By Greg DiNatale, Director of Fitness Education
You are not alone! It seems that more members than not are moving around the gym plugged into their phones streaming a wide variety of tunes. But is there a “best” type of music to get you through your workout?
Music is so effective at distracting people from pain and fatigue that headphones are banned by USA Track and Field for any races sanctioned by the group for any athlete looking to compete for places or prizes. Studies show that you can “run farther, bike longer, and swim faster than usual – often without realizing it.” Sounds like a perfect reason to use it during your workout!
What is it about music that creates a performance enhancing effect? The tempo and rhythm response, or the speed of the music and our instinct to synchronize our movements with music. The type of music that starts your toes-a-tapping varies from person to person. In general fast songs with strong beats do it for most (duh). However, how fast is fast?
For walking most people prefer music with 120 beats per minute. Want to run? Bump up the pace to 160 bpm. There are many apps available to help you find the music that fits into the bpm you would like. If you are a fan of the music played during the Edge Strong classes than Rock My Run is your answer. That is the app we use to provide the soundtrack for our workouts, and you can select playlists based on the desired bpm. Spotify, iTunes, and Google Play Music all offer workout playlists, and there is a good chance you already use one of them.
When it comes to lifting weights the research shows us that most people prefer beats in the 130 to 140 range. As much as you want to crank the hard and fast, furious tunes make sure that if you are executing a complex movement or getting after a max set that it does not distract you from the form you need to get through safely.
In addition to moving in time with your workout music, the other advantage is its ability to distract you from the feelings of accumulating fatigue. Your music will compete with the feedback your brain is getting from the workout – that burn in the muscles, a thumping heart rate, sweat starting to flow. Anything that can help change the way you respond to fatigue is going to give you a better chance at staying with it rather than giving up. This is especially true when you are listening to music that opens the memory floodgates. Strong emotions add to the motivation and can carry you through the toughest part of your workout.
Music moves us; it is ingrained in our brains. We are virtually hardwired to appreciate music and can use this to our advantage to get through workouts both tough and not so tough. Listening to what you enjoy and matching the emotions it invokes to the right beat can be the difference between a personal best and frustration. Whether you now rely on the house sound or your phone’s playlist, we need to keep moving as often as possible. Get to the gym and get after it!
 Ferris Jabr, “Let’s Get Physical: The Psychology of Effective Workout Music,” Scientific American, March 2013