sunrise long run than 70,000+ fans cheering you on. The crowd's energy surges just as Angus opens with his famous riff, and the effect is nothing short of levitation. The song's measure doesn't pair well with any particular pace, but trust me: you won't mind it one bit. You're up before dawn because you know that success isn't given; it's earned. And rent is due. Every. Day.

You're out for a 10-mile run and you've just gotten wind that Krispy Kreme is giving away free donuts. You realize that you're too far out to run back to get the car, so you need a song to hit your stride. I know, I know, it's "Playing with Fire," but you commit... and you're burning calories anyway, right? This is the perfect new age rock song to either buckle down on an outdoor run, smash the weight room with determination, or give you great beat to play the air drums in traffic.

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