How Music Can Improve Your Athletic Performance

From daily workouts to the Olympics, there are ways music can enhance your performance.

There is a good reason why you see so many Olympians listening to music as they prepare to compete. Olympians rely on music to guide them and ease them into their best performance. Of course, every Olympian is different, and all use different songs to get them into the right frame of mind to compete.

While you may not be preparing to go to the Olympics, there are ways that you can utilize music in your athletic routines. Whether you are doing simple daily exercises or training for the Olympics, music has something to offer to your experience. But why is that?

Music has a strong influence on athletic abilities given:

  • Music and Its Relationship to Dissociation
  • Music and Its Relationship to Emotions
  • Music and Its Relationship to Movement

Professional athlete listening to music before a game.
Listening to music before a big game can help improve your performance. Image courtesy of Global Sport Matters.

Music and Its Relationship to Dissociation

Forget what you’re doing by getting lost in the music.

What exactly is dissociation? Dissociation is the disconnection with what you are physically, emotionally, and mentally experiencing in the real world. Dissociation is a tool that professional athletes frequently take advantage of.

Professional athletes are able to tune into the music they are listening to in order to tune out what they are doing in the moment. This is particularly helpful when athletes are going to compete in a high stress environment, such as the Olympics. By tuning into the music, they do not have to face the reality of the high stress situation that they are in.

This is not a tool that is only available to professional athletes. High school and college athletes can also take advantage of this, by tuning into music that they enjoy in an effort to give a better performance.You do not even have to be in a competitive environment to lean into this technique.

Even if you are just exercising at home on your own, you can utilize music to dissociate. By giving the mind something else to focus on other than the physical movements you are doing, you will not experience the mental blocks that are normally associated with working out.

Studies show that when you are able to disassociate while working out, you will not pay attention to the fatigue and exhaustion that you are experiencing during the workout itself. By focusing on the music, you are giving your brain something else to consciously focus on, allowing you to push yourself further.

If you choose the right songs to work out to, you may even experience bursts of energy from them. By listening to songs that are particularly motivating and energizing, or even just songs you particularly enjoy, it can lead to an increase in your abilities by giving you an extra boost to continue.

Woman listening to music while she works out on the elliptical.
Not only does music help improve your athletic skills, it can help improve your daily workout routines as well.

Music and Its Relationship to Emotions

Music can help you feel, but what does that have to do with exercise?

Music can help enhance the feelings that you are already experiencing, but it can also alter the headspace that you are in. It is hard to motivate yourself to get into the mood to workout if you have had a lousy day, or are feeling off. By putting on a happy and upbeat song, you can reverse that and get yourself motivated to workout.

This is connected to the release of dopamine you experience when listening to a happy or upbeat song. By increasing dopamine levels, you are also increasing the amount of motivation that you have to pursue the workout in the first place. This also works the other way, where you can put on a slow song to help calm yourself down after a workout.

Playing upbeat songs can shift you into a positive state of mind, allowing you to enjoy your workout to a greater degree. If a song evokes a sense of pleasure in you, it will transcend to a sense of pleasure in your workout. This can also lead to the desired state of dissociation previously mentioned.

This relationship between music and emotions can also be connected to how athletes prepare for a high stress game or event. By putting on a song that calms their nerves or gives them a boost of confidence, they can leave their feelings of nervousness and anxiety and enter a state of calmness and confidence that will enhance their performance.

An aerobics class using music to enhance their performance.
Working out on beat with music can help enhance your performance.

Music and Its Relationship to Movement

The movement most people associate with music is dancing; however, music can also be connected to the most basic movements.

Putting on upbeat music will almost always make you want to move when you put it on. When you are able to synchronize  your movements with the music, it can greatly increase not just your energy, but also your execution. If you are able to focus your attention on the music rather than the actual workout, you will have an easier experience trying to keep up and maintain stamina through the workout. This is a particularly useful trick for those trying to get started in a workout routine. It is also helpful for those that have been working out for years to keep them out of their head and let their muscle memory take over for them.

Music can be applied to much more than just athletic abilities and working out. Music has a great effect on all forms of health, allowing it to be a great resource no matter what you may need.

Dean Pinnell
Dean Pinnell is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Communication and Fiction Writing.
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