Does Your Playlist Matter in Your Workout?

Have you ever seen the movie Hardball?  In the film the star pitcher Miles needs to listen to the song Big Poppa to pitch well, but when an opposing team’s coach decided to ban his headphones while he was pitching the whole team sang him the song during the game so he could get his mojo back to win the game.  Before Miles even threw a pitch he would get inside his own head by listening deeply to the beat and closely to the lyrics:

“I love it when you call me Big Pop-pa
Throw your hands in the air, if yous a true player”

Music can have a high impact on your ability to perform, workout, or focus.  Over the years Dr. Costas Karageorghis has studied the enhancement abilities music can have on a workout.  Karageorghis created the Brunel Music Rating Inventory which is a questionnaire used to rate the motivational qualities of music.  Administered to different panels of various demographics who listen to 90 seconds of a song and rate its motivational qualities for physical activities.  What has been discovered is that tempo is one of the keys to a good workout playlist.  Using the beat (tempo) to the rate of your movement gives the person a pace to keep so it becomes easier to speed up or slow down.  The other reason why tempo is important is it can keep time with your heart with the right flow of music.  The average person’s heart rate corresponds to the tempo of 120 to 140 beats per minute (bpm).

Music becomes like a metronome for your body to keep time, pace, and energy.  Besides tempo or rhythm, lyrics and how a song makes you feel emotionally can also have a significant impact.  Considering your emotion can determine your motivation in your workout.  Are you going are hard at the gym trying to push yourself to the limit?  Are you trying to find an inner strength and relaxation place through yoga?  Or are you trying to keep pace to do weight lifting while trying to distract yourself from exhaustion.  It has been proven in studies done by Dr. Karageorghis that music can distract you from pain and fatigue, elevates your mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort, and promotes metabolic efficiency.  In the article, “Let’s get Physical: The Psychology of Effective Workout Music” by Ferris Jabr it discusses how many organizations who put on races have banned music during the race if they are vying for awards or money.  This ban was going to go broader to all marathon runners from music players to prevent runners from having a competitive edge.  There was a lot of push back from the marathon runners so it never become an official rule.

For me, listening to music allows me to get lost in my head.  My brain is constantly running and very rarely shuts off.  It is always thinking – what is my next step in life?  Was the decision I made at work the right one yesterday?  I have to make my to do list?  The list goes on forever.  According to “They’re Playing My Song. Time to Workout” by Steven Kurutz, people exercise longer and more vigorously with music.  I think it is because it gives a person a focus point.  If I can get through this song running my next few laps I am one step closer to the finish line.

I have a tendency to create a playlist for the different stages of my workout.  First you have your warm up where you need to amplify your momentum.  Then you need a driving force to continue to push you in the moment and keep you focus.  Finally, you need some recovery music to bring you back down to a relaxation state and decrease your heart rate.  Knowing friends of mine the three most popular genres that I’ve found on playlists are hip hop, rock, and pop.  All these types of music you can use for various stages of your workout.  A little hip hop to get the blood flowing, rock to keep the push, and pop to bring you back down to a dance your apartment level or stretching.  As Dr. Karageorghis says, “one could think of music as a type of legal performance enhancing drug.”  So, as Nike says “Just do it.”

Click Here for my current workout playlist!  And “I love it when you call me big poppa…” and I might have a slight 80s problem.

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