Using Music to get In the Zone (Part 2 of 2)

Here is Part 2 of my blog regarding getting into your zone.   sorry for the delay!   If you wish to refresh your mind, part 1 can be found here:

Using Music to get In the Zone (Part 2 of 2)

It would be very difficult for me to truly address individual differences in mental imagery etc. via the medium of blog.   But one factor that I can shed a little bit of light on is Music.   We all know how effective Music can be as a motivator, just think of the Rocky montages, (Personally I enjoyed Rocky IV the most).  

Synchronous Music

This is music with a beat and pace that matches your activity.   This can be very effective if you’re doing an activity that requires repeated movements, i.e. running, high rep weight training etc.   This allows you to fall into a rhythm and you don’t overthink the movement, it becomes natural and you are able to perform almost on a subconscious level.

Lyrical Affirmations

We talked about Positive self talk in a previous blog, and how you can make yourself believe in your own ability through this type of reinforcement, but it can be difficult in a high stress environment when you are trying to push yourself to the limits and there is a chance of failure.   In this situation, using music with positive lyrics could help you stay in that mind-set that you are strong, you are fast and you can achieve.   It doesn’t have to be a song, it can be spoken word, anything that makes you feel positive.   Al Pacinos character in the film Any Given Sunday delivers a stirring pre game speech which never fails to get me fired up!


If you can see it, you can do it… sometimes it’s just that simple.   Music can help you relive memories of sporting success, or an impressive training session.   Images can help to programme muscles, in other words, it can help with your motor neurone function and increase your performance.   Again, this is often personal, we have mentioned the rocky montages, and there are many other examples.   Music can help create that imagery in the minds eye which can increase your performance.   .   If you are given the choice please try to stick with “eye of the tiger” rather than that horrendous Katy Perry song.

Let’s look at just how music affects us and which types of music might be best.

Psychological – Music can influence mood, affect emotions and attitudes, and have an effect on cognitive behaviour.

Psychophysical – Sensory responses to physiological processes, i.e. the perception of physical effort.

Psychophysiological –  Music can effect physiological factors such as heart rate and respiration rate.

Ergonenic – Music can improve performance by delaying fatigue and increasing work capacity.

So these four factors can have a massive influence on your overall performance, be it endurance, power output, accuracy or any other performance related measurement.   But how does this happen?

Using fast paced music can increase you arousal levels, getting you closer to the zone, and when you’re too aroused and panicked, slower paced music can calm you down and provide clarity in your performance.  

Your mood can be effected by the tempo too, it can give you a bit of a buzz and drive you on, but the main thing that music can do when you are training and going hard is provide a positive distraction.   You are more likely to divert your attentional focus to the music and forget about the pain or the fatigue which might normally make you doubt yourself, this is when you are able to push to new levels and improve.

So what music to go for?   I could all too easily put down my favourite training songs, but they are songs that work for me, and might not do the same for you, so consider the following factors when compiling that all important playlist:

  • Have a strong, energising Rhythm.
  • Positive lyrics having associations with movement.
  • Rhythmic pattern well matched to the movements of your chosen activity.
  • Uplifting melodies and harmonies.
  • Associations with sport, exercise, triumph or overcoming adversity.
  • A musical style suited to your own taste and cultural upbringing.   You have to be able to identify with it!
  • And make a Playlist on your ipod.   Nothing more annoying than having to find a certain song to lift to.  


So there you have it, music can indeed make a difference to training and performance.   It can psych you up and calm you down.   But do remember, forgetting your headphones is not an excuse to miss training!

With that in mind, its time to plug in and lift heavy things!   Damn it, bloody tangled earphones…



 References for Part 1 and Part 2


Farmer, H. (2013). Motivation: Get into the “Flow” with Music in Sport and Exercise. Available: Last accessed 8th Nov 2013.

Newman, H. (2013). The Importance of Music to Performance. Available: Last accessed 8th Nov 2013.

C.I Karageorghis and P.C Terry, 2011, Inside sport psychology (Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics).

Farmer, H. (2013). How to benefit from Music in Sport and Exercise. Available: Last accessed 8th Nov 2013.

Barraclough, J. (2013). Being in the zone – sports Holy Grail. Available: Last accessed 8th Nov 2013.


