07/17/2012 4:09 PM
Photo by Robert Marquardt/Getty Images
A few weeks ago, as I wrapped up my packing and final preparations for our Olympic staging camp and the Olympics in London, I announced on Twitter that I was looking for suggestions for my "pump-up" playlist for the Games.
I got a great response, and even added some of the suggestions to my ready-room regimen, but the idea of music and how it's played a part in my swimming career really got me thinking.
My dad can hear a song by the Eagles and say, "This reminds me of when I used to deliver newspapers in Windsor." My mom will gush about how a song reminds her of when she first started dating my dad - which is creepy and cute at the same time - and it's amazing how we can use music to chronicle our lives.
For me, almost every song represents a swim meet. Sure, there are also a few albums that formed the soundtrack to my love life when it wasn't quite the fairy tale it is right now, but I digress.
This motivated me to go back and choose my top five pump-up songs of all time in my swimming career. It took less than a minute for me to realize that five would not be sufficient, so I attempted to narrow it down to the top 10. I'm sure, moments after this blog is posted, I'll be kicking myself for forgetting this tune or the other.
But for now, here are Julia's favourite pump-up songs, numbers 6-10:
No. 10: Never Say Never by Justin Bieber. Although this jam didn't bring me any particularly great swims last year when it first came out, I couldn't possibly leave it off the list. This song pumps me up on principle. Maybe you're writing me off as a music critic right now because you're not a "Belieber." Well, I know what it's like to come from a small town. In fact, I know what it's like to come from the same small town that Bieber did. I couldn't be more proud of what he's accomplished, and I only hope that I can do Stratford, Ont., just as proud this summer in the pool. When this song comes on my iPod while I'm running, I always run a little bit faster, and it's because I truly believe in my heart what he's saying: never say never.
No. 9: Country Girl by Luke Bryan. Before I moved to Texas, my answer to "what type of music do you like?" was always the same: anything but country. And then I moved to Texas, met my future husband, and a whole new world of country music was opened to me. This song is high-energy, and it makes me want to dance. Sometimes that's what I need in the ready room: to remember to have fun. I listened to this song before my races at the Canadian Olympic trials, and they played it over the loudspeakers at the pool after I won the 100-metre backstroke and broke the 60-second barrier for the first time in my life. If that doesn't make for a good song, I don't know what does.
No. 8: Stronger by Kanye West. I won my first ever trials meet in 2006, and in 2007 was not able to repeat the performance. When I returned to the pool in the fall of 2007, I made a decision that I was not going to leave anything to chance, and I certainly was not going to let anything stand in my way of making the 2008 Olympic team. Just in time for this motivational revelation, Kanye's "Stronger" came out and, even with a cliché for a chorus - "That that don't kill me/ Will only make me stronger" - it got the job done. I remember walking into my kitchen and telling my two roommates that "Stronger" was my song. Granted, I said that a ***lot*** in college in many different circumstances. But I loved that song and I made it my ringtone that day, so I was constantly reminded about what I was working towards. Before the Olympic trials this year, I seriously considered changing my ringtone back to the Kanye tune, but then I remembered: why would I do the same things I did four years ago if I want to be better than I was four years ago? So I refrained. In 2008, though, I lived by this song.
No. 7: So What by Pink. This song was added to my list at the last minute, and it has much more to do with a specific person than a moment or race. When I had shoulder surgery in 2008 after the Olympics, my best friend/roommate/backstroke training partner also had shoulder surgery. We both had the same injury, had surgery two hours apart, and even made matching shirts that said, "Friends don't let friends have surgery alone." Kristen Heiss was my rock through the absolute worst time of my swimming career, and this girl-power song was our favourite during the tough months when we saw our swimming careers slipping away. No matter how grim things got, we could blast this song in our kitchen and be happy for three minutes and 34 seconds. Over the last four years, this song has always managed to start playing at the most opportune moments: when I'm having a bad practice, or feeling really nervous before a race, or simply feeling down. I remember what we went through together, and that if I can get through ***that***, I can get through anything.
No. 6: The Final Countdown by Europe. I know, I know. This song came out before I was born, but you can't deny the fact that it's awesome. What's better than an 80's hair band to get you pumped up before your race? Or during your race? Obviously I didn't discover this song until much later than its time on top of the charts, but what started as a novelty pump-up tune evolved into a necessary survival tactic. In the 100-metre backstroke, there's a moment on the way back when you pass under the false-start rope and you feel nothing but horrible, horrible pain. I'm sure the distance swimmers out there would disagree, but for me, some of the longest moments of my life are those last 20 metres of the 100 back. Your legs feel like cement and your tempo starts dropping uncontrollably. I decided that, instead of thinking about the pain, I would think happy thoughts at this moment, so I began singing "The Final Countdown" in my head as I made my way to the wall. Believe it or not, it actually helped me hold my tempo and swim harder in those last final strokes. The eerie part is that, in my very first 100 backstroke after almost a year out of the water because of surgery, the moment I saw that rope, the song started on cue. So in between the thoughts of, "Gold medal, gold medal, gold medal" and "How bad do you want it?" in those last 20 meters, I can guarantee you that this song will be playing in my head.
That's the first half of my all-time top 10 pump-up songs. Granted, some of them are a bit dated, and aren't necessarily what I'll listen to in the ready room come the Olympic Games. But they have a sacred place in the soundtrack of my swimming career. Stay tuned for the top five!