ryan key, derek sanders, cardio sport

You may have started the new year with some lofty wellness goals. But was working out alongside Ryan Key and Derek Sanders among them? Maybe it should have been…

In a move straight from our wildest dreams, the Mayday Parade and Yellowcard frontmen have partnered with Cardio Sport to co-host and DJ a pop-punk-fueled, emo night-style fitness class

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Cardio Sport is founded on a mission to develop sport-centric exercise methods that are grounded in purpose rather than repetitive motion. The company is notably music-inspired, featuring high-energy tracks from a number of our favorite Warped Tour alumni. In fact, festival founder Kevin Lyman is among their partners. Others include Bayside, Our Last Night, Senses Fail, Silverstein, Sleeping With Sirens, State Champs, Underoath and We The Kings.

The livestream event, which includes a Q&A with Key and Sanders, will take place Friday, Jan. 29 from 8-9 p.m. EST. Tickets for the stream are available for $11 here. For each purchase, $1 will be donated to MusiCares to fund artist relief. Be sure to sign up ASAP because the first 250 people will be entered to win a virtual meet and greet. Alternative Press readers will also be entered to win one of two custom record players valued at $120. Just enter promo code “ALTPRESS” at checkout. 

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In addition, Cardio Sport is offering a special promotion to those who subscribe to the program. For $14.99 a month, members can access a suite of on-demand workouts soundtracked by their favorite artists. Sign up by the end of January and you’ll receive a free equipment package valued at $50. 

Key and Sanders caught up with Alternative Press ahead of their livestream event to talk about their participation with Cardio Sport and personal workout routines. If you’ve been in need of motivation to kick-start that New Year’s resolution, look no further.

You’ve recently signed on as official Cardio Sport partners. Apart from the obvious inclinations toward our favorite genres, what was it about the program that really captured your interest?

RYAN KEY: My fitness journey has been good but spotty. I’m very on-again, off-again when I get busy. I’m not super great at maintaining a routine. I’ll kill it for a month or two, and then I just get distracted. So that’s always been my workout regimen. I was very fortunate and inherited some pretty good genes, I think. Both of my parents are in their late 60s and early 70s, and they look amazing. I can’t really take any credit for that, but I’m very grateful for it. [Laughs]. 

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Back in 2007 or 2008, I hit a wall. Mental and physical health-wise, I was not really doing great. One of the things I wanted to do was get in shape for the first time since I was a kid and [participating in] high school athletics. Once I joined a rock band, that all went out the window, and I was a touring, drinking, partying mess for about eight years. So, I decided I wanted to gain some weight because I was skinny—unhealthily skinny. I got a trainer and got in the gym, and it was amazing. It changed my physique, my energy levels and everything forever after that. 

I’ve always exercised since then. But with that said, I’ve always hated the gym. It’s the most boring form of exercise to me. I know some people love it. My sister’s a gym rat, and she’s obsessed with it. But unless someone’s standing over me and screaming, which gets really expensive, I just don’t really like the gym. A lot of the workouts I’ve done post-2008 have been on-demand style. So, when I heard about [Cardio Sport], I was like, “That’s exactly the kind of stuff I like to do.” And I think fans will really be stoked because it’s all based around Yellowcard and Mayday Parade-style bands and music.

DEREK SANDERS: Yeah, I love the premise. It’s kind of obvious, you know? It’s like, “Why hasn’t this been done before?” So yeah, I’m stoked to be a part of it.

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KEY: [Cardio Sport’s director Hilary Hartman] said something to me early on about how much people are missing going to shows right now and how much exercise you get if you’re the kind of person that gets involved at a show. People are missing running and jumping around together. I think something like this is going to give you a hardcore workout but distract you by the music in a good way. It lets you forget what you’re doing. It’s obviously not going to replace a show, but it might replace some of that energy for you. It’s a good outlet.

If you don’t mind me asking, what does a standard workout look like for you day to day? 

SANDERS: I’ve been trying to take exercising more seriously lately. I don’t usually do a workout at one time, but I do different things throughout the day. I do pull-ups and a lot of yoga, planks, sit-ups, crunches and squats. It’s really just a hodgepodge of things. If I’m making dinner and I have five minutes, I’ll try to do some exercise. I have these [daily] goals. I’ll [aim to do] 40 pull-ups, 60 sit-ups, and plank for a total of four or five minutes. It probably makes more sense to do an hour of exercise one time, but I’ve just never been good at doing that. I spread it out. I feel like you have to do whatever works for you, and this is what’s been working for me.

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KEY: My [routine’s] got to be in and out and kind of gnarly. I’ve been a Beachbody workout person for a long time. I started with P90X and Insanity, but those are so long. In the original P90X, the yoga part alone was 90 minutes or something. But the guy who started Insanity, Shaun T, has a program called T25. It’s 25 minutes, and it’s so gnarly. It feels like I have a trainer there that’s getting me into a full-flop sweat. 

