Listening to music during training is a very individual thing. It’s not just about a different taste in music – different people may use it in different ways and not every one of those is productive. Someone might use it to psyche up in the gym for a heavy set, someone else might use it to help them not get distracted and another might use it simply to keep their workouts more fun. Any of this could be fine, as long as the music itself does not become a distraction nor a necessity. Any distraction when you need to be focused will detract from your performance and if the music becomes a necessity… Well, what will you do in a competition then? Ruin your competition performance? What if your iPod dies on you during your workout? Are you going to let the rest of your workout be ruined?
Be mindful of this and you could use music to your advantage. My coach always taught me there is no substitute for a proper training environment (physical, as in proper material, as well as psychological, with the right people around you) and I have no doubt that this is true, but music can go a long way in working with what you’ve got when your training environment is suboptimal.
As for me? It’s exactly what I just described. If I lift with my team, I don’t need the music although it’s a nice addition. Around and during training when I’m by myself, I tend to listen to music for three reasons.
Right before the actual training, either when I’m on my way to the gym or when I’m doing some stretching, trying to relieve trigger points, trying to get the joints working and preparing for the first movement, I tend to listen to something relaxing. Maybe a movie soundtrack, something from Bat for Lashes or some sentimental pop music. It helps me clear my mind from daily life so I can properly transition into my ‘training mode’ and focus on the task at hand. I also listen to the same types of music after training so I can unwind and relax a bit.
If I lift with the right people, they can be the correct stimulus to get hyper focused before my most technical, most important movements. When they are not there but I have to do a heavy triple on the back squat or a heavy single on the snatch, I have to be able to get focused by myself and I tend to use music for that. This might be some loud metal, fast paced rock with inspiring lyrics or a videogame soundtrack that sorta links my mind to ‘that epic moment from a specific videogame’.
This usually refers to longer sets of an exercise (in my case that is up to 8 reps or something) or any part of training that requires me not to get distracted, but is not ‘mentally intensive’ like doing a really heavy set of 3 on a ‘big’ exercise. Think of a heavy set of a pressing exercise or something. Most of the music I like (except for the really mellow and relaxing stuff) works for me here, but if I can be arsed to pick a specific song here, I tend to gravitate towards techno/dance music with a heavy beat or some sort type of metal for this.
I’ve found that this helps me focus on my training and it makes my training a lot more enjoyable. Try and see what works for you, but as Dan John always says: “The hardest thing is to keep the goal the goal.” If you’re training for a goal, music should never detract from your goal. If it does, you’re doing it wrong.
For fun, once in a while on Endure and Survive, I’ll list a few examples of my favourite training songs that you might like. Since not everyone can stand more extreme (?) types of music, I’ll list the genre and whether there’s screaming or not.
Jamie Christopherson – The Stains of Time (Genre: Videogame OST/Rock/Metal. No screaming.)
Kajiura Yuki – Mezame (Genre: Anime OST/Rock/Opera/Orchestral? No screaming.)
Satyricon – Filthgrinder (Genre: Black metal. Lots of screaming.)