The Ultimate Depression-Fighting Fitness Playlist

If you’re like me and other sane people and you hate running, try listening to “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues,” by Mclusky. Two trainers in New Jersey swear by it, along with some other choice tunes, to get you motivated and de-stressed.

Maryelizabeth and Michele are The Underground Trainers, a personal training service in Rutherford, New Jersey. From radically different backgrounds, the pair have a unique approach to motivating their clients. Michele found exercises that helped with her depression, while Maryelizabeth selects music to power those workouts.

Michele came to fitness after her divorce. After finding success with a pole dancing class, she made personal training her life. Her history with depression helps her connect with her clients and whatever insecurities they may have. She “felt safer” in a group class of women. “I think a lot of us have body image issues,” she says, “ and you’re in an environment where people understand what you’re feeling and they’re going through the same thing as you.

Exercise helped with Michele’s depression but only because she found a safe, comfortable place to do it. She wants that same sense of safety for her clients, which is why she never forces anyone to look in the mirror if they are uncomfortable. “I can’t tell you how many don’t want to look,” she says. “And I get it.”

Maryelizabeth, meanwhile, spent several decades working in the music industry before joining with Michele to form The Underground Trainers. She brings her musical passion to her training methods. “It makes such a difference, playing a song somebody likes when they’re working out,” she says. When asked how she knows what to play for a client, she simply says “I can read people. Sometimes I’m way off. Usually not.”

She remembers an older woman, very “quiet, calm and collected.” Who just happened to request 80s hip-hop. “I’d really like that,” said the older woman. Though shocked, particularly given the 8 a.m. training hour, Maryelizabeth was thrilled. “Yes of course I’ll play that for you, ma’am!”

When the two women first began The Underground Trainers, Maryelizabeth’s enthusiasm for motivational media was such that she even picked out movie clips. When doing alligator exercises, for example, she would play clips of Crocodile Dundee. Now that their business has quadrupled since they began in May of 2016, she says “I’ve since stopped with the movie foolishness because I don’t have the time.”

I asked Michele to choose a few workouts that help combat stress and depression, and Maryelizabeth to pair them with songs. Through much giggling and improvisation, the duo came up with these three combinations for a stress-reducing, music-fueled workout.

Courtesy of Bill Roth

Michele: Burpees

Maryelizabeth: [To Michele] “You’re an animal.”

“Michele never just gives you burpees. She always throws in some trickery. For burpees, since they’re my least favorite, I would want something that keeps me going, that motivates me. So MC5, ‘Kick Out the Jams.’”

Michele: “You’re nuts. Okay, running.”

Maryelizabeth: “I know this one because I can’t stand running. Worse than burpees. For an entire year I felt like Forrest Gump because I ran so much, to lose weight. I just ran and ran and kept running.”

“Anyway there’s this Welsh band, Mclusky. They have an album called Mcluskyism. That whole album gets me so pumped. It gets me angry. Not bad-angry, but like I can take on the world. There’s a song on there, I think it might not be appropriate to say. Well, it’s not appropriate to say but it’s called ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues.’ Whenever it comes on I just go from zero to ten. I just take off and it gives me an extra 30 minutes of energy.”

Michele: “Squat into curtsy lunge.”

Maryelizabeth: “Squats into curtsy lunges are fun because when you make guys do it, they don’t like it. ‘You’re gonna make me curtsy?’ And I’m like ‘relax dude. It’ll be okay.’”

“The band Flogging Molly has one of my favorite skateboarders, Matt Hensley. Their song ‘Salty Dog,’ has that Irish jig-type sound to it. I think a guy would be more comfortable with that than Miley Cyrus.”

Cooling down is critical for any workout and particularly so when your goal is to quiet your stress. For Maryelizabeth, that means PJ Harvey, Sophie Madeleine, Velvet Underground or anything by Björk. She also says, and Michele agrees, that really it’s whatever “makes sense” for yourself. I once had a roommate who studied the hardest when she listened to screamo. Choose whatever it takes to calm your mind and energize your body.

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