The gym and I have never really had a healthy relationship. As a former student athlete, I’ve made the untimely visits to the weight room to train outside of swim practice. The atmosphere was always something that threw me off. The ungodly smell, the sight of other people hoarding up weights, and most notably, the music blasting over the speakers.
All my senses were stimulated in the worst way possible. It’s no wonder why I decided to build my summer body at the end of August. However, I always found my way to try and make the most out of the situation. I did this mostly by wearing headphones to the gym and keeping to myself.
However, I have made the devastating mistake of forgetting to bring my headphones to the gym more times than one. This meant having to try and get a decent workout in while being completely aware of my surroundings. My favorite game to play in these scenarios is “Which Employee Is On AUX?” This makes me laugh because the music that blasts over the loudspeakers is insane!
Gym Music Has No Boundaries
When visiting most commercial gyms, they will probably have a set playlist that all locations share. This playlist would be a conglomeration of outdated pop music and the occasional heavy metal or rock. If you’re lucky, they might even throw in a good hip-hop or rap track from the early 2010s to really get the pump going!
My guess is that these playlists are the gym’s way of playing it safe to try and appease the different subcultures of people that workout. I can’t lie, seeing a 6’ 4” bodybuilder crushing a deadlift with “No Tears Left To Cry” in the background is quite the sight.
Personally, I go to my school’s gym facility. Let me tell you, going to the gym at an art school is a special experience. The music in that building never overlaps. It ranges from Pitbull to European techno, and even the entire Pitch Perfect soundtrack. Which is fun, to an extent, because I can almost instantly figure out who oversees the music that day. As much as I am happy for the employees that they have the freedom to pick the music, I prefer to stick with my own taste.
Does Music Affect Performance?
The research behind the relationship between music and athletic ability is quite interesting. Especially when looking at the psychological vs physiological standpoints. BPM varies among person and can greatly alter someone’s ability to perform. People choose to listen to certain music because they simply want to feel a certain way. Therefore, a lot of lifters tend to gravitate towards more violent and thrashy music to push them to lift heavier. However, there is also the argument that the brain is too focused on trying to lift that it won’t even pay attention to the music.
When looking into neuroscience studies, music almost works as a rewards system. Listening to music creates dopamine in the brain. This is the chemical that is most associated with happiness, but it also nulls or numbs pain as well. This means having more dopamine in the brain would lower the sensitivity to pain. There could be a connection to listening to music and having a more intense workout due to feeling less strain on the body. Personally, I just listen to music to avoid being bothered by other athletes.
So… What Do I Listen To?
I cannot simply give a short list of go-to songs or playlists that I listen to at the gym. My roommates all listen to EDM and intense techno music when they lift. Meanwhile, I’m squatting to Luther Vandross simply because I cannot take working out seriously.
I try to make the gym experience fun rather than tiresome after countless years of training for swimming. When I do want to amp up the intensity, I will always turn to my favorite female rap artists. Megan Thee Stallion has definitely been a key figure to helping me turn into the hottie I aspire to be.
As much as I talk smack about gym music, I can’t help but love it. There’s nothing like walking in to see the soccer team benching while Mariah Carey plays in the background. Gym culture has opened my eyes to the diverse cast of people that all want to better themselves. And what brings us all together is the shared experience of not wanting to listen to what’s on the main speakers.