The “ZONE”: What is it and how to get there (Part 1)

Afternoon everyone!
I was debating on topics to write about for todays blog post, Nutrition, programme design, the “crossfit debate”, and I realised that a lot of areas like this are done to death sometimes.
And then two things happened:
1) I trained, and it felt awesome.
2) I realised that the music in my gym was so much better than the commercial gym I was based in not so long ago.

It occurred to me that number 1 could very well have been a result of number 2. I felt in “the Zone”.
So, what is this Zone?
You will, at some point in your training/career, have had a day when everything seemed to flow, you were able to handle anything and you felt awesome. Chances are, you were in your zone. You were completely immersed in your activity and nothing else mattered.
There was a perfect match between the perceived demands of the activity, and the perceived ability to meet the demands.
Basically, you believed in yourself and you nailed it.

Lets get technical for a moment:
The full title of what we are discussing is the “zone of optimal functioning” and there are many variables which contribute to it: nutrition, coach input, sleep, training, relationship status and many others. When all these things align you could have the “perfect game” or your best ever training session. Its all to do with arousal levels. Your arousal levels exist on a continuum between deep sleep and panic (red mist), as illustrated in the handy chart below…

As you can see, the optimal arousal level for performance lies between the two extreme states, so getting yourself motivated and fired up is good, but be wary of getting too fired up… the graph shows a sharp drop off in performance when an individuals arousal levels are too high, known as the catastrophe model. If this occurs, relax, regroup, and start again!

Of course, everyones peak area will be different, some people will perform better in a slightly more relaxed state, some will need to feel that bit more aggressive. Its important to discover and realize where your zone truly lies, and there are various methods you can use to find it.

Psyching up
• Mental Imagery – Use mental images/memories of previous good performances/sessions. This will allow the body and mind to remember what state it was in, and will increase the likelihood of repeating the circumstances.
• Music – We shall discuss this momentarily…
• Positive Self Talk – as discussed in one of my previous blogs
• Physical Contact – Best illustrated as a team huddle pre game, but it can be a slap on the back pre squat, anything that gets you fired up!

Psyching Down• Breathing Exercises – These can be effective when it comes to lowering the heart rate and focusing the mind.
• Stretching – yes, elongation of the muscles happens but this method also enables the athlete to regain control of their body.
• Relaxing Self Talk – Similar to the factors influencing positive self talk. This will be different for each individual, but it often helps with focus and clarity.
Hopefully this will help you gain a bit more clarity into the importance of the mental aspect of your performance.

In part 2, we will explain how the use of music can help you achieve peak performance. Better go charge my Ipod…

Take Control: empowerment, pride and Gok Wan…

Hi there everyone!   I hope everyone is well and is looking forward to the week ahead!   Its Sunday, which for me means planning… And the realisation that although I started this blog some months ago (many thanks to those who took the time to read!) I’ve only produced one post, so lets get some thoughts down shall we!

I was thinking about some conversations I have had with people in the past week, a couple in particular which stemmed from peoples unhappiness with their weight and appearance, and my responses to said conversations.   I want people to be happy, I love it when people train hard and rediscover who they are.   They smile again, they feel healthier and they even walk differently.   So when people talk about being unhappy in themselves I have to start them off with a few simple pointers before they begin their training programmes with me and its all about taking control.


Yes I think this bullet point in particular needs three exclamation marks… There will always be an excuse for not training, be it work, the kids, lack of money, lack of knowledge of what to do, or even a lack of confidence to actually train when other people might see.   But here’s the thing: you’re not the only one with these issues.  Every person in the gym is there for the same reason, they want to improve themselves and feel good for it.   If you work evenings, train in the morning, if you have kids, train when they’re at school/nursery, if its money, maybe stop throwing money behind the bar most Friday and Saturday nights and you might find you have some!   Knowledge issues?   That’s where people like me come in.   You don’t have to know what you’re doing at the start, but if you use the right trainer, soon enough you will know and understand exactly what you’re doing and why.


I could go on for quite some time about goal setting, but the gist of it is this: you will always train harder if you’re doing it for a reason.   If you want to lose fat, why? If you want to be stronger, why?   A goal always makes for more satisfying training, because every session you get closer to that goal.   Without a goal or reason you will just get bored, return to the sofa and end up watching Britains got a dancing celebrity on ice factor, or whatever the hell passes for tv these days…


As well as having a goal, think about what it means to you.   As an example, lets say you want to lose 4 dress sizes because you don’t like how you look in your favourite dress anymore.   When you get to your goal, and it fits perfectly again, how will that make you feel?   If you want to run a marathon, what will it mean to you when all you’re hard work gets you across the finish line?


This part is really important.   Everyone has to start somewhere.   If you don’t accept that you need/want to improve, you never will.   You’ll go back to making excuses.   (See how it all links in?)   If you’re overweight, so what! So are lots of people!   But you’re accepting that you’ve got yourself into this position, and guess what, you’re damn well going to fight to get out of it.   One step at a time.   And this leads us nicely onto our next little pointer…

  • SMILE!!!

Yes, 3 exclamation points again!   This is what will make a difference.   You have made a decision to better yourself.   You have decided to take control and make changes.   It wont be easy, and at times you might curse my existence (or your own trainer/coach) for pushing you so hard, but you know that every time you walk into that gym you’re getting closer to the person you want to be, and that’s something to be really proud of.   So you keep going, because you’re awesome.

There is so much more information I could put down for you with regards to goal setting dear reader, but the subject is long and our time is short… (maybe on my next post) so moving on!

Running and Crunches.   2 ways to waste your time in the gym.

Many people are uneducated about fitness: that’s not meant in a negative way. I want to change that and my aim is to empower individuals so that they make the choices that will get them results. I always push myself to stay educated and at the forefront of fitness, which means lots of research, listening to experienced individuals that work within this profession and applying this knowledge to meet each of my clients/athletes individual targets – always putting them first. Therefore I get very frustrated when I see people plodding away for 90 minutes on a treadmill or flailing around on a mat doing some ridiculous ab move that they saw in mens health or on the Insanity workout.   And as I run my business out of a busy franchise, I see this a lot…

Lets address running first.   Running is good, some people really enjoy it, they get a stress relief from tuning out from the world and just running.   But running alone wont get rid of your belly fat, despite what some people might tell you.

A study in 2006 tracked runners for 9 years.   Most of them gained fat and their waist circumference increased.   The only ones who lost weight were the ones who ran in excess of 60km per week.   A scientist named Stephen Boutcher has been quoted:

“The effect of regular aerobic exercise on body fat is negligible.”

In the long term it can actually lead to weight gain!!!

Now, Abs!   A 2011 study showed that 6 weeks of ab training 5 days a week for 45 mins produced no change in body fat, abdominal fat or waist circumference.   The only benefit was being able to do 33% more sit ups.

(Sourced from

Yes, I get clients on the treadmill, and yes, I occasionally do some sit ups with them, but I use fast paced cv bursts in addition to weight training, core exercises, Kettlebell training, boxing/mma… The point is, using different exercise methods to stimulate your body in different ways is far more effective then sticking to one form of training.

Gok Wan…

Those who know may me be expecting a rant about this guy, but you’re in for a shock.   I admit, I used to dislike him intensly, and I also admit, it was mainly down to ignorance.   All I saw initially was a camp bloke messing around with womens clothes.

Here’s what’s happened:

Me and my wife were watching the tv, and we came across Gok Wan Strip for Summer live on channel 4.   She wanted to watch so I agreed, and I was surprised. I’ve always been passionate about personal training, and I respect anyone who has that same passion, no matter what their chosen profession. Watching this programme I realised what was actually going on: he is trying and succeeding in getting people to feel good about themselves again, yet he is not doing this through weight loss. He is an individual who is knowledgeable in his field, (according to some people, personally I have no idea about fashion, a fact my wife will attest to…) and who is passionate about using his knowledge to get people to accept who they are, increase their confidence, smile and feel better. This leads back to my earlier points and as a PT I promise to listen and help you reach your goals, whether it’s just to feel better about yourself or to help you lose a few pounds because you want to.

So to Gok Wan, keep making people happy and to everyone else, I hope you have a great week, make sure you work hard at whatever it is you do and be sure to be happy!

Thanks for reading,


The Power of “Can”: How your inner voice can help you


Welcome everyone! Before I go into the main theme of today’s post, I would like to take a bit of time to explain why I have started this blog. You see, I love training people, I love seeing someone’s confidence grow as they achieve more and more, and I love helping people realize that they can do things they didn’t think possible. So I decided to try and promote that feeling on a wider scale, to try and educate people on how to become what they want to be.

