The good: Music makes a great substitute for that absent training partner who is just a little bit faster or stronger than you.
Wondering if you should rock out with music while you run or workout in the gym? Poll your friends or Google some scientific studies and you’ll quickly discover that this ongoing debate has persuasive arguments booming out of both sides of the proverbial box. Some athletes wouldn’t dream of running a single step or lifting a dumbbell without pumping up the volume, while other athletes turn their noses up at anything but the unplugged, purist approach. There is no arguing that music has a beat that makes the body want to move. On the other hand, there are legitimate reasons to keep your entire mind “on call” when you run or workout. As usual, I support the best of both worlds. That is, knowing how to incorporate music into training on occasion and then being able, ultimately, to perform without it.
When To Mix Music and Exercise
To Enhance Performance with Up-Tempo Songs:
Music makes a great substitute for that absent training partner who is just a little bit faster or stronger than you. When I don’t have a friend on the track to chase down and have to finish speed workouts alone, I will often wear headphones to help me kick it in high gear. I always wondered how music made me feel like I just ate my Wheaties. Well, according to a 2012 study, music can act as a metronome to help maintain a steady pace, reduce false steps and decrease energy expenditures. The researchers at Hallam University found that participants who cycled in time to music required 7 percent less oxygen to do the same work as their music-free counterparts. According to another music and exercise researcher, Costas Karageorghis from the School of Sport and Education at London’s Brunel University, the “sweet spot” for using music to enhance performance is between125 – 140 beats per minute. So, pick up-tempo songs, not slow love ballads!
To Get Motivated with “Favorite” Songs:
On days when it’s hard to get out the door, cranking up the iPod and exercising to a few of my all-time favorite songs helps me readjust my mood. This isn’t just a touchy-feely claim; there is real science behind this type of attitude adjustment.
A recent study showed that subjects who listened to music they reportedly “loved” triggered the release of dopamine, the famous feel-good neurotransmitter. But, when the same participants listened to generic music selected by the researchers, dopamine levels remained stagnant.
In addition to being the brain’s reward and pleasure center, it’s no surprise to find out that dopamine not only enables our brain to see rewards, but sends the signals we need to take action and move toward achieving them.
To Trick Yourself into Beating Fatigue:
Anyone who’s ever hit the wall in a marathon knows there’s not a song ever sung that can trick your mind out of the pain.
When your body starts sensing signs of extreme exertion, it notifies your brain to take a break. But the use of music can keep you going despite rising levels of lactic acid in the muscles, a pounding heart beat and increased sweat production. Experts say that music overrides the physiological feedback for the brain’s conscious attention – it’s a diversion in the same way that the phlebotomist’s office always has an interesting photo to look at while you’re getting blood drawn. However, during intense fatigue, music can lose its magic to override the suffering. Anyone who’s ever hit the wall in a marathon knows there’s not a song ever sung that can trick your mind out of the pain. However, the right music can
elevate your mood and persuade you to ride out the waves of exhaustion, rather than giving up.
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