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Woman-in-pool-flipping-hairThere’s something about jumping into cold pool water early in the morning. I love the sensation of pushing off the wall as I make my turn. I enjoy the soreness in muscles the day after a hard workout. I am even beginning to like the smell of chlorine on my skin. It reminds me that I earned my breakfast. All that said, there are days when I can’t stop counting down the minutes until I can hit the showers. Invariably, those are days when I run out of battery.

I began swimming again when injury prevented me from cycling over a year ago. I saw it as a last-resort activity; something to hold me over until I could get back on the bike. So I signed up for a pool membership over at Westwood High School and forced myself into the water every morning before work. While my body slowly remembered proper freestyle form and how to make a decent flip turn between lengths of backstroke, I couldn’t shake the boredom.

My complaints must have been more vociferous than I realized, because I found a very tiny box under the Christmas tree that year with explicit instructions to use while swimming. My sister and brother-in-law (both swimmers) had given me a waterproof iPod shuffle that clips to a swimmer’s goggle straps.

My brother-in-law explained that bad pop music was the only thing that got him through hours of Ironman training and that my time in the water was about to improve dramatically. After an afternoon of selecting the perfect playlist and downloading an audiobook from Overdrive, I excitedly put in my earbuds and began my swim. I started with my audiobook…and quickly became very confused. Unbeknownst to me, I had selected “shuffle” mode, so my book was jumping all over the place. One moment, the protagonist was a small child and then two minutes later she was a grandmother, and then there would be a musical interlude featuring Lady Gaga. This was not working.

Once I figured out my mistake, I re-evaluated the content on this miniature MP3 player, determining that music and single track spoken audio is best. Podcasts and upbeat music became the order of the day. I am always excited to load new content and can’t wait to get into the pool to explore a new album or episode. Here are some of my recent favorites:

Ogogo by Mike Gordon is the newest offering from the Phish bassist. My husband has loved Phish for longer than he has loved me, but I’m barely a casual fan. The jams are too long and the music, though skillful, is too weird at times. This album is not that. It is synth-heavy pop that just makes you want to get moving.

Speaking of beats that keep you going long after others might have let you quit, I just can’t get enough of William Onyeabor. This master of Nigerian funk was a big deal in Nigeria in the late 1970’s but has only recently come onto my radar. I just ordered the album World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who is William Onyeabor for the library, so make sure to get yourself on the list. Start with the songs Atomic Bomb and Fantastic Man and you won’t be disappointed.

If I just need a few songs to get me through the last 1000 yards, I go straight to my “That’s My Jam” playlist. It starts with Redbone by Childish Gambino, Dirt off Your Shoulder by Jay-Z, and Power by Kanye West. Then I go full on pop-goddess with just about anything from Halsey, Sia, and Lady Gaga. I finish up with some old rock staples like Everlong and The Pretender by the Foo Fighters and my longtime favorite, Eminence Front by The Who.

Sometimes I want something that isn’t music. This is where podcasts fit in. I pick podcasts with episodes that are roughly the same length as a typical workout, so while I love longer podcasts like Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, I am definitely not staying in the pool for 5 hours learning all about the demise of the Celts or Alexander the Great. Those are for cleaning the basement.

My ultimate favorite is Radiolab. This podcast explores a variety of topics related to science and culture. At about 40 minutes long, Radiolab is the perfect length for a before work swim. It lets my brain warm up for the day, while I do the same with my body.

If I need something funnier, Two Dope Queens is my go-to. I am in love with the hosts, Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams. These comedians leave no topic untouched, sharing stories about relationships, city living, pop culture, current events, fashion, and just about everything in between.

As people who know me well will tell you, I live for sports. If it involves a ball, a racquet, throwing myself down a mountain, or any other fun way to use my body, I will be first in line to give it a shot, so I couldn’t write about podcasts without including one of my favorite sports themed series. EPSN’s 30for30 podcasts are amazing. They delve in depth into a variety of sports stories. Some are inspirational, others explore the dirty underbelly of sport. There aren’t many of them, but they are worth waiting for.

Very long story short, my brother-in-law was right, what’s playing in my ears totally changed how I feel about my workout. As I learned, it can be tricky to get digital content onto your device to fuel your workout. Even if you think my music taste is rubbish, I would be happy to help you load your favorite tunes and podcasts onto your device. If you can’t find me at the library, check the Westwood pool. I’ll be the one dancing at the wall between sets.

Alli Palmgren is the Technology Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Alli’s column in the March 8, 2018 issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Lydia Sampson

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