As we learned, Whey is a great way to help you achieve your fitness goals. So is a killer playlist! In fact, one of the world’s foremost experts on the psychology of music and exercise, Costas Karageorghis, once referred to music as ‘a type of legal performance enhancing drug’. We’ve broken the perfect workout playlist down into an exact science to help you get the most out of your next workout.
ACTIVATE (The Warm Up)
Now is the time to crank the jams that get you amped up. In the initial stages of your workout, your brain responds the same way it does during moments of stress: your elevated heart rate triggers your fight or flight response, so it’s important to pick music that lets you channel that ‘fight’ by motivating you. Pick songs that get you pumped, get your heart racing, and make you feel like you can take on the world. The lyrics will play a part here, too: Karageorghis explains that the lyrics in a song can evoke ‘memories of triumph’ that can push you harder and motivate you - either your own memories, or ones from pop culture that you associate with the song. So, pick a song that reminds you of a time you kicked some major butt, or choose a song like ‘Eye of The Tiger’ and picture yourself going full Rocky. You could also channel the confidence of Kanye’s ‘Stronger’ and the motivational focus of Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’.
MOTIVATE (The Workout)
Now that your heart is pumping, you have to keep it that way! Choose what’s called ‘synchronous music’ — music that sets the tempo for your workout, as opposed to asynchronous music that’s just playing in the background. Matching your workout pace to your music can help regulate your movements, which in turn helps reduce the amount of oxygen you require, so you’ll actually end up using less energy for the same amount of work. Not to say you won’t be working: a 2010 study found that when cyclists were asked to cycle with music that was 10% faster, they actually worked harder. Not only that, but they acknowledged the workout was harder, yet they ‘accepted the degree of effort’ and some even preferred it. The faster-paced music actually motivated them into a different headspace where they were prepared to work harder and enjoy their exertion.
To get that musical motivation, you want to aim for songs with BPM’s (beats per minute) of about 5% more than your heart rate, but not more than 140 BPM. Use a BPM checker, like this one provided by Spotify, to check all your BPM’s as you build your playlist. The sweet spot is between 120-140, so think ‘Womanizer’ by Britney Spears (138 BPM), ‘Survivor’ by Destiny’s Child (132 BPM) and Sir Mix-A-Lot’s ‘Baby Got Back’ (133 BPM) on leg day. Not only will these driving tunes maximize your efforts, they’ll also help ‘take you to your happy place’. Studies have shown that music acts as a distraction during a workout, giving your brain something else to process so it won’t just focus on how much your muscles are burning. Professor Karageorghis reports that such distractions can increase performance benefits by up to 15%.
CONGRATULATE (The Cool Down)
Push through your last set with one final upbeat song to keep you going: researchers have found that high-groove songs have a positive effect on corticospinal excitability, which is science for ‘they make you want to move’. So, keep your body moving when your brain has almost given up with a groovy, congratulatory song like Beyonce’s ‘Who Run The World?’ (127 BPM). Then, segue into some smoother beats to help get your heart rate down while you stretch and cool down. You want to drop back down to that 120 BPM and lower range, so this might be the time to play your favourite cheesy ballads, like The Backstreet Boys’ ‘I Want It That Way’ (99 BPM). Hey, the best thing about headphones is that no one knows what you’re listening to!