You played what?! Classical?!

How do most of us get motivated to push through the comfort zone when it comes to exercise? What gets you through these last 3 reps, last series of 10 press ups or last powerful 15 second sprint? For me it has always been music.

And pep talk. Usually my own. I mean it. I huff and puff and shout at myself. Internally. Mostly. But when I was climbing real hills in Spain on a bike heavier even than my Pinnacle Warhorse, fighting gradient 10-15% for the first time in my life, I was actually talking to myself out loud as if I was a participant in my own class. I may have looked slightly insane but I ploughed through those hills like a tank, first in my group.
But I digress.

Let’s go back to music. Music is the key when it comes to group exercise environment. And I mentioned in my previous posts – if the instructor doesn’t connect with the music, they will find it a mission to get you to connect to it.

Sometimes it is not that big a deal: someone asks me to play a song and as long as I can use it in my profile to achieve a desired effect I don’t have to be the biggest fan of the song. It will only be 4 minutes.

And it is good for any instructor to get out of their comfort zone and play something different from time to time. To shake things up a bit. I know I love my 90s, 80s, dance, but you will also get to hear Elvis, Enya, DJ Khaled and Blackstreet in my classes.

Two of my favourite playlists I have created so far (one being actually compiled in 80% by Robert Baldi for ICA) are the Tour de France “London Calling stage” and one I called “Across the Music”.

The first one includes only British artists and some rock songs which is not my usual cup of tea at all. But the class ends on a flat race of 8 minutes to the phenomenal piece of music that was the soundtrack to the Pandemonium sequence during the London Olympics opening ceremony. It is one of the most powerful pieces I have ever heard and it’s fantastic to use in a class.

I created the second one “Across the Music” trying to get everyone to find something for themselves so I had fun and focused on ensuring every song was from a different genre. there is Lord of the Dance track, dancehall, Elton John, The Prodigy and even Mack the Knife to finish it all off. To see the surprise on people’s faces is priceless. That “Am I hearing this right?!” moment is pure joy.

That positive reaction gave me courage to use classical Carmina Burana composition for a final race in another class. The build up of the tension, tempo, soft voices to the overwhelming choir at the end. I had shivers down my spine. You can’t ignore it! It makes your legs spin up faster against your will!

The most surprising for me though was a playlist that included 50% of old school garage songs. I kid you not: I had people of all ages and cultural backgrounds whooping during and after the class, applause going on and requests for repeat the following week. I was shocked.

I guess my advice is be bold. Don’t assume people’s tastes. Experiment.

I have a weekly class in a small gym in NW London. It is a very particular and multicultural place. Very different from anywhere else I teach as big part of the group speaks English as a second language and I get a few Muslim clients wearing head scarfs too. And yet again when I asked people for song suggestions a girl I would never have thought had a rave past, asked for some Artful Dodger and explained her choice as follows: “You see old school garage resonates with so many people because we all used to go out raving back in the day and this is what we ALL danced to. It takes us ALL back!”

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