Walk into almost any gym or training facility today and chances are you’ll find as many earbuds as dumbbells. Many athletes not only listen while they train, but have different playlists for the specific task—Gym Mix, Track Tracks, Warm Up Jam, etc. While spending all this extra time with Jay Z or U2 is a definitely a win, does it have a real impact on how we train? The simple answer—yes.
While you may know this intuitively from your own workout, studies have shown in double-blind tests that exposure to music improves performance. Even better, the results of these studies indicate a broad array of music makes a difference for a wide variety of athletes. So, running to the arms of your Angel should give you the boost to run until you’re just Gone!
But, how? It doesn’t make you stronger or more flexible. How can music improve performance? One way to think of music is like the performance-enhancing, non-drug drug. Getting lost in your tunes can distract the mind from noticing how far you’ve run or how much your calves are burning. Music also provides an emotional connotation to an event. So, attaching music to your training adds depth and further engages you with the routine.
Many sports, however, don’t seem well-suited to music. You can imagine earbuds are less than useful to the swimmer and disastrous in sports that require team communication. Fortunately, research suggests that just listening to music prior to training makes a difference. Choose a tune to calm your nerves or to jazz you up, then go do your best! If you’re a cyclist, runner, or other athlete who benefits from rhythmic actions, curate a playlist to set your tempo! Pick songs that match the cadence of your run—or, better yet, that will challenge your pace.
No matter when you listen—before or after—music can also help you get “in the zone”. Warm up to music that peps you up for the task at hand. Choose music that has meaning or that you know and always enjoy. Just like your diet, your bedtime, and your routine, make your music work for you in training and on race day.
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