A poll from Marist College in 2018 revealed that more people make New Year’s resolutions about exercise than about any other topic. This is the time of year when everyone firmly believes they’re going to work out regularly for the rest of their lives. And I wish them the utmost happiness, and best of luck with that.

Perhaps a small workout playlist would be helpful. Workout songs should be up-tempo and energetic, but beyond that I have always believed they should contain exhortations to continue the exercise. It’s like having a musician as your personal trainer.

A simple allusion to exercise is insufficient. “Not Running” by The Beths, for example, may be ideal instrumentally, but its title is the opposite of what one should be doing while listening to it.

Here’s what I actually chose for this month’s selection:

‘Walking at a Downtown Pace’

Parquet Courts

At about 110 beats per minute, this single from the October album “Sympathy for Life” is the perfect tempo for the activity described in its title. The band claims the album was made prior to the pandemic, but they get bonus points for opening with some of the only actually good pandemic-relevant lyrics I’ve heard: “I'm making plans for the day all of this is through / Seeing my path there, hearing the song I'll sing / And food that I'll taste and all the drinks that I'll consume.”

‘Detroit Basketball’

Bad Bad Hats

This song is maybe too frenetic for actually playing basketball, but it’ll match your heart rate when watching some of the games the Pistons have played this year.

‘Going the Distance’

Zipper Club

One thing that makes “Going the Distance” so propulsive is the solid eighth-note pulse that underlies the verses. There are too many songs that use the phrase “go the distance” — Cake comes to mind — but I love the vocal harmonies and alternating verses in this one.

‘Swimming Through the Night’

Soda Blonde

In order to include this song I amend my previous restriction about allusions to exercise to allow metaphors. It’s worth it to accommodate the debut single from one of my favorite Irish bands. They recently released a demo of this song that was basically a ballad and half as fast. Thank goodness they changed it so it could fit on this workout playlist.

‘Away We Go’

Bad Suns

Grunting while exercising is divisive, but grunting in music tends to go over pretty well, for whatever reason. This tune starts with a very emphatic “huh!” and goes on to feature the sort of uptempo indie pop without which this playlist would be incomplete.

‘Running With the Wolves’

Cloud Cult

This experimental rock group from Minnesota has such a wide-ranging discography that one of its songs could fit for every day of the year, let alone every month. I do not endorse actually running alongside wolves, merely imagining yourself doing so as you listen to this highly engaging song.



The slowest song on this list is still a great one due to the motivational nature of its chorus (“Swim against, against the tide / Walk against, against the flow”). Don’t be startled by the saxophone solo that comes out of nowhere and ends up being the best part of the song.

‘Yoga Means Union’

Ambulance LTD

Yoga does in fact mean union, but you don’t necessarily have to use this song for yoga. The lone instrumental on the list, it has an excellent arc that builds to a late climax, the sort you might value if you were finishing some intense or escalating cardio. (Cardio means heart.)

Reporter Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.