A good workout playlist will inspire exercise classes

01/24/2013 12:00 AM

01/23/2013 11:55 PM

With nearly a month of the new year behind us, it's a good time to check in on that resolution to get physically fit in 2013.

The perfect workout soundtrack can inspire even the most sluggish of people who aspire to get fit. But not just any music playlist will do – tone, tempo, and lyrics can make a big difference in a workout.

And what's true for the individual is multiplied for a group. For exercise classes, finding the right songs to inspire dozens of students to meet their fitness goals can be a challenge for workout leaders.

Gone are the days of Muzak loops helping spandex-clad participants get physical. With athletic clubs offering classes ranging from aquatic fitness to boot camp, today's playlists must be as diverse and innovative as the aerobic classes themselves. Epic film scores partner with disco classics to create a class environment ripe for getting in shape.

Jonna Edwinson, group fitness director at the Capital Athletic Club in downtown Sacramento, looks for songs that are popular, upbeat and motivational for her group exercise classes. She likes Florence + the Machine's "Dog Days Are Over" for its versatility in different workouts.

"The positive energy it gives off to people is very effective in class," she said.

Edwinson said she sees that as group classes become more popular, instructors try to be more eclectic in song choice to encourage a wide variety of members to take classes.

Brian Luu, coordinator of fitness and wellness at UC Davis, plays to his audience of '90s kids. His cycling classes blend Top 40 hits, dance remixes and the occasional Disney soundtrack throwback to create a playlist that is "a mix of fun and seriousness."

"Once in a while I'll throw in 'Make a Man Out of You' from the 'Mulan' soundtrack, which we do for hills. People find it to be lots of fun because they recognize that song from the movie," Luu said.

Those hills and valleys that students encounter in cycling classes allow for creativity in music choices. "My supervisor uses songs from 'The Last of the Mohicans' soundtrack," he said.

Rose Zahnn and Marc Cinder of midtown Sacramento's Healthy Habits Studio favor AC/DC's "Back in Black" for spin classes, which Cinder deems "the ultimate badass song."

The heavy-metal anthem also suits Fit Body boot camp because "it makes you feel tough and strong, like 'Let's lift some heavy weights!' " said Zahnn.

For anyone closer to the Greatest Generation than Generation X, an exercise playlist of classic tunes isn't hard to come by. For her senior aquatic fitness class at Roseville Health and Wellness, Elaine Hopper tailors her playlist to fit her audience.

"Today I played the 'Biggest Loser Workout Mix,' and it was '50s hits – that's all continual music that was specifically mixed for fitness classes," said Hopper.

Kelly Holmes, fitness instructor at Results the 24 Hour Gym, faces the challenge that comes from having participants ranging in age from 20 to 70 in her Zumba classes.

"Finding music that pleases that wide of an age group is something that's always important to me," Holmes said.

Zumba is an aerobic dance program that incorporates elements of salsa, merengue and hip-hop. Keeping her class's energy up is key, and the warm-up song must set the tone for the high-energy workout.

"For the first warm-up, I try to pick a Top 40 song or something recognizable. It seems to get everyone more energized if it's a song they're familiar with and they can even sing along to," said Holmes.

Fitness experts say lyrics can make or break a music playlist's ability to inspire the exerciser to burn calories. The fun message and pulsing beat of the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" motivates through the good vibes it gives out. "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor encourages listeners to defeat a particularly steep hill in a cycling class.

On the other side of the coin, according to fitness folks, there are lyrics that may hamper the success of even a well-intentioned workout. A Top 40 club thumper may actually have maudlin lyrics; a song with what sounded like a good beat might be difficult to dance to and lead to some less-than-desirable effects – "Boom Boom Pow" by Black Eyed Peas, for example.

Healthy Habit's Zahnn likes to end with a song whose lyrics resonate with her students. "Christina Aguilera's 'Beautiful' is empowering and feels good after pushing yourself hard in any class," she said.

For anyone building a personal workout playlist, the things to consider are upbeat lyrics, a driving beat, and tempos that ebb and flow with the workout plan.


Perspiration inspiration

Here are some tunes chosen by area fitness instructors for their classes:

Jonna Edwinson

Capitol Athletic Club

Class: Boot Camp

1. "We Found Love" by Rihanna

2. "Feel So Close" by Calvin Harris

3. "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence + the Machine

4. "I Gotta Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas

5. "Good Life" by One Republic


Brian Luu

UC Davis Fitness & Wellness

Class: Cycle

1. "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor

2. "Better Off Alone" by Alice Deejay

3. "Shut Up and Drive" by Rihanna

4. "I'm Yours (Exercise Remix)" by Jason Mraz

5. "Ooh Aah Just a Little Bit" by Gina G


Elaine Hopper

Roseville Health and Wellness

Class: Senior aquatic fitness

1. "Kansas City" by Wilbert Harrison

2. "Let the Good Times Roll" by Shirley & Lee

3. "Blueberry Hill" by Fats Domino

4. "There Goes My Baby" by the Drifters

5. "All I Have to Do is Dream" by the Everly Brothers


Rose Zahnn

Healthy Habits Studio

Class: Fit Body Boot Camp

1. "Back in Black" by AC/DC

2. "Shake Your Groove Thing" by Peaches & Herb

3. "Bust a Move" by Young MC

4. "Lose Yourself" by Eminem

5. "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera


Kelly Holmes

Results the 24 Hour Gym

Class: Zumba

1. "Hips Don't Lie/Bamboo (2006 FIFA Mix)" by Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean

2. "Nina Bonita" by Chino & Nacho

3. "Fuego a La Jicotea" by Marvin Santiago

4. "Quedate Mas (I Want You Back)" by Los Super Reyes

5. "Danza Kuduro" by Don Omar and Lucenzo

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