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Music fan or not, evidence suggests indulging in some tunes can help your performance.  Costas Karageorghis, associate professor of sport psychology at Brunel University in England researches music and its impact on athletic performance.  His findings just might have some bearing on your next training playlist selection.

Repetitive types of exercise can become tough slogging at times, even for the most addicted.  When thoughts and feelings of fatigue interrupt your flow, music can help you get back on track. Numerous studies by Karageogphis have found an increased resilience to uncomfortable exercise moments through the use of music.  The right track can help narrow your focus and help divert attention away from those nasty negative thoughts.  Because music is something to help take you away from the unpleasantness of the present moment, it is referred to as a ‘dissociative strategy’.  Not surprisingly, once you get distance from a harmful track of thinking, you are apt to work longer and harder.

And yes, there does exist a “right” music of sorts.  Karageogphis is also the creator of the Brunel Music Rating Inventory.  An instrument designed to rate the motivational qualities of music.  His research reveals for a track to inspire, it must have strong rhythmic qualities that match your workout.  Typically, this means more up-tempo tunes are apt to keep you striding strongly. Olympic 10,000 gold medal winner Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie’s most beloved running tune is the techno song “Scatman”.  Personal preference does reign here, just think less Dave Mathews and more Black Keys- then you’ll be off to a good start.

Some other tips to get the most from your playlist include:

  • Consider synchronizing your running to your music.  BPM or beats per minute can be matched with steps per minute.  For an excellent and free selection of various BPM mixes, try Podrunner.com.
  • Think personal.  A music track does not need to be related to sport to be motivating.  Anything that resonates with a desire to fulfill your goals and carry on through adverse moments can help.  
  • Ask yourself what your emotional needs are, and then select a match.  If you’re prone to an over focus on outcomes and you blast yourself with songs about winning at all costs you will send your pressure gauge through the roof.  

Music does have proven emotional and neurochemical impact.  Ask any athlete who has utilized music as a regulation strategy designed to enhance performance.  Music can be used to calm anxious states prior to competition or boost energy levels when it’s time for action. In order to really appreciate the vast mood altering possibilities of music, you may consider picking up a copy of the entirely readable This is your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin.  When our minds have a pleasurable experience, a flow neurotransmitters accompanying the feeling. Music can elicit a rise in the levels of serotonin your brain produces and viola- you get instant mood improvement. 

So…what are your current favorite training tunes?  Please share!