I consider myself something of a gym connoisseur. If you count all the college gyms, Gold’s Gyms, government-owned gyms and hotel gyms I have worked out in at least once, I must have sampled at least 100 centers of fitness. And regardless of the quality of the facility, they all seem to struggle in at least one area: music.
I remember one gym where my hardcore leg workout was derailed by some shrieking rock song about ways to murder Jesus. The whole experience was so unsettling that I filed a complaint in the gym’s suggestion box. The gym posted my complaint and wrote that I should have just come to the front desk and asked them to change the station. I thought this was a surprisingly fair response. But still, I don’t want to have to interrupt my workout (leave the equipment, climb the stairs, find a manager) just to go futz with the radio.
The easy listening music pumped through some gyms is another workout killer. I mean, Barry Manilow’s very intent is to relax you, lower your stress levels and lull you to sleep. Whatever intensity and fire you brought to fuel your workout is drained just on the walk from the check-in desk to the locker room.
Painfully loud music is as big a distraction as an afternoon of love songs. The risk of hearing damage was even the topic of a Muscle and Fitness article a few years ago.
So how about just plain off? I used to think that gyms could do the most with the least amount of noise. If you need music during your workout, bring your own headset. (Many members do in fact use their own iPods anyway – why force competing music on them?) But after experiencing the silence of gyms with broken stereos, I’ve changed my tune. Gym music has the wonderful effect of drowning out the frivolous conversations taking place between personal trainer and housewife, pick-up artist and target, old college roommates, or any two people discussing flab, sweat, food, fatigue, pain, cable television or the weather.
So here’s my recipe: top-40 music, turned to medium volume. Like the sign of any good compromise, everyone will be slightly unhappy. But, I won’t feel the need to file any more complaints.