“Unstoppable” Exercise Playlist

5k time

Not many people can claim that a Turkey Trot changed their life, but when I was 22, it happened for me. All throughout my youth, I avoided any form of exercise, especially running. When I got to college, I became a half-hearted elliptical machine user, but only because I thought I was fat and I knew how to strategically plan my workouts to coincide with my crush’s. So by the time I started working the front desk at the Tempe YMCA during grad school, I figured I was pretty much a lost cause for exercise, especially running. Somehow, though, even though I rarely worked out at the Y, one of my managers convinced me to participate in the branch’s Thanksgiving fun run. I spent a few weeks unenthusiastically slogging through my 12-minute-mile-paced training. When the big day came, I don’t recall having good form or an awesome finishing time, but one thing I remember well: as I approached the final leg of the race, my two managers picked up the tape the first place winner had broken through and held it up for me to break through. Then they led everyone at the finish line in cheering for me as I approached. Crossing that first-ever finish line was a magical moment of victory, camaraderie, and—appropriately—thanksgiving. It was also the first time I ever thought, “Wow, I actually enjoyed that” after running.

Since then, regular running and competing in short-distance races have gradually become a part of my life. I never, ever thought I’d say this, but I now genuinely look forward to the time I can spend sweatily pounding the pavement around my neighborhood like a mouth-breathing Saint Bernard. Yes, for the health benefits, like everyone tells you, and yes, for the weight control aspect, like everyone claims, but the thing they don’t tell you about running is this:

Running makes you feel strong.

I’m a small person. Small in stature—5’4” and 110 pounds—and also, I sometimes feel, small of heart and weak of courage. I’m the world’s most nonconfrontational humanoid with an irrational fear of cockroaches (I call my husband home from work to kill them) and people-pleasing streak the size of the Serengeti. Far too much of my time is spent ridden with anxiety. I want to change these things, though, and when I run, I feel like maybe I actually can. Running isn’t for wimps. It’s dang hard, even when you’re used to it. Your knees ache and your heart is petitioning to be expelled from your body. When it’s all said and done, you look like the worst version of yourself, like you just gave birth to triplets in a swamp. But pushing through the difficult and the unpleasant builds endurance and a strength of character that could—and hopefully does—trickle out to the rest of life. My favorite fitness instructor at my old gym used to say to motivate her classes, “How strong are you today?” I could be half dead on the floor, but every time she rolled that question out, I swear, I showed up in my own skin and gave those squats and curls my all. “So strong. That’s how strong I am today,” I wanted to say with my body. So strong for myself, for my kids, for my future. Unstoppably strong.

So a couple of weeks ago when I stumbled upon the Sia song “Unstoppable”—which, by the way, happened in the Target parking lot, where I rocked out like I was getting psyched up to fly to freaking MARS—I knew it was headed straight for the top of my running playlist. To a relentless beat, the words go: “Put my armor on, show you how strong I am… / I’m unstoppable / I’m a Porsche with no breaks / I’m so confident / Yeah, I win every single game / I’m so powerful / Don’t need batteries to play / I’m invincible / I’m unstoppable today.” Whoa. Sia needs to slap an “Ultimate Running Theme Song” trademark on this piece, like, immediately.

On my next go-round on the treadmill, I listened to several songs on Sia’s This Is Acting album and experienced one of the best runs of my life. The album is full of pounding, soaring empowerment ballads. Besides “Unstoppable,” the song “Reaper” had me basically sobbing with catharsis at a 6.7 mph pace. For the songwriter, it’s a song about coming back from the edge of a near attempt at suicide. As I listened and ran, though, it became an anthem in the face of the “reaper” in my own life: anxiety. “You tried to track me down / you followed me like the darkest cloud / But no, baby, no, baby not today.” No, anxiety, you’re not getting the best of me today. Not while I’m running. And maybe, after I’m done running, I’ll keep an edge that lets me resist you a little more today than I did yesterday.

Together, music and running are a heady concoction. The right song can mean the difference between giving up and pressing on. In light of my recent discovery of the Sia’s album, I thought I’d offer some of my favorites from my running playlist in case you’re in need of inspiration. (This may seem like a familiar post, since I’ve written about my workout playlist before. But there are so many great songs to use for running and all forms of aerobic exercise, this is a whole new batch! Also, if it seems a little Sia-heavy, that’s because it is.)

How will you be unstoppable today?

Unstoppable Exercise Playlist

  1. “Unstoppable” by Sia
  2. “Get That Body Back” by Pomplamoose
  3. “Easy” by Sheryl Crow
  4. “I Won’t Let You Down” by OK Go
  5. “Breakin’ Up” by Rilo Kiley
  6. “Reaper” by Sia
  7. “Greener” by Tally Hall
  8. “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten
  9. “Tonight Tonight” by Hot Chelle Rae
  10. “Try Everything” by Shakira
  11. “Send My Love (to Your New Lover)” by Adele
  12. “Ain’t It Fun” by Paramore
  13. “Bird Set Free” by Sia
  14. “American Girl” by Tom Petty
  15. “Avalanche” by Walk the Moon
  16. “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
  17. “Eyes Wide Open” by Gotye
  18. “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush
  19. “Testify to Love” by Avalon
  20. “Cheap Thrills” by Sia
  21. “Just Like Fire” by P!nk
  22. “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
  23. “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Presidents of the United States of America
  24. “Heartbeat Song” by Kelly Clarkson
  25. “Waterloo” by ABBA
  26. “Upside Down and Inside Out” by OK Go
  27. “Pride (In the Name of Love)” by U2
  28. “Wake Waka” by Shakira
  29. “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder
  30. “Mercy” by Duffy
  31. “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac
  32. “Virus Alert” by Weird Al
  33. “Write Your Story” by Francesca Battistelli
  34. “My House” by Flo Rida
  35. “Alive” by Sia
  36. “Emergency” by Icona Pop
  37. “Got To Get You Into My Life” by the Beatles
  38. “Good Time” by Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen
  39. “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon
  40. “Take Me to the Pilot” (UK Release available on Spotify) by Elton John

8 thoughts on ““Unstoppable” Exercise Playlist

  1. I love all of these songs. When I was training for a 5 k, I listened to “Roar” by Katy Perry. It still makes me want to rub!!

  2. I feel the SAME way! I am similar in size to you but running makes me feel like I’m an athletic super stud. We actually take our kids to do a Turkey Trot every year on Thanksgiving and they really get into it! Have you dealt much with injury? I have been battling ITBS the last couple years and I’m hoping this year I might be able to get back out there.

    Nice Playlist!
    Oh My Nosh! Nutrition and Wellness

    • Hi Michelle,

      Thankfully, I haven’t dealt with injuries too much, except for some knee and hip soreness here and there. Sorry to hear you’re dealing with ITBS! P.S. I love your website–it sounds like you and I have a lot in common! Hope to meet you at the next AZ Blogger Meetup!

  3. If you could no longer run because of your knees or feet or whatever, would you walk? Including the 5K and similar ones? I’ve known runners who don’t because they say it’s not the same high. Maybe you would Zumba, or swim or bike or do aerial gymnastics with great bolts of jewel toned silk. I’ve given up far too long. It’s time for a new passion.

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