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Workout Podcast Number One | Saturday, October 18th, 2008

"What are you listening to?" she asked me, as she yanked my cheap, wrap-around headphones off the back of my neck and put her ear to them. She's cute, about 25, and not in the superhuman shape you'd expect from someone in her line of work. Her figure is quite average, actually. She wears 80s headbands and countryside doo-rags, which would come off as depressingly hipster if she wasn't half-Greek. Because of her heritage she can pull it off, and now it just makes her looks hip, sans stir.

I'd never had a personal trainer before. Whether through sheer confidence in my limited knowledge of nutrition and exercise, or uncertainty in the same, I never got around to being ok with the idea of someone intently watching me work out. It's actually kinda creepy.

Music's always been a big help to getting me motivated at the gym. The connection between music and exercise is well documented. It goes deeper than just being a welcome distraction - it actually enhances athletic performance. How much of this is physical (synchronous music + muscle signals) or psychological (lyrical motivation) in my case is something I ignore... but fortunately, something that my personal trainer doesn't.

Lots of my friends listen to podcasts when they run or workout. I always found it strange, the idea of listening to someone speak slowly into my ear as I'm trying desperately to beat my best lap time on the treadmill. But for the last few weeks, podcasts from The Free Library of Philadelphia and EarIdeas have been taking up more and more space on my mp3 player. I figured it made sense to use that time at the gym to also catch up on news, politics and philosophy, and that I could do without hearing the same songs I've listened to time and time again.

Noticeably, though, I started seeing two disturbing trends as I started listening to spoken word podcasts instead of music: One, I'd be able to run for longer amounts of time at a slower speed, but for much shorter distances at high speed; and Two, I was unable to lift weights with the same intensity. Indeed, I didn't only plateau - I regressed. Without noticing, I started lifting lighter weights without increasing the number of repetitions or sets. This went on for a few months before my trainer chastised me for it back in August:

- "What is this?"
- "It's a podcast about the privatization of the U.S. military."
- "That sounds really interesting, but why are you listening to this now?"
- "I dunno, I thought I could do two things at once."
- "Judging by the way you've been working out today, you can't do one thing at once."
- "..."
- "Listen, I'll make you a deal... you can listen to this stuff on long runs and jogs, or on the bike, but when you're sprinting or lifting weights I want you listening to something a little higher-energy, ok? If you're able to pay attention to congressional investigations of some company, then you're not working out hard enough. Understand?"

When I got back from Colombia way back in January, I wasn't in good shape at all. I'd only been going to the gym in Medellin a couple times a week, and the food there certainly didn't help either. I got back to my regular routine, but continuous trips to the U.S. and Europe didn't help matters either. When I got back from Paris in July though, I started working out pretty hardcore again. I hadn't modified my workout program much in years, since it seemed to give me pretty good results. Now, though, I felt like I wanted to focus a little more on gaining mass and less on muscular endurance, which is what I'd been aiming for thus far.

My personal trainer helped me draw up a workout program incorporating the parts of my old program that had worked well for me so far, as well as new exercises and activities to help build muscle mass and strength. Most importantly, though, she made me totally rethink my diet and what's "ok" to eat - since I'm now working out for size, I'm able, and supposed, to eat a lot more than before. I'll spare you the details, but in all likelihood, I consume more calories before lunch than you get all day. Believe it or not, though, it's way harder to get bigger than it is to lose fat. I found it much easier to eat less when I wanted to lose weight, than to carry on eating despite being full. I love food, though, so it's not that much to worry about. :)

So, here is a short podcast with some songs to get you going at the gym. I'll probably make 2 or 3 more of these, each from a different genre of music, but all of them meant to help you get that extra 15% - 20% from your workout. This one focuses on heavier rock and alternative.

Here's the playlist:

Scars on Broadway - They Say
Muse - Maps of the Problematique
Pennywise - Victim of Reality
Disturbed - Inside The Fire
10 Years - Seven
Atreyu - Slow Burn
Theory of a Dead Man - Bad Girlfriend
Puddle of Mudd - Psycho
Queens of the Stone Age - I Wanna Make it with Chu

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