Music can be heard in most gyms, studios, and Fitness Centres. It’s an integral part of the facilities experience – in fact it’s safe to say one cannot do without the other. We can opt to listen to what our gym provides, but 9 times out of 10 you’ll find most gym junkies, athletes, and team participants will bring their own tunes.
So why is music so important during our training sessions? Why is it that we can perform better whilst listening to music (pre, during and post workout)? Let’s look at some aspects of the body’s behaviour, and the effects that music has on our training.
Music can alter emotional and physiological arousal, and as a result can act as a stimulant (pre and during workout) or sedative (during and after workout). Different tempos of music can be used to enhance the effect or experience of a workout to allow for better training performances. Dame Kelly Holmes revealed that she enjoys listening to music by Alicia Keys to prepare for her events – and she later went on to win two gold medals in the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics!
Music also diverts the participant’s attention from the sensation of being fatigued (dissociation). It allows the participant to focus on something other than their workout.
According to Professor Peter Terry from the University of Southern Queensland, ‘Listening to music can greatly boost a person’s ability to exercise so much so that an active participant can perform faster, higher, and stronger with the right tune’.
Although music doesn’t diminish the effort of the exercise a participant does, it does improve the experience. Put another way, it makes ‘light work’ of workouts that may be deemed to be extremely hard for the participant. If our minds allow us to focus on a beat, tempo, or rhythm that we like to listen to, then high-intensity workouts become more enjoyable and achievable, as music enables us to push further through the fatigue phase or pain barrier.
An example of this is running on a treadmill with music set to a constant tempo. Professor Terry’s research showed that athletes could run 18% longer with music, than without. He noted a measurable difference in their oxygen intake, however he was not sure of the mechanics behind it. He proposed that by listening to music, athletes had the ability to respond to relaxation and in turn increase blood flow.
Repetitive music with a constant tempo can also aid in the participant’s ability to regulate movement and prolong their performance. Spin class, at its best, can be very gruelling but also satisfying at the same time. All tracks are set at speeds that take the participant on a journey – it’s hard to find a dry shirt and non-red complexion in this kind of environment! One of the main reasons why people participate in this kind of activity is that the music matches the intensity of the exercise, and they can push themselves a little farther by keeping up with the tempo of the music played.
Music and Flow attainment, or State of Flow, is an altered state of awareness while training where the mind and body are on ‘autopilot’. Some coaches liken it to being ‘in the zone’. This requires little conscious effort, and when you’re in a State of Flow physical activity is seen as very enjoyable no matter the activity. Wouldn’t it be great to have that euphoric ‘in the zone’ feeling all the time? Dare I say it, it is every elite athlete’s dream. Using a single-subject, multiple-baselines design, researchers examined the effects of pre-task music on the flow state and netball shooting performance of three collegiate players. Two participants reported an increase in their perception of flow, and all three showed considerable improvement in shooting performance. The researchers concluded that interventions including self-selected music and imagery could enhance athletic performance by triggering emotions and cognitions associated with the State of Flow. (Karageorghis and Deeth 2002).
So, what kind of music is best to acquire this feeling or experience? In short, all music has potential: it’s up to the participant’s taste and what rocks their boat! In particular Rap and Hip-Hop music is popular for jogging and stretching, whereas dance music is popular for strength and high intensity training. According to Karageorghis, ‘people should use songs that remind them of their adolescence and early adulthood to make them feel youthful and fit’. A motivational playlist can help to distinguish symptoms of exercise fatigue, like breathlessness or submaximal heart beats, that can be used in a more positive manner, i.e. the ability to get fitter faster. Karageorghis stated further, ‘This means that at the point when your body is shouting stop, the music has the power to lift your mood and beckon you on.’
In conclusion, music and the state of your mood will determine the outcome of your workout. When music is chosen with a focus of achieving your goals, it can drive and push you forward. Music makes training a more exciting and pleasant experience, leading to improved performance. Accordingly, music used as a motivational aid can provide a way to address the repetitiveness and mundane nature of many physical activities associated with aerobic performance training.
Karageorghis, C. and Terry, P. The psychophysical effects of music in sport and exercise: a review. Journal of Sport Behavior, 20(1): 54-68, 1997.
Karageorghis, C., Terry, P., and Lane, A. Development and initial validation of an instrument to assess the motivational qualities of music in exercise and sport: The Brunel Music Rating Inventory. Journal of Sport Sciences, 17: 713-724, 1999.
Karageorghis, C., Jones, L., and Low, D. Relationship between exercise heart rate and music tempo preference. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 77(2): 240-251, 2006.
Karageorghis, C., and Priest, D. Music in Sport and Exercise: An update on research and application. The Sport Journal, 11(3): Retrieved October 25, 2008, from
Professor Peter Terry, https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/entertainment/music/music-helps-athletes-boost-performance/news-story
Te Rangimaria Ngarimu Biography
He aha te mea nui – He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
Te Rangimaria Ngarimu is the National Graduation Manager for Fit Futures Academy. She is from a family of three brothers and one sister, plus heaps of nieces, nephews, great nephews and nieces. Te was born, bred and educated here in Aotearoa. Although she holds Diplomas in Music and Maori, she describes herself as ‘a Jack of all trades and master of none’. Te has experienced life through travel, people and places. She enjoys anything to do with the beach whether it be swimming, walking, sailing or surfing (very badly)!
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