Certain songs make me nostalgic for a particular time or place. The first kiss song. That break-your-heart, break-up song. The crackling ember campfire song that makes me long for sleep away camp even though I hated sleep-away camp. When these tunes come on the radio as I'm driving along in my SUV, I am instantly flooded with memories. Air Supply, Donna Summers, Joni Mitchell. I know I'm lame (and old), but, as long as the windows are up, I sing along.
And then there are the Gym Anthems.
If you go to the gym a few times a week like I do, then you know what kind of tunes I'm referring to. Think top 40, heavy-bass, techno/dance music.
Gym Anthems are songs that come on the car radio and make me think of doing push ups. Of pedaling as fast as is humanly possible on a stationary bike in a cycling class. Of counting reps as I do bicep curls with 2-pound weights in hand. Rihanna. LMFAO. Flo Rida. The strangest sensation comes over me when I hear one of these tunes outside of the walls of the gym. I'll be driving to pick up my kids from school -- and bam -- on comes Rihanna's latest and greatest, the one that sounds like this: "We fell in love in a homeless place... " and it's like I want to start running on a treadmill at a 4 percent incline.
My response to Top 40 music is Pavlovian.
I'm pretty sure that's when Rihanna imagined her album going platinum or whatever, she did not sit around with her producers fantasizing about some 40 year-old suburban woman recognizing her No. 1 single as a cardio torture song.
I'm pretty sure that this tune was meant for rocking out at a club.*
*And, no, New York Sports Club doesn't count.
Similarly, when Adele wrote her amazingly sad ballad "Someone Like You," did she sit at the piano during a creative explosion and think, "I want to write the hottest cool down song of the year?" Does Adele know that every time I hear this song, I am stretching my hips after spin class and basically staring at my own crotch? DOES SHE KNOW THIS? I really feel like this is important information to share with the artist. I could use her own lyrics and everything, saying, Adele, I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited, but I couldn't stay away, I couldn't fight it...
So. This phenomenon got me thinking. Since so many people will be heading back to the Stairmaster this January, with a renewed club membership and a renewed sense of purpose, I thought I'd help you find the right tunes. What would be some fun pairings of music and gym activities for the New Year, like partnering wine with cheese or wine with a glass? What will be your ultimate Gym Anthems of 2012?
Here are some teams to try.
Doing box jumps:
"Never Again" by Ja Rule
Running up and down stairs while your trainer looks on menacingly:
"Titus Andronicus" by Titus Andronicus
Getting stuck in the last row during a filled-to-capacity spin class:
"Fat Bottom Girls" by Queen
Counting sit-ups with the occasional wink-and-nod to your hot self in the mirror:
"Gold on the Ceiling" by The Black Keys
Subtly adjusting one's package, surreptitious nose digging, picking of thwedgie (thong wedgie), or yoga farting:
"I Wanna Do It" by Sonny and the Sunsets
Running on a treadmill while watching a Zumba class through a glass
"Armada Latina" by Cypress Hill, featuring Pitbull and Mark Anthony
Sizing up the competition before a group fitness class begins, such as,
who brings her own yoga mat, wears the newest Lululemon tank, has the biggest pocketbook hanging off the thinnest arm... you know, basic stuff like that:
"Fly" by Nicki Minaj & Rihanna
Bouncing on an elliptical machine to a guilty pleasure song that you don't tell anyone you bought, and which, when a friend walks by, you immediately change over to Coldplay on your iPod:
"Love You Like a Love Song" by (yikes) Selena Gomez
Strutting and/or Peacocking and/or bending over the water fountain provocatively:
"Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer (men)
"Vogue" by Madonna (women)
Relaxing during a shower and a steam using bath products pocketed
from a W hotel:
"5 O'Clock in the Morning" by T-Pain and Lily Allen
Waiting in line for a post-workout smoothie in your Free City hoodie and new sneakers:
"Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People
Sitting on the couch after deciding not to go to the gym in order to catch up on new episodes of The Bachelor:
"This Year's Love" by David Gray (Yes, there's a song for that. Turns out, there's a song for everything.)
Good luck, gym rats and couch potatoes alike. Let me know what you're listening to while signing up online for your favorite spin bike, or doing tai chi, or reading Self magazine, or anything else somewhat related to fitness.