Now, in an ideal world I’d like to be stood proudly on a mountain top, relaying the word to devoted followers below, but unfortunately my beard isn’t long enough, I don’t like heights and I don’t have any magnificent robes, so I opted for the next best thing…. To the Internet!

The views I express are my own, so don’t take them as gospel, I’m just trying to encourage you to think a little differently about your training, and hopefully help you get a little bit more out of your session each time.

I see too many people these days doing the same thing every session with little results, and it would be fantastic if I could get these people to change their way of thinking. Like the women who won’t lift weights because they were told once it would make them too bulky, or the men who train their biceps and chest four times a week but can’t wear shorts as they spend no time training their legs. Try something different! Here are two quotes I think sum up my message here:

“insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

“Only a fool never changes their mind.” – Richard Branson

Ok, let’s move on to our main topic for the day…

the power of “can”

As humans, we are capable of incredible things. But sometimes even the simplest of tasks can become extraordinarily difficult with the wrong mindset. A little negative self talk and all of a sudden that 100kg squat feels like 200, or that extra 200 meters looks like 2 miles, and our confidence is gone. If you want to improve your performance, train harder or achieve more, you need to control your inner voice; make it work constructively to produce good, quality self talk.

If you tell yourself you can’t do something, then in all likelihood you’re not going to do it! Part of the problem here is the fact that sometimes we aren’t aware of our inner voice, so we don’t realize how much those little thoughts are affecting our performance, so let’s think about how our brain works and its subsequent effect on our body.

The brain works as a processor and interpreter of information, therefore any input or stimuli will be used, be it physical, sensory or imagined. The brain then gives meaning to all this info., and illicits an appropriate emotional response, which will in turn influence our behaviour. This in turn is then reinforced by our actions, and behaviour becomes habitual.

When we feel like giving up, our emotions then become dominant, and any conscious awareness that the inner voice has become negative is totally overwhelmed by the emotional response, you go slower, your range of motion and technique suffer, and you Can’t go on.

In other words, the more often you feel negative about something, the more likely you are to become negative when presented with a similar situation. The brain is absurdly complicated, but at the same time very simple. It can only process one thought at a time, so make it positive!

Now, how do we do this? Well it’s very simple, instead of thinking “I can’t”, think “I can”. Ok, it’s not quite that simple, but that’s the gist of it… First, we need to hold ourselves accountable for our own inner voice. For those of you who are super analytical, this can go as far as keeping a log of your thoughts, like how you feel at the start of the session, how’s it feel when you get into the workout, were there any instances when you felt lime giving up? If so, take control and write it down, what were you saying to yourself? Once you have done this you now have a basis from which to work.

So, how do we change? Well, follow these simple guidelines:

  1. Say do not don’t, can not cant. It’s so simple, but it works.
  2. Think about the present. The last time you trained doesn’t matter, that’s over, what matters is what’s in front of you.
  3. Be task specific. Anyone can think “yeah! Come on!” But what really helps is specificity.
  4. Be realistic. Ambition is good, but if you’ve never squatted before then psyching yourself up to go for 200kg isn’t going to happen. Small realistic goals will lead to the big things becoming more achievable.

Different things will work for different people, so you need to find out what works best for you. Self talk needs to be rehearsed, vivid and appropriate to you. If you have been logging your thoughts, track back and look at what you we’re thinking when when you trained really well, and use that information.

We can further divide positive self talk into the following categories, so maybe one of these will be more suited to you…

Skill Development – “keep the bar close” “engage the core” “look forwards”

Strategy – “I’ll do 4 more, then I’m going to hammer the row…”

Psych Up/emotion – “i am strong! I am fast! Come on!”

Relaxation – “keep breathing, one rep at a time, focus on the rhythm”

Evaluation/reinforcement – “I feel good, my technique is good, I can go harder”

Task Focus – “just focus on this next rep, nothing else matters”

Confidence – “I’m so much stronger than I was 3 months ago”

Now hopefully some of this has helped you, try to be positive about everything you do, because you can achieve anything if your mind is strong.

Go train hard!


Sourced research: