Music, the ultimate motivator

Last updated 10:47 18/02/2013

WORK IT OUT: Pumping tunes while pumping iron helps you work harder. Fact.

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Are you an 'Eye of the Tiger' exerciser or a Swedish House Mafia shvitzer? White earphone buds have become synonymous with working out. Spin classes are set to bass-pumping music, treadmills have in-built music jacks. But did you know there are proven benefits to exercising to music?

Paul Penna, an Australian sports psychologist, said that the key was how music impacted on the exerciser's mood. ''Your mood impacts on how you perform. And mood is influenced by music so the music you choose when you work out is important,'' he said.

He says the impact of music works on a number of levels. Firstly, exercise is hard work and music can help distract. ''Music takes us away to a happy place and you can get the job done,'' he says.

And Penna says it helps if the lyrics or song mean something to you.

''The lyrics can have a positive influence. But this is very personal. If I put on 'Eye of the Tiger', I think of Rocky and get inspired to run up the nearest stairs,'' he says.

''But the interesting thing about 'Eye of the Tiger' is I trained as a PE teacher and when I put it on the 16-year-old kids said 'What was that?' On the flip side, hip-hop does nothing for me. It's very subjective.''

One of Australia's best female soccer players, Servet Uzunlar, says when she has individual training sessions music is vital. ''When I'm training in the gym, I always have music on. You're in the gym so you're in the vibe, but listening to your own music gives you an extra gear. It puts you in a good state of mind. When you have music in your ears you don't think you're in the gym and things don't seem as hard,'' she says.

Wallabies star Adam Ashley-Cooper, who trains seven days a week, agrees. "Music really helps me spark up and keep moving while I'm hurting. I have my own gym playlist on Spotify that has all my 'big track' go-to songs that always help lift my energy,'' he says.

Penna says most people match their cadence, or stride pattern, to the beat of a song.

''The beat of a song encourages you to exercise to that rhythm so you may find yourself increasing pace more consistently than you would if you weren't listening to any music."

Uzunlar says she uses that technique. ''If I don't have music on the treadmill I will die. Instead of looking at the time which I find very boring, I use the music as my timer. When the chorus hits I promise myself I'm going to go up a level too because most choruses are upbeat,'' she says.

Penna says everyone can use that tip. ''If you are a recreational exerciser, it might help your motivation if, rather than 15 minutes to go, it's just three songs or, in my case, two Dire Straits songs,'' he laughs.

Uzunlar says the professional teams use music to pump them up before a match. ''On any football team I'm in there's always music on in the change rooms - in Australia, we'll play latest hits by groups like Swedish House Mafia or by Rihanna. You don't want anything heavy. I want upbeat songs to calm my nerves.

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''I use those songs to keep me in a good mood but not jumping up and down and wasting energy.''

If you don't understand what music does to you, Penna says, you're not maximising it in your workout. It's easy to do experiments, he advises.

Try different music and ask yourself, what made my workout as easy as possible? What songs keep me slightly distracted or pump me up?

''Music is easy to personalise. If you play Jack Johnson on a Sunday afternoon to relax, it makes sense you use something more upbeat to help your workout,'' he says.


1. 'Don't You Worry Child' [featuring John Martin] - Swedish House Mafia

2. 'Thrift Shop' featuring Wanz - Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

3. 'Sweet Nothing' featuring Florence Welch - Calvin Harris

4. 'She Wolf (Falling to Pieces)' featuring Sia - David Guetta

5. 'I Love It' featuring Charli XCX - Icona Pop

6. 'Diamonds' - Rihanna

7. 'We'll Be Coming Back' featuring Example - Calvin Harris

8. 'Titanium' featuring Sia - David Guetta

9. 'Ni**as in Paris' - Jay-Z and Kanye West

10. 'Bangarang' featuring Sirah - Skrillex


1. 'Eye of the Tiger' - Survivor

2. 'Gonna Fly Now (Rocky's Theme)' - Bill Conti

3. 'Lose Yourself' - Eminem

4. 'Another One Bites the Dust' - Queen

5. 'Just Dance' - Lady Gaga

6. 'Stronger' - Kanye West

7. 'Push It' - Salt-n-Pepa

8. 'Seven Nation Army' - The White Stripes

9. 'Pump It' - the Black Eyed Peas

10. 'Gonna Make You Sweat' - C+C Music Factory

- Sydney Morning Herald


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