move to the rhythm

The se­cret to boost­ing your work­out isn’t nec­es­sar­ily high-tech equip­ment – it could be the mu­sic you’re lis­ten­ing to

ELLE (Australia) - - Contents -

How mu­sic can boost your work­out (and help you push past the pain).

Whether you’re into Haim or Halsey, you’re prob­a­bly one of the mil­lions of peo­ple en­gag­ing in the age-old rit­ual of ex­er­cis­ing to mu­sic. “The power of mu­sic is huge. We’re pro­grammed to re­spond to it and it can change your mood,” says fit­ness guru Kayla Itsines. “Peo­ple ask me what they should do when they have no mo­ti­va­tion to work out. I tell them to put on your favourite song and feel your brain and body kick into gear.” Such a be­liever in the pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship be­tween tunes and ex­er­cise, Itsines and her team cu­rate playlists that sync to work­outs on her pop­u­lar app Sweat, which can also be streamed di­rectly from Ap­ple Mu­sic.

Beyond the feel-good fac­tor, re­search has shown mu­sic can give your work­out an edge, too. Dr Costas Kara­georghis, an ex­pert on the psy­chol­ogy of ex­er­cise mu­sic from the UK’S Brunel Uni­ver­sity, found that spe­cific el­e­ments of mu­sic, such as tempo, af­fect per­for­mance not only through mo­ti­va­tion but by chang­ing the per­cep­tion of fa­tigue and pain. “In terms of ac­ti­vat­ing peo­ple dur­ing ex­er­cise, there’s a sweet spot in tempo be­tween 120 and 140 beats per minute, which is about dou­ble most peo­ple’s rest­ing heart rate,” he says. “For in­door cy­cling at 70 rev­o­lu­tions per minute, you might then find mu­sic at 140 beats per minute and take a semi-rev­o­lu­tion on each beat.” His re­search also found that the im­pact of mu­sic de­pends on whether it’s asyn­chro­nous (back­ground mu­sic) or syn­chro­nous, which is when “you need rhythm to try to em­u­late the pat­tern of move­ment you’re seek­ing to pro­duce”.

In­ter­est­ingly, Dr Amanda Krause, a re­search fel­low at The Uni­ver­sity of Mel­bourne, says it’s not only the song that can boost a work­out, but the choice it­self. “It’s more ef­fec­tive for peo­ple to dis­tract and feel less pain if they’re the ones in con­trol of mak­ing the choice.”

Pro ath­letes have long re­lied on mu­sic to give them a lift – Michael Phelps fa­mously kept his head­phones on un­til the last sec­ond at the Rio Olympics, ad­mit­ting since that it was Eminem, Lil Wayne and Skrillex blast­ing through his Beats By Dre. “Out­put can be in­flu­enced by mu­sic, it can give an ad­van­tage and can also give a sense of per­sonal con­trol and mas­tery over your en­vi­ron­ment,” Kara­georghis ex­plains.

Now gyms are get­ting tech­ni­cal about their tunes, too. “We de­sign the ebbs and flows of classes around the beat of songs,” says Katy Neville of Syd­ney’s The Barre Project. “Match­ing in­tense tem­pos to cer­tain move­ments al­lows you to en­ter a med­i­ta­tive state and block out the world. And when the tem­pos are slow, you’re able to re­lax into it.” Neville aims for songs with 105 beats per minute – and lyrics are cru­cial. “When there are none, peo­ple fo­cus on the pain.” Kara­georghis agrees: “Where we can find mu­sic with pos­i­tive lyrics in terms of al­ter­ing the way we feel about our­selves or giv­ing us mes­sages that per­tain to the type of ac­tiv­ity we en­gage in, it can be very pow­er­ful.”

Krause sug­gests keep­ing it sim­ple. “You have the so­cial el­e­ments and per­sonal as­so­ci­a­tions with a song,” she says. “So some­thing that’s go­ing to cheer you up might be re­ally use­ful in that 40th kilo­me­tre of a marathon, re­gard­less of the tempo.” Mean­ing if a Bieber bal­lad helps you sur­vive a HIIT ses­sion, then Mark My Words, you’ll be good to go. Plug in.

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