Monday, 8 October 2012

The 30 day challenge - Day 8. Music & impact on performance

I'm working on a couple of music related posts for the 30 day challenge as its a big part of running conversations with people I know and more broadly, away from just endurance plays a big part in the modern day presentation of sport, both live and broadcast.

At athletics meetings a steady stream of music is played throughout the day apart from during actual races. At football and rugby matches, when a team scores, many a club PA blasts music, and of course in America during their major sports of baseball and basketball, the game is almost continually accompanied by music.

On a more day-to-day level for us non-elites, whether a cyclist, runner or rower you are often asked: Do you train to music? As a runner I'd say I get asked most months whether or not I do by someone different! For runners the 'do you/don't you question' can be divisive, with some swearing they have to, others swearing they hate both running with music AND those who run with music!

Aside from the very obvious concerns about safety and consideration that presents itself with runners on the street, someone in the Runners World article said: "Why is this even an issue? The con arguments are weak and opinionated." But if I put my coaching hat on for a minute, I would say that if an athlete came to a track session and wanted to wear their headphones on reps, I'd pull rank and say, "No way" as I think it's unfair on the other runners and from a more practical point of view, you can't hear splits or instructions that might be shouted out, and if you're doing your runs quick enough, logistically the equipment would be flapping everywhere! Or at least it should be...

Other than that, if an athlete chooses to wear their music device on long runs, or tempos or on the treadmill, I see no harm (other than to themselves!) and actually see the motivational aspects... In fact, I set my PB in marathon when I allowed myself to listen to stimulating music in the last 6 miles of the Barcelona race in 2010.

From a scientific point of view, it has been shown that listening to music helped triathletes increase their endurance by up to 15% (though with respect to Karageorghis & Terry, 2010, I'd be keen to really review the methodology of their study to see how this figure was reached as I believe reaction to music is such a subjective phenomenon and we need to consider all the other aspects of an individuals training cycle and what impact that could have on endurance capacity). I'll do this in my next post.

In the video, Kostas outlines how the effect reported on subjective perception of exertion was that music helped the feeling of effort compared to non-music conditions. From a similar angle, whilst music may mask some cues and help intensify the feeling that masks pain in the RAS, I believe - anecdotally I'll admit - that music should provide a strong dissociative technique. As I outlined in the post on testing overriding the Central Governer, if an endurance athlete tunes into their favourite music, there is a strong chance this stops negative mental effort being drawn towards feelings of fatigue and possible slowing. That said, evidence from research on the benefit of associating to pain and discomfort (presumably in athletes not listening to music), elite athletes are better able at handling pain and not letting it affect their times i.e. tuning into pain aids performance! Similarly research shows that less psychologically skilled and non-elite athletes use dissociative techniques to distract them, though this usually accompanies less satisfactory performance.

So whats the take home? Should you train with music? Personally, I do think it is subjective and people  should give training with and without music a go in the conditions outlined. For a lot of people it is really motivating and also pleasant to train with tunes. I still don't feel like I've got to the nub of 'will it help my performance compared to if I don't listen to music?' and I still have questions I have to ask - which is why I'll be trying to interview Kostas during this month.

If you have an opinion or a question, please leave it below in the comments section. This is a topic I will be coming back to at least twice before the month is out.

No comments: