The Best Most Worstest Workout Music Ever!

This week, my gym is having a special event in which all of the classes will have different themed music playlists. Fun, if perhaps a minor promotion for the amount of work entailed. (I have a feeling the people who had to put the playlists together might have started out thinking, “Yeah! We’ll make a bunch of playlists!” and ended thinking “Fricking Doombruggles! We have to make another playlist!” And yes, “Fricking Doombruggle” is the only profanity allowed at the gym.

But, while I enjoyed working out today to those ’80s hits that you’re not supposed to admit you enjoy, it does create the opportunity for some delightful mischief. For example, there’s one instructor whose tastes tend toward classic rock and punk—which is great for working out, by the way. But at the same time, it seems so hard to resist giving him a playlist of all Carpenters and Katy Perry. Or maybe starting a playlist normally for a few songs before dropping in the most show tuney show tune ever. (My first guess would be “I Am What I Am,” but I haven’t actually run the numbers.) Some of my workout buddies and I were trying to figure out what his reaction would be; probably shutting off the music and having the class continue in silence, but I could also see converting the class to 60 minutes of stair climbs.

And then I got to thinking, what would some truly terrible workout mixes be? I should admit: the music I have on my phone to accompany my runs is shit. It’s music I like, but it doesn’t have the driving beat or high energy that makes workouts better. But even though it’s bad, it’s not awesomely bad like these ideas:

CDs featuring music played on toolsThe Building Challenge: Featuring music played on power and hand tools, such as these albums, from my personal collection. (I used to work for a pair of trade magazines that covered the furniture- and cabinet-making industry. So it’s not completely random.) Ideal for ladder drills, flipping tires, and swinging sledgehammers. “In the Hall of the Mountain King” and “Habanera” are both quite good, so that sorts 6 minutes and 13 seconds. The rest is on your own.

Vulgarity that Christian Grandmas Won’t Get: “Afternoon Delight,” “Dancing With Myself,” “Puff the Magic Dragon,” “She Bop”. I have to think that dirty songs are great for any OCR workout, even if some of them aren’t actually dirty (yeah, right… and speaking as someone who was once groped live on PBS by Peter of Peter, Paul, and Mary during Pledge Week, I bet Puff the Magic Dragon is about pot, oral, and Rule 34 versions of everything from Stomp to The Great British Bake-Off.)

Lawrence Welk Classics: One time I was visiting my grandma, and she enjoyed watching Lawrence Welk reruns on PBS, and I’ve blocked that out of my memory apart from a vague memory of horribleness and one specific song introduction: One of the ladies very earnestly stated that she realized that a lot of people thought that the Lawrence Welk show could be kind of “square” (yes, she pronounced the quotes), but really, they showed just how “hip” (quotes pronounced again) they could be, by performing an Elvis Presley song, and I quote, “just a few short years after he died.” So obviously, this playlist would be appropriate for a lower body day, consisting of pull-ups, chest presses, bicep curls, cotton candy, and meth.

Songs Released By Drag Queens: Don’t get me wrong, I love me some RuPaul’s Drag Race, (1 week ’til Season 7!) but the music the contestants release is almost universally terrible. It would probably make the burpees fly by, though, if you could count through the Auto-tune.

The Most Unwanted Song: Holy cow, this exists. I didn’t know that before starting on this post. And it was created by science, or at least opinion polling, which is completely different. It’s 22 minutes long, which would make a decent HIIT workout, though you’d probably need 5 minutes of flatulence for warm-up and another 5 minutes of your family’s Thanksgiving political discussion for cool-down.

I’m sure there are many I’ve missed. What would your ideal terrible workout playlist be?


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