Whether you’re running, Spinning or lifting weights, listening to the right music will help you go harder, faster and feel great Need a little extra motivation to stick to your new-year fitness resolutions? One of the best ways to resist the sofa’s siren call is to soundtrack your workout. Researchers from Brunel University found listening to music distracts your brain from effort and pain enough to enhance performance by up to 15 per cent. And the best music to use? Whatever floats your boat. From indie to hip-hop, opera to grime, if it gets you in the zone, that’s the one to use. Experts at Gymbox fitness say dance music is by far the most motivating genre, however, and anyone who’s danced till dawn thanks to a DJ who knows just what the crowd wants, will agree.
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‘Dance music’s just right,’ says Sam Divine, DJ for global house label Defected and fitness mix expert. ‘First, there are stripped-back intros which focus your mind on the workout to come. Then, the bass line will kick in, linking you to the music and driving you on. Then there’s a cycle of build-ups and drops, which help create excitement and natural intervals and push you that bit further.’ NLP master practitioner Sarah Bennett (canarycoaching.com) agrees. ‘Music is a really powerful way to create an anchor to a positive experience,’ she says. ‘I use it all the time to help people get in the right frame of mind for a big event such as a race, performance or job interview. We have strong emotional connections to music which we can use in our favour.’ That’s why during the Olympics we saw athletes such as Michael Phelps and Victoria Pendleton donning their headphones to help them focus before competing. ‘It anchors them with positive thoughts and blocks out distraction and negativity,’ says Bennett.
TIME IT RIGHT
Tempo is a key consideration. ‘I started making my own fitness mixes because I found the wrong music in the gym would have a negative effect on my workout,’ says Divine. ‘If the beats-per-minute (BPM) isn’t fast enough, it can hold you back when you might be capable of going to the next level. As your heart rate increases, you need the BPM of a track to increase accordingly and keep you in that zone. As a DJ, I can tweak the speed of a track to keep the energy right.’ Add some motivating lyrics and you can’t fail to work out with a smile on your face. ‘Lyrics help create positive dialogues in your head,’ says Bennett. ‘It’s a form of self-hypnosis – you can’t think negative thoughts about quitting if you’re repeating positive lyrics while singing along to yourself.’ Personal trainer and H&F expert Lucy Wyndham-Read agrees.‘There’s nothing more motivating than a feelgood lyric combined with a fast beat,’ she says. ‘I choose house music that has a distinct, faster chorus – so if I’ve started taking it easy, the chorus prompts me to go for it again.’
HOW TO CREATE THE PERFECT PLAYLIST
‘For your warm-up, choose two or three tracks with a BPM of 122-125,’ says Bennett. ‘Anything with lyrics that set a positive intention is great.’ ?
For your main workout, plan 45 minutes of music. ‘For cardio, you want about 134-136 BPM,’ she says. ‘In a nightclub, this would seem too fast, but in the gym it’s perfect. Put the faster tracks, with the most uplifting lyrics, build-ups and breakdowns, about halfway through, so they kick in, and pick you up, when you’re flagging.’ If you’re resistance training, keep the BPM a bit lower. ‘Around 126-128 works well,’ says Bennett. ?
Don’t forget a slower track or two for your cool-down – a chill-out mix (or your guilty-pleasure Take That faves) will keep you moving, while bringing your heart rate down. ?To find the BPM of a track, iTunes can sometimes help (click on the song you want, then go to ‘File’ and ‘Get Info’). Or there are some nifty smartphone apps, also from iTunes, such as BPM Detector or Pro Metronome that calculate the BPM of songs in your library, or even playing around you. ?
To sync songs to create a mix that doesn’t vary too much in speed, ask a DJ friend to help you on the decks. Or download one of several DJ apps available at iTunes for smartphones and tablets (such as DJ Mixer Pro or DJ Player) that let you adjust BPM and mix your favourite tracks together. ?
Don’t want to DIY? H&F loves Bodymusic Presents Gymbox Volume 3 (£4.99, iTunes). With two hours of motivational mixes by Divine (one for cardio, one for conditioning), it’s great value for money and guaranteed to get results.
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