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.


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