We often listen to music as we exercise, but why? Among other things, it distracts us from feeling tired or noticing small aches and pains. It provides a rhythm which our bodies try to match, thereby pushing us to go further, longer, or with greater intensity—enhancing our performance. It gives us the impetus to get moving.
When using music for exercise, you may have already noticed that:
Your music choices are personal—tied to your moods and goals, your language, culture, and background. While hip hop and rock seem to be on many playlists, you may not like those genres, or you might want more variety.
So let’s look at how you can expand your playlist to meet your changing needs. Spotify is a good place to start, since it is free and has a huge range of musical possibilities from which to choose. You can begin by searching for “exercise playlists,” or perhaps something more specific like “Irish exercise music, “or “classical exercise music.” You can also Google “exercise music,” or search on Pandora. I have also looked at YouTube exercise videos, Amazon exercise and music videos, and iTunes. Without a doubt, there are many more sites and the options keep growing.
How else can music help us? Using music can help us with depression and pain management, and it can improve our feeling of being in control. We can use it to help us sleep or to get us into a trance-like state. This leads us into the field of music therapy, which we will investigate at another time.
Start with the Breath
Here is an exercise for calming that I find very helpful. Start by finding a time and place where you can be uninterrupted for a while. Get into a comfortable seated position where your spine is in good alignment and you can breathe freely. You can sit on a chair with your legs apart, or sit cross-legged on a cushion on the floor. Using whatever techniques you may have already learned, take some deep diaphragm breaths until you are fully aware of your breath. When you are ready, make a low sighing sound on your next exhale, and let the pitch get lower as you breathe out. Repeat. On your next exhalation settle on a pitch, sing it, and stay on that pitch until you run out of air. Inhale, then exhale, and continue to produce the same pitch until you again run out of air. Repeat.
At this point you can sing your note while you listen to a chant, or you can begin to chant, hum, or sing something of your choice: a religious chant, an affirmation, or a favorite song. If you are in a group, you can have a sing -along. Or, you can listen to something peaceful that is at a relatively slow tempo. There are chants available in many religious traditions and languages, or you may want to listen to warm and soothing music written for plucked instruments such as the lute, guitar, and oud. Perhaps you might prefer the Beethoven Romances for Violin and Orchestra or something on piano like Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies. The CDs Bedtime Beats and Cello Adagios might give you some more ideas, and the inner movements of symphonies and concerti can also be good options.
Movement to Music
Let music help optimize your health. Happy exploring. May you enjoy the journey!