Tunes on Tuesday – The Greatest

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.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Tunes on Tuesday post, but a parkrun experience earlier this year inspired me to write about this particular song.

The Greatest – Sia

Picture the scene: it’s 2 weeks before my goal marathon, I really want to run a sub-24 minute parkrun to reassure myself that my fitness levels are at their peak and it’s the last opportunity for me to do so before the race. 2 weeks prior to this, I had narrowly (and frustratingly) missed it with a 24:01 and had since continued to ramp up the miles (and thus fatigue) in my legs with 18 and 20 mile runs on consecutive weekends. Could I do it?

On that particular occasion, we were still running on our alternative course due to the condition of the grass on our main route. With the intention of pushing the pace, I positioned myself near the front and shot out like a rocket as soon as the RD said go! I’ll admit, I thought the pace was a bit nippy and fully expected to pay for a first mile at 7:33, but was still hanging on as I embarked on my second lap of the park. It was during this lap, as I wondered if (when?) my legs might turn to jelly some time soon, that my iPhone shuffled serendipitously to this song and I knew I could keep digging in to reach the finish line.

Uh-oh, running out of breath, but I
Oh, I, I got stamina
Uh-oh, running now, I close my eyes
Well, oh, I got stamina

When you’re pushing the pace hard, breathing equally hard and willing the finish line closer, hearing, “I got stamina” is a great boost. I remember thinking, “yes, I do have stamina,” gritting my teeth and pushing on. I actually smiled to myself at the uncanny ability of the Apple device to play just the right track for the moment even when on shuffle. How does it manage?

The chorus, too, has just the right message for running a hard race:

Don’t give up, I won’t give up
Don’t give up, no no no
Don’t give up, I won’t give up
Don’t give up, no no no

And it was exactly what I needed to hear. With less than a mile to go, the temptation was there to slow down. I was running fast enough that a slight slowing would still see me reach my sub-24 goal that day (runner sums for the win!), but a big focus for me through this cycle of marathon training had been to improve my mental game, to make sure I didn’t mentally give up when the going got tough. The repetition of don’t give up spurred me on as it emphasised just the message I was needing at that point.

The remainder of the lyrics also have a distinctly celebratory feel to them. They’re the kind of lyrics that put you in mind of a big, movie-style finish of rousing music, heart-stopping (possibly slo-mo) action and cheering crowds as you defy the odds to reach your goal:

I’m free to be the greatest, I’m alive
I’m free to be the greatest here tonight, the greatest
The greatest, the greatest alive
The greatest, the greatest alive

I know, I know, parkrun isn’t exactly the Olympics, but in that moment it was special to me and this is a great soundtrack to a visualisation, something I try to make use of as part of my mental training for an event. Even now, writing this a few weeks (er, months!) later, I can still picture exactly where I was on the parkrun course when this song began to play, still remember exactly how I felt and hearing the lyrics once more brings it all into much sharper focus. The mind is a powerful thing, and training it to believe that success will happen is a fantastic tool in your race armour.

Did it work? It most certainly did as I finished with a time of 23:26 that week. Running sub-23:30 is fairly exceptional for me (I’ve only done it on 2 previous occasions) and it was exactly what I needed heading into my marathon taper. And while I know a big part of that success was the consistency in my training and the hard work I put in over weeks and weeks through the winter, some credit also has to be attributed to this song, as without it I may have backed off the pace and allowed my mind to give up once more. Instead I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of mental training and the tools we can use to help us out.

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…

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Tunes on Tuesday – Could it be Magic

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.

Could it be Magic – Take That

It was only a matter of time before a Take That track made its way into Tunes on Tuesday. There are actually a few in my playlist, but I’ve picked this track today because I do have a story to tell around it.

For my readers not in the UK, Take That is a pop group formed waaaay back in 1990. I guess you could say they were one of the 90s “boy bands” and were created out of a desire to emulate groups like New Kids on the Block in the US. The band split in early 1996 while I was in my final year of high school and teenagers around the country were bereft – there was even a telephone helpline set up to help fans deal with the announcement! 10 years later, in 2006, the band reformed for a reunion tour and have continued to produce new material (and tour) ever since. To date, they are the most successful “boy band” (more of a “man band” now lol!) in UK chart history.

Basically, I’m old enough to to have loved Take That the first time around, but never got a chance to see them live until 2009 when Steve surprised me with concert tickets. In fact, the video above is taken from that tour. If you had told my teenage self that one day the band would get back together and I’d still be getting to see them live at my age then I’d have laughed in your face!

 

The song I’ve picked today is their cover of the Barry Manilow classic Could It Be Magic, the track which gave them their first big success. Not only is it a great song, but it has gained its place here thanks to the last time I saw then tour back in 2015.

 

The day after the concert, perhaps not feeling my most rested, I took part in the Tayside Challenge, a cycle event which I was using as a warm up for the Etape Caledonia the following week. My head was, unsurprisingly, still full of Take That songs so it was a bit like having my own playlist as I pedalled, but without the inconvenience of earphones (something I never use when cycling as I’m so conscious of safety). I was cycling with a friend, but at one point I was alone on a downhill stretch. We had been talking about the concert so as I swept down the hill, enjoying the sense of freedom, I began singing away to myself. Loudly. The song I picked? Could It Be Magic. I was having a great time, so it was only marginally embarrassing when another cyclist overtook me, no doubt having heard me singing to myself like an absolute madwoman! Oops!

The song itself featured on Take That’s first album which was released in 1992 (yes, I am that old!) so this year they are celebrating their 25th anniversary. The original lineup of 5 may now be reduced to 3, but my favourite (Gary Barlow) is still there and what better way could they have found to celebrate than to go out on tour? So on Friday of this week I’ll be heading through to Glasgow to see my “boys” performing live for the 4th time. Frankly, I can’t wait!

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…

Tunes on Tuesday – Marathon

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.

Unsurprisingly, I’m in a marathon frame of mind this week and this song seems ideal to capture the mood. I really have no idea how I first came across it, but it’s a great one for a marathon training playlist and one I look forward to hearing during a long run.

I have to say, Rush is not a band I would usually listen to, but this song ticks the box of having lyrics that I find meaningful or motivational, one of the criteria for making it onto my playlist. On the surface the lyrics describe how someone would feel while running a marathon, however the deeper meaning of the song uses the marathon as a metaphor for life: just as a marathon is an extreme challenge undertaken to fulfill a goal, so it is that life is full of obstacles and is all about achieving our ambitions. Indeed, in an interview the lyricist Neil Peart said, “Marathon is a song about individual goals and trying to achieve them. And it’s also about the old Chinese proverb: ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step’.” A marathon may not quite be a thousand miles (although it feels like it somewhere round about mile 18!) but it does begin with just one step, whether that’s a runner’s first run ever, the start of a training cycle or the first decisive step over the start line of the race. Whatever way you look at it, a marathon is certainly a journey in both the literal and metaphorical sense, an idea that this song captures perfectly.

“It’s a test of ultimate will
The heartbreak climb uphill
Got to pick up the pace
If you want to stay in the race”

And as a track dating back to the 1980s, with a lot of synthesiser and guitar, I guess it sounds a bit like my childhood and the kind of music around as I was growing up. Listening to it now, however, I’m transported to all those Sunday long runs preparing for spring marathons and completing mile after mile with my music for company. The lyrics help to provide the focus and motivation to keep going in the tough moments, particularly the chorus which I find particularly powerful (in an 80s kind of way!):

“From first to last
The peak is never passed
Something always fires the light that gets in your eyes
One moment’s high, and glory rolls on by
Like a streak of lightning
That flashes and fades in the summer sky”

With these lyrics I can visualise myself running the race, a process that’s all the more vivid when it comes to Paris as I know the city and the race so well. They remind me of what I’m trying to achieve and spur me on to strive for my goal.

“It’s not how fast you can go
The force goes into the flow
If you pick up the beat
You can forget about the heat
More than just survival
More than just a flash
More than just a dotted line
More than just a dash”

On Sunday I will once more be running those 26.2 miles around my favourite city. I’ve been working towards this goal for such a long time and striving to achieve that goal will be the ultimate test of my will. Hopefully the training I’ve put in, the atmosphere in the race and songs like this one will be just that something to fire the light that gets in my eyes, just like the chorus says.

Bon courage.

 

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…

Tunes on Tuesday – Cut, Print… Movin’ On

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.

Cut, Print… Movin’ On – Katharine McPhee (Smash)

From some of my previous Tunes on Tuesday posts you have no doubt got the idea that I enjoy a bit of musical theatre, so a few years ago when I learned that NBC was making a TV show based around musical theatre I was thrilled. Not only was it going to be full of catchy show tunes, but it had a stellar cast of established names and rising stars. What wasn’t to like?

I loved Smash right from the start and followed avidly the tale of the ingénue battling the experienced actress for the role of Marilyn Monroe in a new stage musical. I watched every single episode to see the coming together of a Broadway show and how the cast must balance their personal lives with the demands of that show. I watched the competition, the desire and, in some cases, the playing dirty to achieve a dream. When the show was cancelled after 2 seasons I was devastated. How come my favourite shows are alway cancelled? (I’m looking at you Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip).

For a musical theatre fan, this show was jam-packed with exactly the kind of music I like, with the added bonus of some songs being included time and time again as part of the journey from page to stage. The song I’ve picked for this post comes from the start of the second season. The show, titled Bombshell, has had a successful test run in Boston and now the team is heading back to New York to try and fulfill their Broadway dream. The song reflects on the time spent in Boston, the memories created, the hard times experienced and the need to now move forward in order to achieve a dream.

I could be twee and suggest that this is a bit like running: we create memories, we have struggles and sometimes we need to draw a line under things and move on. Realistically, I just like the up tempo feel of this song as it rises to a crescendo with the lines that will always stand out to a runner:

“Get up cause the rat race never ends
As life is a marathon
And I plan to run
So much more than a sprint”

What can I say? An uplifting, “you can do it”, “we’re in this together” or “let’s get on with it” musical theatre number will get me every time. I actually don’t have many show tunes in my running playlist, but I love it when one pops up as it makes me feel a little bit like I might be part of the show as I run along.

Hmmm. I wonder what a musical about marathon running would be like…?

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…

Tunes on Tuesday – Defying Gravity

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
Defying gravity
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity
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…

Tunes on Tuesday – Rise

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.

Rise – Katy Perry

As our lives begin returning to “normal” and reality hits us hard after the festive season, it’s easy to feel bit down. Not only does work have a little less shine to it without the tinsel festooning every last inch of the room and the dulcet tones of a certain Mr Bublé filling the air, but the festive excess is probably catching up a bit. So to help us along as we try to get work/life/training back on track in this fresh, new year, here’s a song I find uplifting and motivational. Hopefully it will give you a boost too.

This particular track is a newer addition to my playlist. I first came across it back in the summer when US broadcaster NBC used it prominently throughout their coverage of the Rio Olympic Games. At the time it was shared prolifically on social media and I remember it featuring in one or two blog posts I read. And while there is an official video for the song featuring Perry herself, I much prefer the promotional “Olympics” version at the top of this post as it pays tribute to a variety of athletes including some very familiar faces such as highly decorated swimmer Michael Phelps, extraordinary gymnast Simone Biles, speed demon Usain Bolt and Team GB favourites Chris Hoy and Mo Farah. Even now, watching some of the footage from London 2012 included in the video brings back fantastic memories of being glued to my sofa during those historic moments (I had to be forcibly removed on Super Saturday to get some fresh air!), and a lump once more takes root in my throat seeing the pride on the faces of the athletes. This is what makes me feel inspired to keep training hard to improve my own performance. I won’t ever be going to the Olympics, but I can still become fitter, stronger and faster than ever before.

It’s the sort of track that really epitomises my ideal running/workout track, with its slow build, strong beat and lyrics which speak of victory, rising above an opponent and triumphing in the face of adversity. I like to choose upbeat, motivational songs, songs with a good tempo and which speak to me through their lyrics, particularly themes of survival, thriving, not letting others define you, fighting back and toughing it out through difficult times:

“When the fire’s at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They’re whispering, “You’re out of time,”
But still I rise”

If this track comes on during a race or training run, it helps to give me that focus to keep working hard, push on and try my best. It reminds me why I’m out there and what I’m striving for. I might even have been known to imagine myself as an Olympic athlete during the chorus!

“Oh, ye of so little faith
Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it
Victory is in my veins
I know it, I know it
And I will not negotiate
I’ll fight it, I’ll fight it
I will transform”

Just writing about it gave me the motivation to get today’s workout done, so if you’re in a bit of a slump about returning to work or worried you’ve bitten off more than you can chew with your goals for this year, let Katy Perry and this fine selection of Olympians help to set you on the path to success.

“I won’t just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive”

Let 2017 be the year that you Rise

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…

Tunes on Tuesday – Let it Go

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.

Let it Go – Idina Menzel

Ok, ok. I know this one is pretty much a staple of young girls everywhere, but hear me out.

In case you’ve never realised, I love Disney. In the summer of 2017 my family will be celebrating 25 years since our “once-in-a-lifetime-never-to-be-repeated” dream holiday to Florida. It was the holiday that started it all, ultimately leading to my parents buying property there and me going every year I could manage.  But Disney and I have an even longer history than that: my first ever trip to the cinema was to see a Disney film (The Jungle Book). My dad took me back in the days when the only way to see Disney films was to wait for them to be released from the Disney vaults into cinemas. And I remember always looking forward to a TV programme called Disney Time which was produced about twice a year (Easter and Christmas I think) featuring clips from the animated classics and something about the forthcoming release. Of course this was before the internet and our connected world!

But when it came to Frozen, I was a little slow on the uptake. I can distinctly remember my sister giving me a row for not having seen it yet and when I finally bought it on DVD (I have a pretty comprehensive collection!) I had no time to sit down and watch it. She eventually got so frustrated that she announced she was coming round one day when I was on holiday for us to watch the film together.

And I loved it.  Perhaps not as much as my parents who actually go to live shows of it at Disney World, but I loved it. I’m a big fan of Idina Menzel so her powerful and theatrical performance of what was to become an Oscar-winning song was right up my street.

I mean, what’s not to like? It’s a song about no longer hiding who you really are (“Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know/Well, now they know!”), casting off the shackles of expectation (“I don’t care what they’re going to say”) and being your strong, confident self (“And the fears that once controlled me/Can’t get to me at all!”). Exactly the kind of message that I think important.

 

And as a running song it’s ideal too, particularly towards the end as Elsa grows in self-confidence (and foot-stomping defiance!). I find the lyrics strong and motivational, particularly during long runs or tough moments, and they capture my thoughts when someone tells me I can’t do something:

“It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free

Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry

Here I stand
And here I’ll stay
Let the storm rage on!”

As I said, what’s not to like? It may be a popular song among young girls everywhere, but for me it’s also a powerful song from a powerful female character that often gives me a lift just when I need it most. For that, I love it and I’m not ashamed to admit it!

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…