Why do athletes often listen to music while doing their workouts?
An integral part of our daily lives, music is also an important part of any physical activity.
In April 2016, men’s magazine GQ ran an article on the effects of music on athletic performance, mentioning among other things that listening to music is not allowed during professional races.
Music has always accompanied physical exertion.
It is proven that music helps improve performance while reducing a sense of effort and tuning out disagreeable sensations such as tiredness, boredom or pain that often accompany physical activities.
Whatever the sport you are practising, the benefits of music include improved performance, reduced stress and better concentration to help you attain your fitness goals.
Do you need to up your cardio training, but cold weather makes it hard to keep up your motivation?
The right workout playlist will help boost your morale and get through the difficult parts of your workout routines.
From heavy metal to punk to hip hop to rap to dubstep, passing by jazz, swing, disco, classical music or electro/techno, there are so many different types of music that’s it’s hard to choose what to listen to!
Whether you are listening to Spotify on your iPod while working out alone on your treadmill, exercising for weight loss at home with your favourite jams over the sound system or taking Zumba lessons with a personal trainer – Superprof presents the ideal playlists to keep up your momentum during seemingly endless training sessions.
Professional sports competitions usually ban music players to set all athletes on an equal footing. Photo credit: acase1968 on Visual Hunt
Of course, you shouldn’t do just anything anyhow anywhen.
You should always take some preliminary precautions, no matter what you’re doing.
Here are some tips for preparing yourself before you go off and exercise to your new workout playlist:
Whether you are doing interval training, lifting, a cardio workout, training for a marathon or exercising for better abs, the right music mix will up your workout motivation and help you to achieve your fitness goals.
Just rev up iTunes, pick your workout music and get pumping. You will soon see how energizing the right music mix can be. It can distract from burning muscles, improve your endurance, help you keep motivated and keep pushing further and inspire you to burn those calories with a passion.
Before running to the gym and pumping iron, you might want to know that scientific studies have proven that music has a beneficial effect on the human body – influencing hormone production, muscle relaxation and general well-being.
Making a music playlist before you next exercise is a good way to make sure your body is getting all the help it can.
We are constantly wondering how to firm our thighs, lose weight, achieve a flat stomach, overthrow depression, frustration or timidity, or bolster our self-confidence.
The right music genre will motivate you to keep training.
You don’t need to run the London marathon to achieve a zen state of mind. You just need to know how to get out of your comfort zone.
Listening to music while warming up can help you empty your mind so you can better focus on your repetitions.
So before you start your Crossfit training, pilates, cycling tour or bodybuilding program, take some time to set up a workout music playlist.
Can you listen to relaxing songs or jazzy music while doing sports?
This may seem incompatible, but studies have proven that all music is beneficial to sports.
Different styles of music will produce different effects:
Nothing like your favourite film soundtrack or something by Zedd when you go for a run.
Music helps you think positive thoughts as soon as you get out of bed in the morning.
So it’s important to listen to music when you’re trying to stay fit, even if you’re only taking a brisk walk on your way to work.
Here are some tips for choosing the best workout songs to keep you motivated:
You don’t have to buy or download music to read music files on your MP3 player.
Web 2.0 and music streaming now offer the opportunity to listen to music for free, with various apps such as:
Before you start to work out, you can compose your own running music playlist that will play across all platforms with SoundsGood.
And if you have trouble remembering that perfect remix you hear at a friend’s, the Shazam app recognises any music played from any platform and can tell you its title.
Pumping iron on the bench press and doing fitness workouts means giving the most of yourself during hard physical workouts.
Whether you are dancing in a Zumba class or taking home fitness lessons with a certified personal trainer, music will help you go the extra mile, pick you up when you get tired and push through the pain.
Muscling exercises can be gruelling, whether you are doing crunches or sprints.
This is where music comes in.
It allows athletes to create a bubble in which they can concentrate entirely on their effort and channel all their energy into precise movements.
In terms of keeping you focused and motivated, it can sometimes even replace a personal trainer, gym instructor or fitness coach.
Music is a true energiser: listening to a song will help you combat pain and work harder.
