I Baroque the Mold
By Shayn Stavens M.S., M.I.S. | Nutrition & Wellness Coach
I love lifting weights and spending time at the gym. Typically you can find me there in the morning 6 days per week for a couple hours at a time. It is sort of like my second home. This is a place where I can completely concentrate on the present and turn off my ADHD brain that is always wandering. Exercise and lifting weights works for me in much the same way that meditation does. Like most people however, I don’t always have the ability to completely focus and occasionally I just don’t feel well physically or emotionally when I’m there.
Today was one of those days where I didn’t feel that great emotionally. Physically I felt fine but it seemed like I was just going through the motions and I seemed to be exerting far more effort into weight that I was moving than I normally would. Sometimes when I feel this way, I chalk it up to fatigue or not eating well and I’ll either go back home or continue going through the motions. Today was different though. I recognized how I was feeling and asked myself why I would be feeling that way. I’d been eating well and sleeping 7 to 8 hours per night, so I knew that it wasn’t my typical issues.
I always listen to music when working out. Generally it is high intensity music such as Metallica, Eminem, Crystal Method, The Prodigy, and other music that I generally get “pumped up” to. For the first time ever, I recognized that I wasn’t enjoying the music that I was listening to and it was having a significant impact on my mood and my performance. My scientifically oriented brain started to churn and I quickly came up with a solution to my problem.
I know that certain types of music have been studied and shown to increase mental performance. The type of music that has been studied the most is Chamber Baroque. The composers for this type of music are names you’ll surely recognize; Mozart, Handel, Bach, etc. Some of these studies have shown that playing Baroque music increases blood flow to certain parts of the brain responsible for learning and more rapidly creating neural pathways.
I also know that there is a huge amount of learning going on when you are lifting weights and creating new muscle. I think of it as flexing my brain while flexing my muscles. In order for us to perform difficult physical tasks, the brain must create strong neural pathways. This is basically the “training” effect. You do it once, it’ll be easier the next time.
I like Baroque music, but it’s definitely not my favorite. I never thought that I would be listening to it at the gym, where I usually listen to the typical gym motivational fare. I switched my Pandora to the Chamber Baroque channel and spent the next several moments focusing on feeling good and energized.
I was working my shoulders on the military press machine when I had made my realization, so I continued my workout there. The set that I pushed out included 4 more reps than I had done on my previous set using the exact same weight! “Damn I am onto something”, I thought to myself. I put on my previous max weight, which I had done for one rep a few weeks prior. I then proceeded to do 5 reps! I was totally floored at my results. I put on another 10 lbs. and did another 5 reps with that. I was thrilled by the fact that I totally shifted my physical ability and mindset, simply by listening to some different type of music. I was so thrilled in fact, that I started getting weird looks from others at the gym because I was whistling to, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.