It occurred to me this morning, during my Spin class, that I’ve probably worked out to three decades of different music. The thought came during a sweaty hill-climbing portion that was accompanied by a horribly loud Nickelback song that was also loudly horrible. One has to think the teacher is somewhat of a sadist for blasting that particular song while our crotches were being impaled by bike seats. It might have been a misdemeanor.
I started going to work-out classes when I was in high school and took Advanced Aerobics at the community center. It was the 80’s, so there were lots of leotards and headbands and unsafe moves like the “whip your head between your legs and back as fast as possible, then do a few hundred grapevines.” The music for those classes was whatever cassette tape the middle-aged teacher could pilfer from her teenager’s car. So, mostly Iron Maiden. (Her son Randy was like, a total burn-out.) Then Bruce Springsteen’s landmark “Born In The USA” album came out and class was forever changed.
Our teacher fell head over heels for The Boss, so every exercise we did from then on was to one of his songs. Knee lifts to “Glory Days,” straight leg sit-ups to “Cover Me” and windmills to “Dancing In The Dark.” And thanks to endless fire hydrant leg lifts, I still can’t hear “I’m On Fire” without my thighs involuntarily shuddering. I hope I never meet Bruce in person because I’m 100% certain I’d get down on all fours and illustrate that little anecdote for him. “See? I’m like a dog! Pee on the hydrant! Pee on the hydrant!”
In college, my best friend Megan and I joined a gym called “Better Bodies” and we fell in love with step aerobics. Our favorite teacher, Jill, would blast the fastest punk music she could find, the Circle Jerks or the Dead Kennedys, then she’d hop up and down and randomly yell out the names of moves she knew, but nobody else seemed to know. “Monkey Hammer! Now pivot! Now Cheese Grater! Cheese Grater! And….Dirty Sinkbowl!” We later found out that the reason Jill had such high energy wasn’t from exercise, but from a substance abuse problem. Rumor has it she kept her stash under her step.
I also took an aerobics class in college that was part of the curriculum. It was held in a beautiful wood-floored room with huge windows. Whenever I walked in, I almost felt like a dance major. But unfortunately, the 9-weeks of classes weren’t spent doing pliés, rather, they were spent learning a choreographed routine to Wang Chung’s inventively named song, “Everybody Wang Chung Tonight.” The real dance majors would lean against the wall in their flawless leotards and leg warmers, laughing their tiny asses off while our all-shapes/all-sizes group of left feet did moves that usually included jazz hands and always included the box step. Thank god there was no easy way to videotape people back then or we’d have gone viral, I’m sure of it.
After college, I lived in Los Angeles for a long time, and I regularly worked out, but I don’t really remember any songs from those classes. That may be because the teachers liked to talk over the music a lot. I think most of them were performers and this was their time to shine and tell us stories about the day they met Kato Kaelin at the dog park. They usually just stared at themselves in the mirrors the entire time and only paid us attention whenever we had to take our heart rate using two fingers on our neck. (Did anyone ever understand that? I didn’t. 120? Is that good or am I dying?)
I also don’t remember the music from the classes I took at Warner Bros. when I worked there. (The studio lot has an on-site gym.) But that’s probably because there was usually a random star sighting and my head would fill with the “EEE EEE EE EEE DON’T LOOK DON’T LOOK—NOW LOOK!” noise I hear whenever I see someone famous. Once my friend Laura fell off the recumbent bike trying to get a peek of Jennifer Aniston doing squats, but she said the sprain was totally worth it.
Which somehow brings us back to this morning’s class. Nickelback was followed by “Party Rock” by LMFAO, followed by “Gangnam Style.” I’m no music snob, but that’s some bad shit, right there, kid. It was like a bar mitzvah with sports bras. But I guess I’ve worked out long enough to know that decent music can really motivate people while they exercise. And, more important, stop them from faking deep vein thrombosis so they can hide out in the ladies room and play Candy Crush until class is over. I mean, blast some Ike & Tina doing “Proud Mary” and I’ll pedal my crabby little butt off.
“You see we never ever do nothing—nice and easy. We always do it nice—and rough.” Tell it, Tina.
So maybe the next time I go to Spin class, I’ll give the teacher an iTunes gift card and ask her to upgrade her playlist. Ask her to finally buy some awesome music.
Maybe even some Wang Chung.