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Australian National Champion Powerlifter.
For many athletes, training without music is like running nude – they could do it, but they’d feel uncomfortable and just a little distracted. With recent research suggesting that music can actually boost performance, there are some new products that make it easier to get upbeat about your training.
In the last 10 years there has been a big upswing in the amount of research on workout music and the connection between exercise and music. In a 2012 review of much of this research, Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University in London, one of the world’s leading experts on the psychology of exercise music, wrote that one could think of music as “a type of legal performance-enhancing drug.”
Of course, going right back to the Roman slave galleys rowing ships across the Mediterranean, music has helped people get into a rhythm with their activity. In a 2012 study by C. J. Bacon of Sheffield Hallam University, participants who cycled in time to music required 7% less oxygen to do the same work as cyclists who did not synchronize their movements with background music. The study suggested that music not only acted like a metronome to help athletes maintain a steady pace, it could reduce false steps and decrease energy expenditure.
Music distracts people from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort and may even promote metabolic efficiency. When listening to music, people run farther, bike longer and swim faster than usual – often without realizing it.
There has long been an association between a fast beat and high-intensity activity, but the research suggests that there has a ceiling effect at about 145 beats per minute – anything higher doesn’t add to motivation or performance.
Karageorghis has claimed that music can “reduce the perception of effort significantly and increase endurance by as much as 15%.” Here’s how it works: signs of extreme exertion, such as rising levels of lactate in the muscles, higher heart rate, lots of sweating, and decides it needs a break. Music competes with this physiological feedback for the brain’s conscious attention, distracting the body’s urge to stop. At the same time, music often changes people’s perception of their own effort while training because they focus less on their breathing and other signs of exertion.
In a report from the American Council on Exercise, Carl Foster from the University of Wisconsin Exercise and Health Program said, “All things being equal, I think the stronger and more obvious the beat is, the more likely you will be to follow it.”
Online game company Six to Start has taken the principles above and gone one step further – by adding zombies. The app, available for Android and through iTunes, allows you to use your own music while you are narrated through different ‘missions’ where zombies are chasing you and your foot speed can make the difference between saving the world or marooned survivors having their flesh ripped apart by the undead.
Sennheiser PX 685i SPORTS
Tech review authorities such as Gizmodo rate these as the ultimate headphones for runners. The headband-style headset has a firm, secure anti-slip grip that won’t budge either at the ears or the jack input, yet they provide a “situational awareness” so that you won’t be run over by an ambulance or anything. Despite this, wind noise is down to a minimum. They’re fully rinseable, too, so you can sweat all over them then just stick them under the tap. The inline smart remote and microphone allows for easy management of tracks and calls. Best of all, you can put these up against any headphones and you’ll be amazed by the sound quality.
Speedo Aquabeat 2
Following the black line on the bottom of the pool is now a whole lot easier with this fully waterproof MP3 player and headset, which comes in 4GB and 8GB models and also features radio and stopwatch. This new model has a screen so it’s easier to select your playlists. It has a 25-hour play time and yes, you can use it in salt water – you just have to wash it thoroughly afterwards.
The Aquabeat 2 clips on easily to swimsuits and even goggles – and if it does come off, it will float.
In 2012, ShahriarNirjon of the University of Virginia and his colleagues devised an app that selects tunes based on the user’s activity and heartrate. Special earbuds fitted with accelerometers to gauge speed and activity, and sensor microphones to detect and record heart rate. The earbuds wirelessly transmits the data it collects via a smartphone to a remote computer that chooses the next song.
Over time, a record of heart rate data and activity levels improves music selections to optimise the user’s heart rate. The system can also take in environmental factors such as temperature and weather to work out the best song to direct your heart rate up or down.