Guest Post by Renegade Inner Circle Coach, Sean Hyson
Good training music has to make you excited, alert, and even a little bit angry. For guys, it’s natural to turn to rap and metal (and, of course, rap-metal), to evoke this condition.
However, these aren’t your only options, and if you train consistently throughout your life, you’re going to crave a change eventually.
I think the real purpose of training music is to bring out your passion. You have to be somewhat emotional and worked up emotionally to train hard and purposefully. So, really, any music that makes you feel something powerful within can be appropriate.
Consider that Henry Rollins, one of the roughest-sounding punk rockers on the planet—and also a recreational powerlifter—listens to ballads when he trains. That’s right—slow, sad songs.
Hey, if that’s what gets him going…
I listen to a wide variety of music in the gym. I’m a big fan of classic rock, and my favorite rocker of the 70s and 80s (although he remains every bit as vibrant and relevant today) is Bruce Springsteen. His name NEVER comes up on lists of music to play in the gym, and I’ve never understood why.
You can’t find more passion in music or in a single artist than you can in Bruce.
All of his songs feature—both sonically and lyrically—what I call the “signature Springsteen ache”: a deep, almost painful, rumbling desire to change one’s circumstances in life.
To rise up, be better than yesterday and what you’ve been handed, take a chance, and escape without losing sight of reality or where you came from.
Hmmm. Self-improvement? Making progress? Escapism? Isn’t that what we all train for?
If you like Bruce, or that old-fashioned classic rock sound (real instruments, live vocals, and minimal “studio magic”), put these tunes on your workout playlist, ranked from my 10th-best pick down to my top one.
(Note: I’m not listing the obvious ones here. “Born To Run” is a great rocker but I’d rather make you aware of some classics you haven’t heard, so your music can be as varied as your training.)
The Top 10 Bruce Springsteen Training Songs
10. Blinded By The Light
This is the first cut on Springsteen’s first album, and it gives you more than a glimpse of the brilliant career that lay ahead. The melody rambles as much as the nonsense lyrics. It’s impossible to listen to without a smile. This is a good tune to play early in your workout on a day when you’re not really feeling it and would rather be somewhere else. It should snap you out of it fast.
“Some silicon sister with her manager, mister, told me I got what it takes…”
If this were a list of the greatest Bruce songs, or just great songs in general, it would be number one for me. But since we’re talking about music for training purposes, I can’t rank it that high. Part ballad and part rocker, it’s a nearly 10-minute long E street band symphony, including hard driving guitars and a wrenching sax solo. It will be too slow in parts for most people, but if you want a great song to take your mind off the idiots in your gym and all the distractions they pose, “Jungleland” will bring you into the zone and keep you there a long while.
“Man, there’s an opera out on the turnpike. There’s a ballet being fought out in the alley…”
This is another long one, but more upbeat than Jungleland. The warm guitars and bright horns make you appreciate life and how good it is to… just feel good. Train with this one on a nice spring day in a gym with big windows and you’ll be that much more anxious to work hard and get out to enjoy it.
“My heart’s wood. She’s a carpenter. She’s an angel in the night and what she does is alright…”
Bad. Ass. Drums that sound like a boulder rolling down a mountain greet you on this classic from Darkness On The Edge of Town, widely regarded as one of Bruce’s very best albums. It’s up tempo with plenty of ache. The singer accepts that life is rough but is determined to have good times despite the hard times. When the chorus kicks in, you know your rest period between sets is over.
“Poor man wanna be rich. Rich man wanna be king. And a king ain’t satisfied till he rules everything. I want to go out tonight. I wanna find out what I got.”
6. Working On The Highway
If you grew up in the 80s, somebody had a copy of Born In The USA lying around and you heard it. This is one of its most rollicking tracks, and the acoustic guitars paired with the organ will keep you driving through a long set.
“I work for the county out on 95. All day I hold a red flag and watch the traffic pass me by. In my head I keep a picture of a pretty little miss. Someday, mister, I’m gonna lead a better life than this.”
