‘Working out’ music – why I love to workout with my I-Pod!

By Jo Taylor, Jenrick Group

I personally would not consider doing exercise without music playing in the background for both my aerobics classes and at-home workouts – and the louder the better!

I really feel that the beat of the music inspires and pushes me to maximise my workout potential, plus, it is a natural distraction from the effort of the actual workout, but I didn’t realise it was actually enhancing my performance… How cool is that?!

I saw a magazine article over the weekend highlighting how music impacts your sporting performance. I have subsequently carried out some online research to understand it a little better.

A lot of the information was based around research conducted by Dr Costas Karageorghis, an accredited Sports & Exercise Psychologist at Brunel University. He is also a Leading Consultant for ‘Run to the Beat’ London half marathon, which involves co-ordinating live music with mass participation running events.

Dr Costas Karageorghis specialises in Psychophysical (the influence of music on the mind and body) and ergogenic (such as music to enhance physical performance) effects of music in sport and exercise.

His research findings highlight how music can support exercise, both on a personal and professional level, to calm nerves as well as to inspire and motivate prior to competition.

Also his research showed that the right tune can help anyone exercising at a gym, to run faster on a treadmill or lift heavier weights, can lift a person’s athletic performance by as much as 20 per cent.

An article I found, referenced Karageorghis & Terry, 1997 – how Music Aids Athletic Performance, based on a meta-analytic study he conducted at the Academy revealed four main ways which music may aid performance in sport and exercise. (There is some technical speak in here, but I thought it best to copy and paste).

1. During submaximal repetitive exercise such as running, music can narrow a performer’s attention and as a consequence, divert attention away from sensations of fatigue. This is a technique which many marathon runners and triathletes refer to as dissociation, i.e., focusing on stimuli unrelated to the task.

2. Music alters arousal levels and can therefore be used as a form of stimulant prior to competition (psyche-up) or as a sedative to calm over-anxious athletes, this often includes verbal suggestions. An article I found recommended AudioFuel – I had a look at their website and they offer FREE sample – http://bit.ly/c7f4C7

3. Music is beneficial as a result of the similarities between rhythm and human movement; therefore the synchronisation of music with exercise consistently demonstrates increased levels of work (exercise) output.

4. The rhythmical qualities of music also emulate patterns of physical skills; therefore, music can enhance the acquisition of motor skills and create a better learning environment. There is evidence from both gymnastics and swimming in support of this (Chen, 1985; Jernberg, 1981).

Karageorghis and David-Lee Priest’s research highlighted that the effects of carefully selected music are both quantifiable and meaningful.

As Paula Radcliffe, the world record-holding marathoner, has said, “I put together a playlist and listen to it during the run-in. It helps psych me up and reminds me of times in the build-up when I’ve worked really hard, or felt good. With the right music, I do a much harder workout.”

There is a possibility that the use of music during athletic performance may yield long-term benefits including exercise adherence and heightened sports performance, through a superior quantity and quality of training.

Personally I agree with Dr Costas Karageorghis that the music has to appeal to your senses and your exercise style and mean something to you, otherwise it will not motivate or inspire.

From reading Dr Costas Karageorghis findings I know that I use music to distract me from the effort of the workout and also to inspire me to push myself.

A song that truly inspires me is ‘proud’ by Heather Small, I heard it at the start of the ‘Race For Life’ and it inspired me to run as long as I could. For general work out I like Groove Armada, Fatboy Slim and Ministry of Sound anything with a decent beat really.

So, what is on your exercise play list?

If you have songs on your playlist that you think other people would benefit from, just leave us a comment below!

Information Source & Suggested Further Reading (please click on the links below):

BBC – Raise Your Game
The Sport Journal
Times Online

About the Author

Hi, I'm Tom Burkinshaw, I co-produce the Maximise Your Potential Podcast and Website and my goal is to help as many people as possible be successful in life, careers and business, by offering free coaching and mentoring through a series of unique interviews from inspiring people who all display exceptional self-belief, mental toughness and desire to achieve. Thank you for taking the time to visit Maximise Your Potential!