summer fitness

How Do Athletes And Gamers Use Music as a Tool?

Music permeates every aspect of our lives, acting as a constant companion through our commutes, chores, and calming moments of relaxation. It’s often the soundtrack to our day, matching our moods, lifting us up, and helping us wind down again.

But the power and influence of music extends far beyond mere enjoyment. Humans have been using it as a tool for centuries, including as a way to help marching armies keep in step, workers to be more productive on production lines, and for students of practically every topic to better remember what they’re taught.

This is even backed up by science. A growing body of research suggests that music can significantly enhance performance, even in seemingly mundane tasks. This understanding extends to the competitive realms of athletics and professional gaming, where high performers leverage music to optimise their training and execution.

Music Evokes Emotions

Music can stir up a whole range of emotions in us, and athletes use this to their advantage. Pumping up the volume with adrenaline-inducing tracks can be the perfect way to get your blood flowing and your competitive spirit ignited.

Competitors in combat sports might need to channel a different kind of fire before they step  into the ring. In that case, music like Skint Knees’ Riot Grrl, which has a more intense, almost angry vibe, can help them access that emotional state and channel it into peak performance.

Unlocking the Flow State

It’s likely you’ve become so engrossed in an activity that time seems to melt away and you experience a state of optimal performance. This zone of hyper-focus is known as the “flow state,” and athletes and gamers actively seek to get their minds into it.

The right music can be the key to unlocking a flow state. You don’t even need to be an athlete to experience it. If you work in an office, you’ve probably had days where you manage to pour out a seamless flow of words onto a page, akin to a master pianist effortlessly teasing out a tune from their instrument by tickling its keys.

Music can cultivate this focused energy. For athletes, the perfect playlist can mean the difference between executing a perfect shot or flunking it hard. Similarly, gamers rely on music to induce a laser-sharp focus, allowing them to react with lightning speed and make make-or-break decisions in a split second.

Formula One drivers are a great example of this. Ahead of each race, they assemble on the grid while their cars are prepared and the media use the time to ask them about what they think will happen in the Grand Prix.

This is incredibly distracting and far from optimal for inducing a flow state ahead of a race. That’s why you’ll often see drivers standing by their machines with headphones blasting their favourite tunes directly into their brains.

This isn’t simply for leisure; the music serves as a shield, blocking external distractions and allowing them to focus solely on the race ahead.

The same is true for poker players. Over the last few decades, there has been a huge increase in the number of people competing in major tournaments like the EPT. This has been thanks, in large part, to the efforts of online card rooms like PokerStars and their programmes like Power Path that allow them a chance to compete in major competitions without having to stump up the cash for a big buy in.

But with growing tournament sizes, the card rooms that host them can become incredibly noisy, making it hard for players to hear themselves think over the din. That’s where music comes in! You’ll often see professionals wearing headphones at the table, allowing them to shut out the racket and enter a flow state.

Harnessing the Power of Distraction

You’re out for a run, trying to beat a personal best by running further than you’ve run before. But your legs burn, your lungs ache, and every step feels like a monumental effort.

You might be about to hit “the wall”, but a familiar, high-energy song blasts through your headphones, giving you a metaphorical leg up over the psychological construction in front of you. The pain becomes less intense, the miles tick by with renewed vigour.

This is the power of music, functioning as a distraction for your brain to keep it from focusing on the voices telling you to slow down or stop.

Studies have demonstrated that music during exercise diverts attention from the exertion, making the workout feel less challenging. The differences aren’t marginal either, one study in 2008 by researchers at Brunel University found that music can increase exercise endurance by as much as 15%.


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