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What Are the Best Movies, Games and Music to Spice Up Your Exercise?

Ever heard of these things called ‘podcasts’?

In the pantheon of clichéd things that are boring and/or the worst, the Top 3 have to be something like… 

  1. Going to the DMV
  2. Chopping Vegetables
  3. Working Out (particularly cardio)

The DMV is god-awful, and chopping veggies is especially tedious (looking at you, cloves of garlic), but it’s that last one that most often chips away at my personal will to live. I don’t just suffer through workouts, I count each and every second until they’re over. 

Which makes keeping myself — and my mind — occupied while doing so incredibly important. It’s so bad that, if I get to the gym (pre-COVID, obv) and don’t have any entertainment with which to occupy myself, I turn around and get back in the car.

What kind of entertainment, you ask? Personally, I stick with a classic — a Spotify playlist. As long as the music’s loud and upbeat, I’m relatively good to go. And if I’m running on the treadmill or *eek!* pumping away on the elliptical, I use the next 30 to 45 minutes to catch up on the TV shows I want to watch, but aren’t quite good enough to watch under normal circumstances. You know, like Westworld.

But lately, I’ve been wondering if there’s something better out there, an exercise/entertainment magic bullet I haven’t thought of yet. And so, naturally, I turned to a few workout experts — in particular, an amateur powerlifter, a couple of pro trainers and a podcaster — to learn what they do to keep themselves entertained while they work out. 

Here’s what they suggested…

Video Games, Classical Music and eBooks

Oliver Lee Bateman, Powerlifter: I’ve got a little flatscreen TV in my basement that’s hooked up to a Roku and one of those 20-in-1 mini Super Nintendo consoles. Between sets, I might play a game like EarthBound, or watch one of the UFC or WWE streaming services. 

While I’m rowing or riding the bike, I’m likely listening to the virtuoso classical performances recommended to me by a piano-obsessed friend in New York, or to soundtracks from video games and anime shows. 

And even though I co-host a successful podcast, I have to confess that I’ve rarely, if ever, listened to podcasts. I work from home and am likely to be reading rather than listening, since reading is a far faster process. So sometimes, if I’m on the stepper, I’ll read on my Kindle.

I do try to focus on my lifts, though, so I may turn off the sound before doing something particularly difficult. 

Action Movies

Jeff Jalaba, Personal Trainer: I do a little bit of everything — listen to music or podcasts. I prefer hip hop when I’ve got tunes on, and I’ll listen to sports shows like Dan Le Batard, or something entrepreneurial if I’m listening to a podcast. 

But we’ve also got a projector hanging in our little gym, and one of our favorite things to do is to put on action movies. Sometimes that’ll be all we need; other times we’ll mute the movie and put music on over it, just to kind of entertain us in the background so we can focus on what we’re doing.

And if I don’t have any of that going, I’ll put some sports compilation videos on. 

A Workout Buddy

Damien Brown, Personal Trainer: This might be cheating, but I prefer to get my “entertainment” not through music or televisions hangin’ in the gym, but through a partner. That’s one of the reasons I do personal training as a job: It’s a way to connect with people. Pushing a workout really hard is so much better when you’ve got someone to do it with. Not only does it make working out fun — shooting the shit, talking trash — but it’s motivating, too.

Podcasts That Are a Workout

Allison Goldberg, Writer/Podcaster: Shameless plug, but my podcast, Not Boring Workouts, is a workout, so the idea is you get entertained while you get fit. The whole thing was my collaborator David Title’s idea, and it came from the fact that working out is generally boring and terrible. You pick up objects and put them back down. Sometimes in the same exact place! You count reps. Maybe someone yells at you. That’s about it. 

So instead, we keep time for you. All the exercises are simple: Planks, jumping jacks, squats. We tell you what move to do next, and then return to entertaining you about things like dildos, QAnon and the Black Panthers. You don’t have to do a thing — except workout. That part’s still on you.