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February 11, 2014

Olympics 101: Can Music Improve Athletic Performance? {Video}

Photo: Victor Roa

Little known fact: I got Johnny G Spin certified in the third trimester of my pregnancy.

Yep, so that happened.

And one of the most important aspects of being a great spinning instructor is having music with beats that synchronize well with what you’re aiming to simulate (i.e. climbs, sprints, etc).

Here’s another little known fact: I’m thoroughly sick of these Olympics and I’ve only seen the Russian Police Choir perform that cover of Daft Punk.

It’s true—and I generally love watching the Olympics and I did want to see those supposedly horrendous Polo sweaters, and it’s not completely that I’m turned off by the Russian political scene.

More, it’s that I have a three year old and I just haven’t tuned in. (That sounds lame, I know, but it’s the truth.)

Regardless, this question about how music can enhance or detract from athletic performance is particularly interesting to me as a yoga practitioner.

Obviously I’m aware that practicing yoga is not about athleticism. (Cough, cough—tell that to Instagramers.) On the other hand, there is an element of getting in the zone during your mat time that’s athletically familiar—and unlike my sentiments on biking and rhythm, my thoughts on music and yoga are often inconsistent.

In the past, I was well known for the music I played when I taught. To this day, I love attending classes where the melodies hook into my soul and give me goosebumps. Yet at home, more days than not, I can be found moving along to the oceanic sounds of my breath—and nothing else.

Sure, there’s never absolute silence. (I believe I mentioned that I have a three year old.)

Rather, there are giggles and whines and look at me, ma’s. Still, on those days where I know that my body needs to yoga my shit out and my tiny toddler is not quite into breaking out her miniature mat, nothing becomes my best friend more easily than Sigur Rós, cranked up to eleven.

As you can probably see, I’m torn between my desperate gut-level pleas for heart-pounding, blood-pumping, asana-moving music and…silence—because I think there’s merit in both.

Interestingly, here’s a fun scientific share on the subject direct from my favorite science nerd YouTube channel, AsapSCIENCE:

And it seems to me that whether or not we love Icelandic post-rock or spinning or yoga, we all tend to have some fairly strong personal opinions on music.

So what do you think? (Share in the comments section below.)

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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Victoria Roa

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