Many studies have shown that working out to music can have a number of positive effects and help us to push ourselves further. Music is also strongly linked to personal memories and hearing certain tracks can transport us to a particular moment in time. In this occasional series of posts, I’d like to introduce some of my favourite tracks from my workout playlist and share some of the memories they have given me.
Defying Gravity – Kerry Ellis
I do love a show tune, and this one I find particularly inspiring! Back in December I shared a Tunes on Tuesday post on that omnipresent behemoth Let it Go sung by Idina Menzel and the song I’m writing about today is probably better known for being sung by Menzel when she formed part of the original cast of hit musical Wicked. I love that version too, but this version by Kerry Ellis lends itself so well to running that this is the one I keep in my playlist.
My relationship with musicals goes back a long way. When I was a child we used to always take a family trip to the local pantomime at Christmas time, but as my sister and I got a little bit older our parents started to take us instead to Edinburgh to see whatever big musical was on there. I can remember seeing Cats, Chess, Barnum, 42nd Street, Jesus
Christ Superstar and soon enough any road trip meant show tunes in the car with my sister and I singing along. I’m sure my parents loved that :-O And I’m pretty sure we only wanted rolled skates because of Starlight Express!
Since then I have always loved going to see a musical whether locally, in a bigger city or somewhere more “exotic” like London’s West End or, as part of one very fortuitous school trip, on Broadway! I find it hard to pick my favourite – Phantom of the Opera which I’ve seen several times, Miss Saigon which always makes me cry, or Les Misérables which stirs such powerful emotions. Perhaps it’s one of the newer shows like The Lion King which was truly amazing, or something I’ve not even seen yet like Hamilton which gets such rave reviews. Wicked is certainly in the mix…
I first became aware of Wicked not long after it opened. I was given a copy of the soundtrack and, with the advent of wondrous modern technology, was able to watch some clips online. To help me piece the storyline together I read the original novel by Gregory Maguire and dreamed of the day I would finally get to see the show live. Listening to the soundtrack endlessly, Defying Gravity soon became my favourite track thanks to some of the lyrics about throwing off constraints and forging your own path:
“Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap!”
Later, the song encourages us not to accept limits others impose on us and to fight for what we want, something else I really believe in:
“I’m through accepting limits
’cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I’ll never know!”
Exactly how I feel when it comes to taking on a challenge or striving for a goal. And I especially love the sentiments of the chorus:
“It’s time to try
I think I’ll try
And you can’t pull me down!”
So why not pick the original version for my playlist? I think because the version by Kerry Ellis focuses more on the lyrics rather than worrying about some of the dialogue that is also set to the music. I also love the rock guitar sounds, played by Brian May from Queen! Overall it just feels slightly faster and is a better fit for the kind of song I like in my running playlist. Hearing those opening chords and anticipating those uplifting lyrics never fails to put a spring in my step!
I still love the original though and was thrilled to finally see the show (sadly without Idina Menzel) when it finally toured to Edinburgh at the end of 2014. It’s coming back next year though, so I’m already dropping hints…
Please note that under UK Athletics rules, racing with headphones whilst on open roads is banned. If you choose to train with headphones, please be careful and make sure you are aware of your surroundings at all times.
Feel free to share your favourite workout tracks in the comments below…