Tunes for training

by Danielle Tate-Stratton 

Getting active is one of the best ways that we can improve both our physical and mental health. Working out can help beat off the extra pounds that we add by comfort-eating our way out of living thousands of miles from home, discourage the beer belly that inevitably appears after one too many company sponsored drinking events, and being ac­tive has even been shown to reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve your mood. Living in Tokyo, we can all appreciate those benefits to our stressed out lifestyles! The trouble is, know­ing it would be a good idea to work out and actually doing so, are two rather different propositions! For most of us, having a workout buddy helps immeas­urably—someone to push us to run the extra mile, knock a minute off our training pace, or simply just get up and get going! The problem is, in a city as far flung as Tokyo, it can be tricky to find someone close to you to run with! Personally, I might be will­ing to get up at 6am to run before work, but I’m certainly not willing to travel 30 minutes to another station to meet up with a training partner!

Luckily, the virtual world is ready to step in and help with workout podcasts and playlists. Podcasts are free programs, similar to radio shows, which are produced by anyone (about half professionally, and half by anyone with a computer), uploaded to sites such as Apple’s iTunes store, and available for down­load. Playlists are, in this case anyway, produced professionally, about the length of a CD, and avail­able for purchase for roughly ¥1,000 from the iTunes store. Following are some of our recommendations for runners, walkers, and even the amateur yogi in all of us.

For purchase:

Recently, Nike teamed up with Apple to create Nike+iPod, a comprehensive workout system, which actually allows your shoes to ‘talk’ to your iPod, track­ing your run’s distance, pace, and more. Learn about it at You don’t, however, have to buy into the whole system in order to ben­efit from the Nike+iTunes partnership. Anyone with an mp3 player can purchase a workout from the Ap­ple store and start working out with a personal trainer pumping through their headphones. Workouts vary and are all targeted to accomplish different things— endurance training, interval work, or overall condi­tioning. Here are two that we’ve tried and enjoyed:

Anywhere Anytime: Outdoor Conditioning (approx. ¥1,000)
This workout, 45 minutes long, is designed to be com­pleted, as the title suggests, anywhere and at anytime. When you purchase the workout, 12 songs long, you get both the songs on their own, so you can enjoy them as part of your regular music li­brary (they’re mostly alternative, think Moby and the Raconteurs) and all of the songs strung together into one track. The additional ben­efit of the single track is Stacey Lee Rrause, the friendly personal trainer who directs you through the workout.

As the songs (ordered to warm you up, work you out, and cool you down) progress, Stacey will direct you to easily findable places (the nearest curb or a park bench) to do activities such as lunges, tricep dips, and dynamic stretching. Sure, you may look a little bit funny bounc­ing around in the middle of the park, but the benefit to your quads is worth it! Having Stacey talk to you, even if there is no way she would ever know you had stopped the workout, inspires you to keep going and, as variations on the workout are suggested throughout, it’s great for many levels.

Tribal Yoga 1 Beginning Groove (approx. ¥1,000)
This playlist is structured similarly to the one above, although it is based around the principles of yoga (for beginners—harder sets are also available). Instructor Misty Tripoli takes participants through a 30-minute workout of modified yoga poses. With a tribal dram-beat behind the voice-track, it’s not the most ‘zen’ of yoga workouts, but for the beginner, it’s a good place to start. Classics such as the sun salutation and down­ward facing dog are clearly explained by Misty, so you can follow along as you listen. In case you can’t quite visualize what Tripoli wants you to do, the download also includes a short video as well as a pdf booklet with pictures of all of the poses.

Podcasts to Download for Free:

Still in the iTunes store, search for podcasts, and thou­sands of free shows come up for download, many of which are somehow connected to working out. Here are just two of the many available:

The Best of CBC Radio 3— #93 Sweatin’ to the Indies
If the last podcast was a little bit short, this one, at 80 minutes, strikes me as a little bit long for the average weekday-morning run. Still, it’s got a good tempo, and could be split over two 40-minute days. Rather than having a trainer throughout, the podcast (a weekly rundown of the best in independent Canadian music) features tips and stories about working out from Cana­dian athletes and members of the bands whose music is featured. My only complaint is that the music stops when the speakers come on—while they’re interesting, if you rely on the beat as much as I do, it can be hard to keep going when the music stops.

So, get out your iPod, download a personal trainer, and head out into Tokyo with new enthusiasm and a lit­tle voice hovering near your shoulder en­couraging you to make it past just one more combini!