Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pump It Up!

Music has become a perfectly integrated part of our culture. We listen to music in the morning whilst we brush our teeth, we learn about it at school, many of us either sing or play an instrument, and for exercise, music can be a great motivational tool.

When it comes to the newest trends and the most popular songs, I am the wrong person to ask. My iPod still has the same songs as five years ago, and the only time I find out about new songs either when my friends talk about it, or if it comes up on the gym's music channel during my cardio workout. In the past, I always got my best friend in Germany to supply me with the newest music whenever I went back to Germany. The same happened this Christmas.

The result was one of the coolest Christmas presents your friend can give you. She made me a workout playlist of 50 songs, all packed onto a USB in the form of Darth Vader. Music on a Star Wars themed USB? How cool is that? He is even holding a little red lightsaber. Have a look for yourself:

Anyways, enough about Darth Vader. What I actually wanted to say is this: when it comes to working out, don't forget your music. No matter if you are sweating on a treadmill, or lifting heavy weights with all the other beasts, music that can help push you that last bit that makes all the difference. I would also recommend changing up your playlist every now and then, maybe you could combine it with changing up your workout routine, every 4-6 weeks.

My workout playlist now is a weird mix of artistic (and not so artistic) master pieces. The music on my iPod ranges from terrible German Rap (which I find hilariously entertaining) to the common pop songs. The best of all, however, are the instrumental pieces. Surprisingly enough, I find instrumental pieces the most motivating. I feel like music is not necessarily about what people say (even though from time to time there is a guy screaming "ONE MORE REP" throughout my favourite instrumental piece, but hey, can't hurt), but how it makes you feel. There is music out there that makes me feel like I can conquer the world (some parts of the soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean for example). My boyfriend and I went to the gym at night, when not many other people were training, and I got my daily dose of cardio in. This time, however, with my new playlist blasting in my ears, I could go faster than usual, and I even had fun torturing myself on those machines! The music made all the difference.

Scientific research regarding the effect of music on exercising performance shows mixed results. In their study The effects of music tempo and loudness level on treadmill exercise, Judy Edworthy and Hannah Waring (2006) confirm that "fast, loud music might be played to enhance optimal exercising." In contrast, Schwartz, Fernhall and Plowmann (1990) find no direct linear relationship between music and any of the measured physiological variables (such as heart rate or aerobic capacity). However, I think it is save to agree with the following statements, which are conclusions drawn from a literature review by Kravitz:

  1. Subjects often reported that they felt like they performed better when their workout was accompanied by music. Therefore, music may improve a person's enjoyment and fulfillment of physical exercises.
  2. Music appears to provide a motivational construct to exercise, positively affecting the mental attitude of students.
  3. Music may evoke pleasant associations, whilst masking unpleasant stimuli (rapid breathing). It may also serve as a distraction from internal feelings such as discomfort and frustration.

Another example where music helped me achieve my fitness goals was during my half marathon last April. Before the run I put together a 2.5 hour long playlist, and I swore to myself that: a). I wouldn't stop running until the music finishes (unless I reach the finish line before then) and b). I would finish the race before the music stopped. I accomplished my goal and ran my 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 14 minutes (it really should have been 2 hours, but I got lazy in between...maybe next time). The music helped me take my mind off my aching knees and also got me to focus on my goal.

You see, music is a workout companion. Today it was even an integrated part of my workout. I went to Zumba with my mum, because she wanted to show me what she gets up to. I have to admit - it was actually really fun. I tried Zumba once before at my gym, but I left the class without losing a drop of sweat, so it didn't seem worth it to me. Tonight, however, the class was conducted my a small, energetic Russian lady, who wouldn't/couldn't stop smiling throughout the whole training hour. Her energy and happiness was infectious. For one hour I made a total fool out of myself, trying to align my hands, arms, legs and feed. It was amazing fun, and I actually left the room feeling like I got a decent workout. The music during Zumba workouts is very motivational, as it pumps you up, and you are basically not able to stand still anyways. This makes it a really fun workout, where you don't constantly think about "am I burning off that piece of carrot cake yet?" or "how long do I still have to gooooooo?" You have to concentrate so hard on coordinating your limbs that there is not space or time for any other thought. If you are just starting your healthy lifestyle, and are looking for a great beginner's exercise routine that is fun and you can to in a group, I would definitely recommend Zumba. If you pair it with the targeted weight training option and a customized nutrition plan, you are definitely on the right track to transform your body into a health machine. Follow the link to Register for free at  

Right, I feel like I got a little bit distracted today, and told you everything that was on my mind regarding music and exercising. But I am sure you got the gist. Music and working out are inextricably linked. Music can serve as motivation to give you that final push that makes all the differences. So plug in your headphones, get a good tune playing, and Pump It Up!


Edworthy, J. and Waring, H., 2006, "The Effect of music tempo and loudness level on treadmill exercise", Ergonomics, Volume 49 (15), pp. 1597-1610

Kravitz, L., The Effects of Music on Exercise?, Selected Articles by Len Kravitz and Colleagues, accessed 11/01/2014,

Schwartz, S. E., Fernhall, B., and Plowman, S. A., 1990, "Effects of music on exercise performance." Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, Volume 10, pp. 312-316

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