Last week, Jon posted on the anatomy of a good running playlist. As a follow-up to that, I decided to explore my go-to playlist to see what makes up its backbone. I found that I’m nearly ready to put some tracks on the back burner for the time being. Don’t get me wrong; I still love these songs, but maybe they’re overplayed for me or don’t match the pace I need right now. But I’m excited to experience new beats and discover interesting lyrics in the coming race season, so it’s all good! in my playlist exploration, I also found that there are songs I simply don’t tire of because they are so effective.

When Jon and I are running together, often neither of us has music. At some point I developed a tolerance for it. Maybe knowing we were both without music made it more bearable? Now I can happily admit to enjoying our runs sans music. However, when I run alone, I usually take music and when we have longer training runs together, I usually take music. I typically use my phone with the Spotify app. (I am too cheap to upgrade to Spotify Premium, so I deal with the advertisements every so often.) It’s served me extremely well so far, though I much prefer an iPod on actual race day. Ain’t nobody got time for ads on race day.

A couple of years ago, Jon and I were getting ready for the B.A.A. 5K, so we created a running playlist. We knew we weren’t going to run the race together, and both of us were hoping to set PRs, which meant he’d peace out at the starting gun and haul a$$ the whole way. I didn’t plan on hauling anything, but I was still going to run as fast as I could for as much of the 3.1 miles as possible. So we needed pretty solid music to get us those personal bests. And thus was born “Run Mix 2013.”

Much of our 2FNs family after finishing the 2013 B.A.A. 5K.

Much of our 2FNs family after finishing the 2013 B.A.A. 5K.

Our running mix has evolved over time (though the name stays the same): a weird instrumental came and went, all of Kesha’s Warrior album got narrowed down to our top two choices, and too-slow songs were replaced with upbeat ones. It’s been a little while since we’ve used it for a race, so I imagine both Jon and I will be hacking away at it again before our first race of summer 2015. Some songs, however, will definitely be staying. To me, there are a handful of tracks whose beats, lyrics, or melodies just work. They push me to increase my pace or remind me why I’m running, and I wanted to share some of those tracks with you all.

Singing to EMF's "Unbelievable," Kimmy Schmidt has a rockin' playlist . . . and an amazing running outfit.

Singing to EMF’s “Unbelievable,” Kimmy Schmidt has a rockin’ playlist . . . and an amazing running outfit.

(1) “Work B**ch” by Britney Spears: Say what you will about Britney, I’m definitely a fan. If I’ve taken a walking break, this song will give me the kick in the butt to start running again, mostly because Britney Spears is telling me to work, b**ch. So I’m gonna work. With lyrics like “You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti? You want a Maserati? You better work bitch. You want a Lamborghini? Sippin’ martinis? Look hot in a bikini? You better work bitch.” Um, yes, Britney. I DO want to look hot in a bikini. I will absolutely keep running then. No arguments here. Added bonus: the beat is awesome.

(2) “Invincible” by MGK (Machine Gun Kelly) and Ester Dean: I first heard this song while watching The Biggest Loser a few seasons ago. it was a montage of the contestants busting out that last workout before they had to weigh in. The beginning starts out a little slow, but it’s totally worth it. What caught my ear was the chorus, which I feel would inspire anyone, especially if you see it on The Biggest Loser, watching the contestants work SO HARD with these lyrics in the background: “I hear voices in the air, I hear ’em loud and clear, Tellin’ me to listen. Whispers in my ear; Nothing can compare; I just want to listen. Telling me I’m invincible. Telling me I’m invincible. I am.” It literally makes me feel invincible and pushes me to keep going if not pick up the pace.

(3) “Battle Scars” by Lupe Fiasco and Guy Sebastian: Technically, as suggested by most of the lyrics, I think this is a song about love and heartbreak, but it works for what I need it to. “These battle scars don’t look like they’re fading, don’t look like they’re ever going away, they ain’t never gonna change . . .” For some reason, this song reminds me of my aunt who passed away from breast cancer in April 2013. I had heard it somewhere and added it to our playlist as we were training that spring, then after I found out her health was declining quickly, the song took on new meaning for me. I thought of all the people out there with battle scars, be they mental, emotional, or physical, who still kept fighting, including my aunt. The lyrics “Never let a wound ruin me” really hit home, reminding me to keep pushing myself and that I shouldn’t let anything stand in the way of my goals. On one run, this song came on and I started to cry. I told Jon that we needed to keep running as long as we are able because I felt it was something I could do to honor those whose bodies no longer allowed them to run or walk or do the things they loved doing. This song makes me want to keep exercising throughout my life and be the best possible version of myself. Added bonus: the Saving Private Ryan reference of “With no Tom Hanks to bring you home.” I love hidden gems like that.

(4) “Hall of Fame” by The Script and will.i.am: Initially I did not like this song. I’m not sure why, but when Jon added it to the playlist, I skipped it every time it came on. Maybe it felt too slow? I hadn’t really liked it when I heard it on the radio, so maybe that carried over into running, too. Eventually, though, I listened to it all the way through . . . and, with a flair for the dramatic, let’s say it was life changing. Mostly for the lyrics “You could go the distance, you could run the mile.” When I hear this line, I think to myself, “Dang it, you’re right, Danny O’Donoghue! I can run the mile! And the next mile!” After really listening to this song for the past few months, it’s also helped me cope with my life choices of quitting my job(s), trying to prioritize my health, and other major decisions that have affected me recently (the line “Don’t wait for luck” definitely struck me a little while ago). This song has become a winner in my book.

These guys knew I could run the mile before I did. If their predictions are correct, I'll find myself sittin' in the hall of fame someday.

These guys knew I could run the mile before I did. If their predictions are correct, I’ll find myself sittin’ in the hall of fame someday.

So what are some of your favorite tracks to listen to while running or exercising and why? If you don’t listen to music, how do you pass the time (meditation, listening to books on tape, reading/watching television at the gym)? Do you have a mantra that keeps you going? Please share!