What Do Musicians Listen To In The Gym?

The Sam Willows and Sam Withers bare their musical souls


Music and exercise have always gone hand-in-hand. It’s crucial in many types of workouts — from dance to Zumba — and just make mundane exercises like running a whole lot more fun.

For regular folk like us, just turning on Spotify or the radio is usually enough. But how about musicians? Do they have a more refined taste in workout music? Or do they — gasp — listen to their own songs while exercising? We spoke to Singapore’s own The Sam Willows, and Australian DJ Sam Withers, who will be performing at the Music Run by AIA in 23 April, for their workout habits and musical choices.

Sam Withers, DJ and Model

What’s your fave form of exercise?

Sam Withers I love to keep super active and maintain a well-balanced lifestyle. Exercising plays a huge part and my workouts usually combine lifting heavy weights and High Intensity Training (HIT) cardio workout. When you're exercising at such high intensity, your heart rate increases which helps to burn fat and build muscle at the same time.

What genre of music do you tend to pick for your workouts and why?

SW I like to listen to the latest EDM or dance tracks when I'm working out. I like my music to be upbeat at around 128bpm range so as to get my blood pumping and my heart pounding. I also like to listen to songs that feature vocals on my headphones as it keeps me moving and gets me motivated.

Listen to this:

What are three of your current favourite workout tracks? And what about them helps pump up the adrenaline?

SW Right now, I'm loving the remix of Justin Bieber’s Sorry by Wide Awake. My next two favourites would have to be Work by Rihanna feat. Drake (Delirious & Alex K Remix) and Sweet Lovin' by Sigala. These 3 tracks in particular keep me moving — I dare you to listen to them and try not to feel motivated! I'll definitely be playing these bangers onstage at The Music Run™ by AIA in Singapore!

Listen to this:

What’s the most unexpected song you’ve found is great to listen to while exercising?

SW The most shocking track at the moment that had me second-guessing my own taste in music would have to be songs from Justin Bieber’s latest album. For a guy with such soft vocal range and someone who is more of a "commercial pop star", it’s amazing how powerful his lyrics are and he really won me over with his latest album.

Narelle and Benjamin Kheng, Jonathan Chua and Sandra Riley Tang, The Sam Willows

What’s your fave form of exercise?

Jonathan Chua I like going to the gym to do weights.

Benjamin Kheng Looking at treadmills and dumbbells. You're the most tired looking at those things, thinking about exercise.

Sandra Riley Tang Yoga, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and powerlifting.

Narelle Kheng Playing team sports for recreation.

What’s the difference between the type of music you listen to on a regular basis and the type of music you listen to while exercising?

JC K-pop gets me pumped up while exercising! Outside of the gym, my playlist is pretty much the same, except I wouldn't do chill songs while exercising.

BK I'm pretty extreme — I'd go for Metallica, Kanye West, Snarky Puppy or Limp Bizkit (two bands I never thought I’d put in the same sentence). It's definitely a lot more energetic and beat-heavy compared to what I usually listen to.

SRT I like hip-hop for the gym and the Nike Training Club Studio playlist for everything else. I have the volume turned up a lot higher when training.

NK I like feel-good and emotionally engaging music if I have to run, because it's easier to lose yourself in the moment and not think about how tired you are. But when I'm at the gym I tend to listen to trashy pop.

What are three of your current favourite workout tracks?

JC Who Da F*** is U by Jay Park, Pillowtalk by Zayn Malik and Kendrick Lamar’s Alright.

BK Power and All Of The Lights by Kanye West, and Kings & Queens by 30 Seconds To Mars.

SRT Confident by Demi levato, Dessert by Dawin and Hey Mama by David Guetta.

Listen to this:

Do you have different music playlists for different types of workouts (e.g yoga, running, lifting weights at the gym)? 

BK If its weights or a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout, it's definitely more nu metal. If it's a long run, I go to post-rock bands like This Will Destroy You from America, or I put on a podcast. Right now I'm listening to Kevin Hart.

SRT At the gym, I'll always have hip hop on to get pumped. If I'm doing cardio or HIIT, I'll have more pop or dance stuff on, and when I practice yoga I'll either have no music or alt-indie, mellow, electropop tracks like Livewire by Oh Wonder or Stuck With Me by Timed Lies.

Listen to this:

What’s the most unexpected song you’ve found is great to listen to while exercising?

JC Hmm, The Sam Willow’s Take Heart, hahaha!

BK Mama Mia. That really gets me camp.

SRT Footloose!

NK Coldplay’s emo heartbreak album, Ghost Stories. It's like I'm running off all of Chris Martin’s pain.

Listen to this:

Want to take part in The Music Run — the ultimate 5km running and music festival? We’re giving away 3 pairs of The Music Run passes! Simply answer the following to win a pair: Where is The Music Run held? Send in your answers via e-mail to elle_promo@mediacorp.com.sg with your <NAME> <NRIC> <AGE> <OCCUPATION> by 10 April.

Sign up for The Music Run by AIA here!

Photos: Sony Music

For more on fitness, check out You Never Knew You Could Lose Weight Like This or 4 Apps That Can Replace Your Personal Trainer. For more living stories, head here

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