Its certainly no secret that an instructor's playlist and level of motivation is the driving force for the Spin classes at Cadence. Putting together a playlist that motivates both the guests and the instructor is so important for the experience. There are many studies which have proven that music not only makes the class more enjoyable, but also has a positive effect both psychologically and physically. So, the next time you hear your instructor prompting you to match your pedal stroke to the beat of the music, understand that like everything we do at Cadence, there is a purpose! The below is an excerpt from an article written by Nicole Jeffery, Music the fuel for performance overdrive by Olympic athletes, and originally published in The Australian in July of 2012. The article explores the impact of music and it's ability to relax an athlete prior to competition or inspire an improvement in performance, all based on the kind of beat and lyrics in the songs. You can find the complete article online here.
Research into the influence of music on athletic performance has shown that the right beat and lyrics not only puts an athlete into the right frame of mind to perform at their best but also improves their performance.
Sports psychologist Peter Terry, who has worked with British and Australian athletes at eight Olympic Games and will be assisting the Australian shooting team in London, is convinced that music is a powerful tool in sport.
Terry, professor of psychology at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba, says there are generally four effects of music that are supported by a large body of scientific evidence.
The most obvious is "to enhance mood, to slow us down or speed us up -- that's the most reliable effect", and the one Phelps uses so effectively.
But music also has been shown to improve endurance performance, assisting people to run 18 per cent longer, according to research by Terry and his English colleague, Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University. "The performance effects are fairly reliable in sports like running, cycling, rowing ergo tests," Terry says.
Despite more effort, there is a perception of less exertion. "When people listen to music, they believe they are working less hard than when they don't listen to music. It's about 10 per cent difference in the training environment."
But it is not just perception: research suggests music has a physical effect. "When you are doing the same amount of work while listening to music, you use 1-2 per cent less oxygen," Terry says.
The reason for this is unknown but Terry speculates it is owing to the metronome effect of moving your body to the beat of the music.
"It may be due to the efficiency of the rhythm, that a person makes fewer micro-adjustments to their technique, or it could be a general relaxation response that enhances oxygen efficiency," he says. "Music is most effective when matching the tempo of the music to the tempo of the activity. We call that synchronous music. If you want to run at a pace of 140 beats per minute, you choose music at that tempo. But with elite athletes they need slower music because they run at 180 beats per minute and there's no music fast enough for that so they tend to choose 90 beats per minute and take two strides per beat."
One of the greatest distance runners in history, Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie, recognised this benefit long ago. In a famous illustration of the power of music he requested Scatman to be played on the PA system to help him break a world record in Birmingham in 1998. He explained that the song's rhythm was "a little bit faster than the rhythm of my legs. That always motivated me."
The International Association of Athletic Federations subsequently banned the use of music for that purpose. "They acknowledged that it worked," Terry says.
The beat may have a physical effect, but Terry says the whole package -- a song's tempo and lyrics -- has psychological effects. He experienced music's uplifting effect as he battled to complete his first marathon. "I was almost out of my feet but in the last mile I could hear Chariots of Fire coming from the stadium and that lifted me to run the last mile," he says.
Before competition, an athlete's response to music is more emotional than physical. "Louder, faster music tends to raise arousal levels," Terry says. "What you are doing is modulating your mood."
Not all athletes are looking for Eye of the Tiger.
The article goes on to share some examples of different athletes and the music they use to elicit their highest performance responses, and where Peter Terry dives deeper into stoking the competitive fire in high performance athletes. Check out what Mr. Terry has to say and get to building your own inspiring playlist (with or without Eye of the Tiger).
We've also just kicked off our Music page here on the Cadence website to get you inspired with tunes that you hear in classes each week. Keep your eye on the page to see what our instructors share!