5. Lonesome Day
On The Rising, Bruce dealt with post-9/11 themes of loss and confusion. Many of us have always trained to make sense of these same issues. The hook is infectious and builds up to a dramatic chorus, but it’s the dark and foreboding lyrics that remind me to keep gutting it out and moving forward—whether in the gym or in life.
“Hell’s brewin’, dark sun’s on the rise. This storm will blow through, by and by. House is on fire, viper’s in the grass. A little revenge and this too shall pass.”
4. Talk To Me
If you’re not a Bruce junkie like me, you had to wait until the release of The Promise in 2010 for this old outtake from Darkness On The Edge of Town. (It’s been available as a bootleg years, and I long ago added it to my workout playlist.) The melody is simple but unforgettable, and the singer’s desperation to get this girl’s attention can easily mirror your own need to finish a set, hit a PR, or just get the job done.
“I got a full week’s pay, and, baby, I’ve been working hard each day. I’m not asking for the world, you see. I’m just asking, girl, talk to me.”
The Boss is pissed. In perhaps his heaviest song (the drums are so fast that when I first heard it I thought it was a metal band), Bruce describes a man on the run and out of his mind. The madness of the story being told matches the ferocious music, and the pace hardly relents.
“I’m the big expendable. My life’s just cancelled, null and void. Well, what ya gonna do about your new boy?”
2. Seaside Bar Song/Radio Nowhere
I couldn’t pick just one, but in the interest of following Jay’s directions, I won’t let this list spill over to an 11th song. “Seaside Bar Song” appeared on the 1998 boxed set, Tracks, and offers classic bar band rock. If you train near a beach, you’ll want to crank this one up before hitting your last set and heading out the door. It’s hard and hooks you fast.
“Radio Nowhere” appeared on the album magic in 2007, and its riff remains one of Springsteen’s catchiest. It’s almost a hard rocker, so if you like training to Pearl Jam, as Jay does, this one should be an easy transition for you.
“You say your mama’s gonna meet you when the morning comes. And papa’s gonna beat you ’cause he knows you’re out on the run. Well, I don’t care. I’m gonna live a life of love and tonight you’re the one.”
1. Candy’s Room
It starts softly and just builds and builds and builds. Kind of like getting a pump! The drums are like a machine gun and the guitar solo is searing. Whether or not you like Bruce, if you like classic rock, this is a must-add to your collection. Save it for your heaviest set and you can’t miss.
“Baby, if you wanna be wild, you’ve got a lot to learn. Close your eyes. Let them melt. Let them fire. Let them burn.”
Extra Springsteen songs your playlist needs
If you’ve listened to rock radio in the past 30 years, you’ve heard these Springsteen classics. (Not as frequently as you’ve heard “Sweet Emotion” or “Jack and Diane”, which is troubling, but DJ’s do still manage to mix in some Bruce amidst the standards.) I didn’t include them on the main list because they’re obvious choices to anyone familiar with The Boss catalog, but if you’ve forgotten about them or need to ease into a Bruce obsession, there are no better tracks to start with—especially in the gym.
Born To Run
Consistently ranked on every list of the greatest songs of all time. The “wall of sound” production, featuring some five layers of guitar tracks, makes this classic a powerhouse that befits a blood and guts workout.
When you hear a line that goes, “Like soldiers on a winter’s night with a vow to defend, no retreat, baby, no surrender”, you just can’t back down from a tough set.
Born In The USA
It’s got one of the catchiest hooks in music history, and some of the heaviest lyrics. “Born down in a dead man’s town. The first kick I took was when I hit the ground. You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much, till you spend half your life just covering up.” Who thought this was a patriotic anthem??
You’ll be singing along to the chorus by the second time it repeats. Take your workouts into the ether.
We Take Care of Our Own
Take care of business with this tough track from Bruce’s latest album, Wrecking Ball. If social injustice doesn’t make you mad enough to lift heavy iron, maybe you shouldn’t be reading Jay’s site.