Music & Mindset

Music is an art, but it can also be a tool.

I never exercise without music. A good fast beat can energize me and get me pumped for my workout. I also enjoy calm music or scores when I have to focus on writing or reading.

Since I was a teenager, music has been a tool that I use to set my mood. If I’m feeling down, an upbeat song can make me happier. If I need to calm down for some reason, I always turn to my favorite indie band, Death Cab for Cutie, to make me feel relaxed and slow my breathing. I often listen to them on a plane when I trying to fall asleep and block out the noise.

I set the pace and intensity of a workout by the playlist I choose that day. A harder, rougher sound motivates me to push myself. A lighter tone can be good to get my heart rate up while I do cardio. I have a few playlists on my phone that I am always using, but occasionally I like to shake things up and use something created by Spotify. I can always change it during a rest while I’m working out if its not my jam.

Music can also motivate me when I’m not feeling up for a workout one day. I set the music to more upbeat pop or my favorite genre — emo/punk. By the end of the first song, my mood is usually elevated and I feel more confident about what’s to come.

Even as I write this entry, I’m listening to a selection of scores, mostly from shows and movies. I prefer shows lately, because movie soundtracks can be too iconic and well-known to blend into the background. At this moment, I picked scores from the shows Arrow and Supergirl. Arrow tends to be darker and grittier in its tone, while Supergirl is lighter and more hopeful. I don’t really notice when they are playing, but it helps me concentrate and get into the flow state while I write.

I mostly use speakers to play my music, both in my home gym and in my office. In my gym, I have a Google Home Max speaker that wirelessly plays Spotify off my phone. I can control it by voice, so I don’t have to fiddle with my phone if I’m in the middle of something. My office speaker is a Marshall bluetooth speaker that sits on my bookcases. I’m not a stickler for sound quality, so I can’t tell you which one is better. Both serve their function, which is what I care about most. If I’m out and about shopping or walking, I use either my Bose headphones or earbuds by Skullcandy. Again, I’m looking for features unrelated to sound quality. I use the Bose mostly on airplanes or if I’m in a coffee shop working. The earbuds are mostly used to listen to podcasts while I’m shopping.

I hope you consider your relationship to music while working out or going about your lives. It has been a major component of my life, and I wouldn’t be able to function without it.

What Makes One an Athlete?

My favorite comedian, Mitch Hedberg, once joked that if he discovered he had athlete’s foot, he’d say, “That’s not my f***ing foot!”  I never considered myself an athlete as a kid.  I didn’t fit with that group of kids in school, despite playing some softball in middle school.  I am a bad team player and I much preferred doing Tae Kwon Do to playing a team sport.  As an only child, I learned early to rely on myself and I am too stuck in my own ways to work well with others.  I hated group projects in school.  I’m off-track, but, to my point, I was not an athlete before in my life.

Last month, I bought a Whoop fitness tracker.  The initial set up asked what kind of athlete I am for my profile.  I was annoyed that there was no option below casual athlete.  I marked this box, but it made me wonder.  Am I an athlete now?

I’ve been actively working out for over a year now, since February 2019.  I have lost over 60 pounds and gained muscles I didn’t know existed.  I can deadlift 200 pounds and run and do things I’d never dreamed were possible a few years ago.  I recently bought two knee sleeves for hyper extension issues and these are a game-changer.  I find myself pushing harder and longer.  After months of stagnation, my workouts have increased in intensity and frequency.  I find solace in my local gym, something that continues to baffle me.  I’ve made workouts routine.  But does all of this make me an athlete?

I’ve dwelled on this question and I’ve found an answer.  Although it may sound cliché, one is only an athlete if one has an athlete’s mindset.  I am still learning the limits of my body, but I have drive and commitment to be better every time I set in the gym.  I often think back to an embarrassing moment during my first day when my trainer was assessing my skills, or lack thereof.  I became stuck in an awkward position while attempting a bodyweight squat and had to fall over to get myself out of it.  I was deeply annoyed with my body and frustrated, but now I am not ashamed of that moment.  It was the start of my journey and now I can not only squat easily, I can deep squat with weight.  I’m learning so much about what my body can do.  I’m only limited by my mindset.  But with an athlete’s mindset, there are no limits.