Last year during quarantine was the most I’ve ever stuck to doing it every single day. I probably made it through four or five months. I’m totally off it now because I moved in December, but I got pretty shredded. I felt good. I need that half-hour in and out. I can’t do 90 minutes a day with everything else I’ve got going on. So in the same way that Derek’s just trying to squeeze it in when he can, I’ve got to get up, get some protein, do it and be done for the day. 

It sounds like the Cardio Sport workouts are similar. They’re a half-hour to 40 minutes and kicking your butt for that entire time. Again, going to the gym, I’m like, “Meh, this is boring.” I have trouble working myself up into a full-on raging workout on my own. So having coaches or a guided workout is always really beneficial for me.

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What genres and artists do you tend to listen to while working out?

SANDERS: Honestly, it could be [anything] from stripped-down chill to extreme hardcore. It depends on if I’m doing yoga and wanting to listen to more chilled-out stuff or really going for and [in the mood for] aggressive music. Like Ryan said, whatever you’re listening to is just something else to focus on. It’s something to take your mind off the physical pain that you’re going through, [so you’ll] make it a little bit further than you would without it.

KEY: If I’m doing a guided thing that I’m watching on TV, it has the worst cheesy, terrible workout music known to man. It’s like MIDI guitars, and it’s just really bad. But there’s a trainer, so it offsets that. It’s funny that Derek likes chill music [because] when I’m on my own, that’s it. I don’t listen to heavy rock or metal or anything. Even if I’m getting a pump on, I’m listening to Hammock or Explosions In The Sky. I just like to zone out no matter what, and it accomplishes just what Derek said. Ambient electronica and post-rock are what I’m really into anyway. It just takes my mind off what I’m doing, and before I know it, I’m like, “Wow, I’ve been here for an hour.”

Why do you think so many people gravitate toward pop punk for cardio workouts?

KEY: Derek, do you guys have one of these on any of your records? [Beats his hands rapidly against his chest.]

SANDERS: No, we don’t do much of that, but there might be a touch of it in the new stuff we’re recording.

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KEY: [Laughs]. I love it. Yeah, so that’s why. Yellowcard had a few. We got away from it on the last couple of records when we considered ourselves old and midtempo. But our early records have that punk, Foo Fighters-style beat. It’s so driving and upbeat. I think the whole genre really lends itself to physical activity. As you can tell from our shows, everything is nutso. 

SANDERS: Right. The energy is natural with pop punk. We talk about those shows being so energetic, so of course it translates to [exercise] as well.

If you can mosh to it, then you can run and lift to it, right? It’s funny, these things really go hand and hand, but we rarely see crossover in terms of direct artist involvement. What do you think opened the door for an event like this to occur?

SANDERS: [Cardio Sport] is the first organized attempt to make something like this happen, at least that I’m aware of. If I had been asked about something like this years ago, I would’ve been like, “Yeah, that’s cool. Let’s do it!” This is just the first attempt to bring the artist into it, and it’s really smart.

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KEY: I think we needed the team at Cardio Sport to say, “This is our idea we’re going to execute it.” And no one’s done that [until now]. But I also think there’s something cool about this that correlates with our music scene as well. I think that the Warped Tour scene of bands is such a broad spectrum. There’s a sense of community, and everyone can be a part of it. People considered it to be a place for outcasts, but it’s not exclusive to that. It’s a place where outcasts and popular kids meet in the middle. All different walks of life were following these bands. 

From what I get, the vibe of Cardio Sport is the same. You don’t have to be The Rock to do this workout. You can modify it and do whatever. They’re encouraging the community like, “Come jam to the music and have fun. It’s chill. If you can’t keep up right now, that’s fine. You’ll get there.” It’s the same way we talked to fans, encouraging them to be themselves and follow their dreams. I think they work really well together. 

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You’ve both done DJ sets in the past via Emo Night. What differences have you observed in putting together the set for this livestream in comparison to those?

SANDERS: This was the first virtual DJ set that I’ve done, so it was definitely uncharted territory. I wasn’t sure how to approach it. Ultimately, I just did the same thing I would have done at an actual Emo Night but by myself in front of a computer instead of onstage. That’s just what felt the best and most natural. It was more fun than I expected. It really made me miss doing actual emo nights in front of people so much. I just tried to channel the same vibe and energy into this.

KEY: I had the same experience. Actually, I think Derek had a little more fun than I did because I had a bad cable going to my camera. I would get like four songs in, and it would just go black and I’d have to start over. I finally rigged it to where it would hold, and I only got one little blip in the whole set. If someone had been outside of my window watching in here while I was doing that by myself, [it would have been] the most awkward thing ever. [Laughs]. 

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Do you often lean toward the same music when building the setlists?

KEY: Yeah. The songs are the songs, right? It’s just, “Which ones are you going to do, and which am I going to do?” I always send the courtesy email before any Emo Night thing like, “These are the songs I’d like to do, but if I’m taking too many bangers just let me know.”

What are your staples for those setlists? Are there any songs that you have to include no matter what?

