An athlete’s mental psyche is one of the most vital parts of his or her athletic performance. As any athlete knows, and has probably experienced, there are two sides of the mental spectrum that affect an athlete’s game: confidence and trepidation (fear). In a constant effort to hone one’s skills and improve performance, athletes are always looking for anything that will give them confidence and help them overcome intimidation – or in other words, give them the competitive edge. Listening to music while working out is a very popular practice amongst athletes. It is rare that a day goes by that I don’t see a person jogging through the neighborhood or someone lifting weights in the gym without having their headphones in. But can the music really improve an athlete’s work out? Let’s look at some common opinions on the subject:
Fast tempo music has no effect on heart rate, but does increase the tenacity and motivation of the athlete allowing them to work out more intensely and for a greater duration of time.
Fast tempo music increases the heart rate causing the individual to feel fatigued quicker. On the other hand, slow tempo music slows the heart rate and allows the athlete to breathe more easily for longer, allowing them to extend their work out.
Music acts has no physical effect on an athlete and acts solely as a “distraction” from his or her fatigue, which, consequently, allows them to work out for longer periods of time.
Music’s impact on an athlete’s performance is determined by his or her expectations of the effects of adding the stimulus. If an athlete believes that music will improve his performance, then it will (and vice versa). This idea is often referred to as the “placebo effect”.
Many experiments have been carried out to determine which hypothesis was correct. The answer, unfortunately, is rather ambiguous. Each hypothesis has been tested and the researchers who conduct these experiments have found data that supports each one.
In my opinion, the right answer depends on the situation the athlete is in. When I go for long runs, I like to listen to calming music that seems to make the run less painful. Listening to slow music while running, I find that my mind often wanders and bounces from thought to thought; distracting me from my own fatigue. When I work out more intensely I like to listen fast tempo music in order to get me in the right frame of mind. Listening to fast tempo music I find myself picturing a situation in which I dominate my opponent: boosting my adrenaline and motivating me to keep striving. I believe that each athlete has their own desired outcome from listening to music and the way that it affects you depends on your own unique mindset.
No matter what opinion you have, the idea that listening to music while working out has a positive effect is generally accepted. Now what about during the game? Since taking headphones into the game is not permitted, how can athletes use music to improve their game? I will answer these questions with another question – have you ever witnessed a team huddling together and performing a team chant? I know I have. This is a common practice amongst teams and can have very powerful motivational advantages. While it may not be the exact same as listening to music, it does have very similar effects on the individual. It can help increase a team’s energy, boost adrenaline, and promote team unity and confidence.