Staying motivated during my weight loss and even post weight loss period has often been challenging. Especially during periods I was not seeing any results from my often times intense efforts. There was one factor that really kept me pushing myself, and still does today. Music. Specifically, the "right" music.

At the beginning of my weight loss, I noticed on some days, doing the workout seemed easier than others. Initially, I could not explain this, because some days I had poor recovery but still found it easy to workout, yet other days I managed to rest well but still found the workout a little harder. During this period, I had my iPod set on randomized play. After about a month, I noticed which tunes were playing on days when I felt "on top of the world" during my workouts, and, which tunes were playing on those days I felt like simply quitting. That was when I realized the difference music makes in emotions and motivation. Upbeat, cheerful tunes can create positive emotions and feelings that make the mental game easier; likewise depressing, down music dampens one's emotions. So what I did was to compile a playlist of those tunes that really pumped me up and only listened to that playlist when I workout.

The power of music has been known since ancient times. In ancient Greece, there was a story about Athens being very concerned about an upcoming battle. They consulted the Oracle of Delphi who told them to borrow one soldier from the Spartans. The Spartans were archrivals of the Athenians, so they loathed the idea of helping them. They did not want to defy the Oracle either, so instead sending a capable general or a powerful warrior, the Spartans sent the regimental musician, who was crippled. The story goes, the musician performed stirring music that lifted the Athenian spirits so high, they easily routed their enemy at the battlefield. In another story I read somewhere a long time a go, a Polish singer (forgot her name, or when it happened) was attending a dinner party in a foreign country (the UK I think). While everyone was at the table, she was asked to sing. She sang briefly, and the mood immediately dropped, several of the diners broke out in tears. All she did was sing the Polish alphabet.

Recent studies have shown music can alter brain chemistry, so it is no wonder it can alter moods in either direction. While I do listen to and enjoy a large variety of music, there are particular songs that really pump me up at the gym and others that lift my spirits when I am down and tempted to emotionally eat. In any case, listening to music while working out is much more enjoyable. You probably already know which songs do it for you. If you have not done so already, try listening exclusively to those songs when working out, you may find yourself pushing harder and longer. The next time you are feeling down and tempted to binge, crank out the tunes instead. Music may not increase athletic performance or weight loss, but it does make the journey more pleasant and easier to stick to.
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