SANDERS: A lot of My Chemical Romance, for sure. It goes over better than anything else. But there are a lot of songs. It’s such a cool thing. Who would have known back in the 2000s, when a lot of this music came out, that it would still be this impactful? People talk about how it’s not just a phase. These are grown-ups listening to these songs still, and it’s a cool thing.

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For sure. It’s funny because emo used to be perceived as derogatory, but now it’s this point of cultural nostalgia. 

KEY: I think that emo night can still be a little odd and polarizing for people. It’s definitely more accepted now, but when the two main brands started having success, there were bands that weren’t cool with it. There were problems around it. I’ve probably done 200 shows with the Brooklyn guys. It’s honestly been a huge part of my ability to carry on career-wise. Just that little extra help along the way without having Yellowcard in my life has been awesome. I didn’t understand it at all when I first heard about it. I just had this bad connotation in my mind of playing other people’s songs on a laptop. 

Even up to doing the first show, I think I was still a hater. But I’ve gotten in debates with people about it. I’m like, “Look, some of the shows I’ve done have had 2,000 people. You get up onstage and look out at them losing their minds and having the ultimate experience of their life together while singing, crying, hugging and dancing. If you have a problem with that, then you’re the problem.” 

Everybody is doing nothing but sharing positive vibes and energy, and the world needs so much of that. I’ve realized over the years that Emo Night is such a wellspring of positivity. The nostalgia is tangible. It’s real. I really enjoy doing them, mostly just from the experience I get. Watching people watch me jump around like an idiot really makes me happy.

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Do you think these Cardio Sport livestreams could be feasibly translated into in-person, emo night-style events in the future when it’s safe to do so? 

SANDERS: God, I hope so. I look forward to any kind of gathering of people and singing songs together in person. I just miss that so much right now, and I would love for the chance to do that.

KEY: I think it would translate really easily in the studio where workouts are happening. I know that they do a lot of stuff on college campuses, so those classes might be bigger. There’s definitely room for us to integrate it.

What other artists would you most like to see leading a group workout in this capacity?

KEY: Honestly, out of everyone I’ve done it with in all the hundreds of shows that I’ve done, I’m doing this one with one of my favorites. I would say my other bud that I love doing them with is Jordan Pundik from New Found Glory. The three of us just have the same alter egos when we get up there. We let go and lose our minds with the crowd. It makes you feel more comfortable getting up there, being an idiot and jumping around. It takes a certain level of, “OK, I’m getting over this hump because it’s just music playing through the speakers.”

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When I do a long set, I do some DJing per se, but not anything that would qualify me as a DJ. You find out that fans really don’t enjoy when you manipulate the songs too much. The concept behind going to the emo night shows is hearing the song played all the way through, just as if the band were playing it. We’ve blown sound systems at these shows. So you get over that hump of, “OK, this could be really uncomfortable, or I could just let go and lose my mind.” I found that Derek and Jordan are able to get over it too and not just chill behind the computer.

I imagine that your participation may pique the interest of some fans who otherwise might be inexperienced in the realm of fitness. What encouragement or advice do you have to offer to someone who might be on the fence about joining the Cardio Sport livestream or maybe even committing to a long-term workout routine in general?

SANDERS: Ryan touched on this earlier, but it’s not “all or nothing” with exercise or physical activity. I feel like a lot of people don’t take care of themselves very well. Just starting and hopefully building into something more serious is a great thing. You’re never going to regret the fact that you tried to move in this direction. Anybody can build toward something great.

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KEY: It’s definitely never too late to start. My own journey with it is so off and on that I feel like I’m starting over every year. I’ll reach a point where I’m like, “Dude, it’s just 30 minutes of your day. Just get up and do it.” Starting my own little community in Patreon, something I’ve noticed on a more acute level is [fans’] interactions with each other. When I’m doing the Q&A or shows, I’m reading the comments and seeing how many of them are making friends with each other. If [the Cardio Sport livestreams] catch on the way we’re all hoping they will, I think the sense of community will help motivate people. You’re going to have people communicating with each other, saying, “Don’t slack. If you need motivation, I’m here.”

What advice do you have for people to live their healthiest and happiest lives, especially in light of pandemic-imposed limitations?

SANDERS: Well, there’s no excuse now. There are so many things that we are limited by and things that we can’t do. Now’s the time to take those steps to begin your journey toward your physical wellness.

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KEY: It’s another constant battle for me. I was doing really well last year, but I moved again, and I was so exhausted. For the last eight weeks, I’ve been eating like crap. I’m totally settled now and about to get back on the path to light. I know we’re here talking about a workout program, and exercise is really important, but you’ve got to eat right. If you put a bunch of crap in your body, you’re not going to get any good results. Hopefully [the Cardio Sport] community will be something that will help with that motivation too. You’re feeling good, and you’re getting fit, but you’ve got to get the Pop-Tarts out of your life. You’ll be amazed how you feel, especially if you’ve been someone who hasn’t eaten like that as an adult. It just changes your whole experience on Earth.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Jan. 29 livestream and subscribe to Cardio Sport On Demand. Key and Sanders will be taking questions for their Q&A in advance via social media and during the event.





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