By Jacob Sterny, Head Coach of Valhalla Barbell Club
Music can be really beneficial to your performance in training. That is why it seems every day there is a new playlist out designed specifically for the type of workout you’re trying to achieve. “Lift Heavy Sh*t”, “Run Fast”, “Conquer That WOD” or some other variation of that is named with an intent to pump you up or chill you out. But, do we rely too heavily on things like these to dictate our performance in the gym? What about training in silence? Today I wanted to break down some thoughts on music and its place in the gym.
Past Life Things
For most of you that know me in a past life I was a musician. I even took it so far as studying it for a semester in college. I loved it. There is something about dedicating yourself to something entirely and seeing where it can take you. Which is probably why I latched onto something like weightlifting. Becoming a master at something takes time. Some things take more time than others. Music can be one of those things. That is why second in my heart to weightlifting is some form of artistic expression, be it music, film or just art in general. This is going to sound super Hippie Dippy, but at our core humans are emotional beings. We find things and connect to them because of the emotions they evoke in us. But what does this have to do with our training?
I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying…
One of those emotions that can be evoked by the playlist we choose is determination. It allows us to push through when the workout or training that we are knee deep in is getting tough. It can be the added boost we need to finish doing those (insert movement here). When used to our advantage music can lend to a performance improving benefit as well. It allows us to dissociate from what is actually going on in front of us and may even keep us out of a stressful state (which can be bad for training). Using music to our advantage can also put us in a state of flow or focus that allow us to push harder and be more efficient on a workout (think about the rhythm required for double unders).
Relying to Heavily on Music
Can music be relied on too much, however? The answer is yes. Music should be used as a performance enhancer and not a crutch. If we become too concerned with what is playing behind us as we suffer through another workout we need to change things up. Eventually if you’re entirely focused on what you’re doing it really is just noise. How do we pull out of music being a crutch?
If you need music to motivate you, then you are doing something wrong. It can help, much like I mentioned above, but if you spending an inordinate amount of time focusing on what is playing in the background while you are doing burpees on end ( so much so that it stops you from doing them) you need a reset. Try spending some time alone with your thoughts and working out in silence. Personally, even though I have a strong connection to music, these are the sessions where I tend to find myself the most. Find out why I’m there that day, why I’m pushing so hard (or not) and what the overall goal of my training turns out to be. Training in silence (even though some of the sounds you make are pretty terrible) can also benefit your training immensely. It allows you to reset and find your internal motivation again.
Switch it Up Bro
Music is a great tool that can lend to an uptick in your performance. It can motivate you to push further and harder than you might have in a given workout. Hell it can even be used to get you pumped up to lift some heavy sh*t. But, you should not be relying Kenny Loggins, “Danger Zone”, to come on to help you finish a workout. Training for a few sessions allowing yourself you connect with your breathing, grunting, groaning or whatever other sounds you make helps you reset. It can also help you be more present in your training session as opposed to you trying to use Disturbed’s, “Down With the Sickness” for the 1,000,000th time in an attempt to drown out the negative thoughts in your head.
Even though I have a deep connection to music I still see the value in shifting the scale from the direction of damn good music to silence and back again just to see what improves my training in the moment. Give this a shot yourself when you’re training and see what happens.
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Have Fun and Lift Heavy!