Anyone who trains seriously will tell you that the right equipment, the right gear, and right routine are all things that add up to make a perfect workout. But the question is, what about the right music?
What kind of effect does music really have on exercise and working out and is there such thing as the “right tunes”?
For over 20 years, sports psychologist at Brunel Uniersity, Costas Karageorghis, has studied the correlation between exercise, heart rate, and music. Karageorghis has also worked with popular brands such as Sony and Nike and the music industry in general on consultation to create CDs tailored to working out.
Choosing the Right Tempo
The research performed by Karageorghis specifically shows that background music or music delivered via headphones can reduce the perception of effort by up to 10%. It’s not just effort that is effected though, as this has collateral benefits like increasing endurance and efficiency. However, not all music is created equal.
The rhythm and beat (or tempo) of the music are important qualities to consider. To keep it simple think of the beat of the music in terms of heart beats. Your music should match your level of effort. So if you’re on the treadmill jogging with a heart rate of around 130 beats per minutes then you should try to find songs in a range of 110 to 120 beats per minute. However, studies show that there are diminishing returns on the effect a fast paced song has on energy levels. Anything over 80% of your heart rate starts to have little to no effect (and to some people can actually be annoying!).
What if you happen to like slow jams?
That may still work. While studies show that it’s optimal to listen to music that is up beat it can also be beneficial to listen to music that is uplifting, especially any songs that you might have a strong emotional tie to.
Take Your Workout to the Next Level With Technology
Nike and Motorola are well aware of the effects of music on exercise and fitness, and have thus created products specifically tailored to delivering the right music at the right time.
Nike was the first to create such a product with their Nike +, which they later teamed with Apple on.
Most recently though Motorola created the MOTOACTV which is supposed to determine exactly which songs increase performance the most and then prioritize your MP3 player to deliver the right songs at the right time.
In addition to Nike and Motorola, if you happen to use iTunes as your main source of songs then you can also purchase Tangerine, which is an app that helps create playlists for you by analyzing the intensity (or BPM) of songs already on your playlist.
There really is no excuse for not being equipped with the right music for your next workout.
What Can You Do if Listening to Music isn’t Permitted?
In many situations athletes aren’t permitted to compete while listening to music, even though they may have spent months training. Karageorghis encourages athletes to instead imagine a particular song that they are familiar enough with to “play” in their head during the event. This can still have a significant effect on effort and focus.
Now that you know how to choose the right song and that listening to music while training will increase your overall effort then make sure you don’t leave home without workout headphones.