5 ways to use music to change your mindset pre-race


Before a race do you feel the demons of anxiety, nervousness, lack of self-belief and/or confidence? Music is the most powerful tool we have to change our mindset, mood and feelings, and here is how you can harness this power.

1. The Power of Music


When you listen to music, you are exercising your brain in a unique way and it allows you to think differently.

Music is linked to the brain’s reward system and when we tune into our favourite songs, the brain releases the feel good chemical dopamine. This response is similar to what the brain experiences when stimulated with food or sex!

Research is continuing to reveal the power of music, my favourite being, that music with a beat helps those with motor disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, walk better than without music. Patients align their movements with the beat!

We can also use music to help us remember things. Before there was writing, our ancestors used music to help them remember things such as the location and route to a water source.

Research has also shown that music changes how people process information in a very simple way and by listening to especially happy or sad music, it alters the way we perceive the world.

2. How Music Changes your Mood


By listening to different songs, artists and music genre you can alter how you are feeling. Individual songs have the ability to evoke personal and specific thoughts, emotions and feelings in their listener.

This means you can dial up or down your mood, feelings and/or mindset on demand, by choosing songs that evoke a unique emotional response for you.

For example, a few years ago I was celebrating New Years Eve in Quebec, Canada and all of a sudden they played Bonkers by Dizzee Rascal. The Canadians had no idea what had hit them, but this song gave me such a high and I still knew all of the words, despite not listening to it since I was 19 and clubbing in Soho with the University of College Hockey Club!

You can use this to your advantage, by deliberately playing music to change your mood and achieve a very specific frame of mind.

Think about the songs that elicit strong feelings and emotions - what songs inspire, motivate, energise, focus and/or calm you? Do you have a theme song that captures the essence of your race?

For my Ironman Barcelona, September 2017 it was Fireball by Pitbull and I dare say, the Pitch Perfect Soundtrack!

3. How athletes use music to enter their peak race state

Before a race, gold medal and champion hopefuls can be found with headphones in and listening to their perfect soundtrack for race preparation.

Over the years, world-class athletes have developed, tried-and-tested playlists to enable them to enter their ideal mindset for peak performance.

This music enables them to enter a parallel universe, where they can feel optimistic, positive, happy, confident and full of self-belief that they can win - despite their external environment, whether it’s raining outside, they’re recovering from an injury or about to compete in the most important race of their life.

Their music fortifies them and helps them live in a winning mindset.

In 2005 Michael Phelps, the swimmer who is the world’s most decorated Olympic athlete, revealed that he has walked out to races with his headphones on, his entire career and listens to music until the last moment possible. Music helps him relax and get into his own little world.

You can see a list of songs here that athletes use in the London Olympics 2012 and Canadian athletes use in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics 2016.

4. How to develop your winning playlist

Deliberately develop your ultimate winning playlist for a specific mindset you want to cultivate and enter at certain times, by trialing different songs that create a certain emotion and feeling inside of you.

Think of your playlist as a trapdoor from your unconscious to your conscious mind, one that helps you quickly change your mood, feelings and thoughts by tapping into your nervous system.

Ask yourself these questions;

  • What mood and mindset do I want this playlist to help me enter?

  • Does this song evoke that fire in my belly?

  • Does this song make me feel like the glass is empty, half full or full?

  • Does this song make me feel energised, sad, calm or focused?

  • What have been your favourite songs of 2018 so far?

  • What did you love listening to last year?

  • What songs remind you of summer and sunshine?

  • What songs remind you of that perfect day?

  • What music videos do you love?

  • On Spotify? Use this link to discover your top played songs and artists:

Don’t feel embarrassed by the songs you love and that help you enter this peak state of mind - don’t deny yourself a powerful trap door!

Keep checking and updating the songs on your playlist and how they affect your mood and mindset. Have a play around with the songs, artists and genres.

Turbo upgrade: Randomness in music is also associated to increased levels of dopamine. So keep your playlist on shuffle to increase anticipation and avoid predictability and mundaneness.

5. Technical recommendation

I love running with music and I used to run in the free earphones you get with your phone. However, the music wasn’t great and I could hear my movement through the earphones.

So one day, I decided to treat myself (and my earphones also broke - I think too much sweat?!). I tweeted my idol, Rich Roll, asking what he uses and Rich recommended Jay Bird.

They are sweat proof, you can alter the music tone and levels (or use the settings your favourite athlete - obviously, Rich Roll) and they are wireless!

I love them and they’ve changed how I run and experience the watt bike - 3+hours on there with a good audiobook, music and earphones!

So I highly recommend investing in some earphones - and just so you know I’m not affiliated with Jay Bird, just a big fan!!

If you’re on Spotify please share with me your playlist, I would love to see what is on yours!

You can find mine by searching ‘Adelaide’s Top 20 Playlist’ and you can find the songs my podcast guests play to feel fearless by searching ‘Fearless Playlist’ or check out both below.