Even weight training benefits from a motivating and rhythmic workout playlist. Photo credit: CherryPoint on Visual hunt
But what running music will get your heart pumping faster and your feet hitting the pavement?
Rap or hip-hop makes for good muscle workout songs because it has a good rhythm and tempo that will let you simply zone out. Rather than focusing on your breathing or your straining muscles, you will be listening to the music.
To help you out, here is a little hip-hop playlist with inspirational pieces to motivate you and make you pick up the pace.
Of course, there are many more hip-hop songs with a good rhythm out there, for example by Rich Homie Quan.
While weight training and fitness usually require an intense effort over a short time, running and cardio training needs a lot of endurance and long-term physical effort.
Does running while listening to music modify our performance?
Yes. But it depends on the music.
Make sure your jogging music is not too loud – you need to hear bicycles and cars coming! Photo credit: Ed Yourdon on VisualHunt
A British study on 24 candidates asked to run until they were exhausted showed interesting results:
Those who listened to fast, rhythmic music during the exercise had better physical and cardiac results. They could run longer than the others without feeling fatigue or pain.
The explanation is simple. Music you enjoy stimulates neurotransmitters, chemicals factories in the brain that will produce more of the serotonin and dopamine necessary for physical effort and also creating a sensation of pleasure.
The organism also produces more endorphins, meaning you feel better and less stressed after a bout of exercise.
More than just endurance, a runner listening to tunes will see improvement in his or her:
To help attain these objectives, electro music is a good choice for your running songs.
For running, its the rhythm of the melody that makes the difference.
If you prefer rock, think of Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.
If you are more into pop, listen to upbeat songs by Beyoncé, the most listened-to artist by female runners!
There is no need to go into detail about the virtues of yoga.
More and more people – even professional athletes – practice yoga in addition to their main sport in order to:
Whether you are practising yoga alone or with a personal trainer, music often plays an essential part in yoga sessions.
It is widely recognised that playing zen instrumental music during yoga sessions improve the benefits for mind and body.
Music also lets you experience something in a certain ambience.
For example, Swing is better for a gentle physical activity like soft gymnastics, yoga or relaxation than hard rock, heavy metal or rap.
Personal trainers suggest instrumental music during yoga or stretching sessions to:
The sounds and vibrations of the music will inspire the participants and improve the harmonisation of their movements.
Nevertheless, you shouldn’t listen to just any music: it should be soft, calming and pleasant to the ear.
Next, to the traditional instrumentals and Sanskrit chant music, we particularly enjoy the didgeridoo, a hollow wooden wind instrument played by the Aborigines, with a deep, harmonious sound.
The most famous didgeridoo player is Mark Atkins. His powerful music will touch even the most hardened soul.
Purists will tell you that soothing instrumental music is the only kind for yoga and meditation.
But some trainers might opt for more modern tunes with vocals, in styles ranging from pop to reggae.
Loreena McKennitt or Enya, for example, might give your meditation session a whole different atmosphere and take you on a mental journey to someplace new.
Throughout this article, we have extolled the benefits of listening to music while doing physical activity. Whether trainers, professional athletes, sports scientists or neuroscientists, everyone agrees on the virtues of exercising to music. It allows you to:
These benefits allow athletes to improve their performance and develop their physical capabilities more quickly.
But do note that the choice of music during an intense physical effort will depend largely on taste and a personal reaction to a particular song or style of music.
While exercising, avoid any music that evokes painful or sad memories. It will only make you falter in your rhythm and lose concentration.
There’s a reason Aerobics classes are traditionally done to music. Photo credit: akahawkeyefan on VisualHunt.com
Here is a simple test you can do yourself:
Guess which one will be faster?
Of course, everyone has their favourite fitness music – some will like David Guetta, others Rihanna, Katie Perry or Taylor Swift, still more will rock to Linkin Park. Gospel has a swing to it that can help with weight training or Cross-fit.
Here is our own best workout music for most exercise genres, to keep you rocking while you work out, with beloved rock tunes from the 80s and classic motivational songs:
So load your iTunes and press play for a better workout.
Don’t forget to track your fitness progress.