Recovery & Recuperation
In comparison to the amount of research done on music to improve training when in pre-flight or whilst exercising, the usefulness of post-performance and recuperative music has hardly had a look in. What research there is however, suggests that the right music has the power to speed up some parts of your recovery after exercise.
The key study into this area only happened in 2008, where a sedative instrumental piece was used to aid the recovery of male college students for 15 minutes following an exhaustive cycle ergometer trial. Music helped decrease the heart rate, RPE and urinary protein.
Another study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that of 10 twenty six year old men tested, when they listened to music straight after exercise – a mix of pop hits and dance songs at 140bpm – while their heart rate didn’t change at a different pace, that their blood lactate levels dropped more rapidly than those that didn’t – meaning that those listening to music cleared lactic acid from their body more rapidly. Psychologically the participants also felt that their recovery felt less demanding.
Clinician and coach Phil Maffetone, who has trained Olympic medalists and triathletes, says: “Music can relax us by helping balance the autonomic nervous system. Reducing our ‘fight-flight’ mode to wind down, and increasing the parasympathetic state to prepare our gut for food are key components of recovery.”
The Canadian Rugby squad has a boom box in the changing rooms, and the team has a recovery and cool down session with music after every game. Sports Scotland recommends listening to music one hour after training to help relax and recover, particularly in cases where you might feel stressed, or where you’re training at night, as you need to cool down mentally as well as physically.
Maffetone explains: “Higher levels of stress hormones are produced, especially during harder and longer efforts. Immediately afterwards, we must recover through a variety of complex actions that include the pituitary and adrenal glands to help repair and restore function in the various systems: neuromuscular, immune, hormonal, etc. Music plays a role in this by stimulating the brain, which manages the recovery process.”
One anonymous athlete in a study is quoted as saying: “I do listen to music after a game. It's usually to bring me back down, I guess, calm me down a little bit. So maybe I'll listen to something slower like some country or something. I don't listen to one particular genre, but, usually something to calm me down after running for an hour and a half.”
Contrary to what we might expect, recuperative music does not need to sound like it’s from a beauty spa to chill you out.
Maffetone says that the best music to use covers the full spectrum of genres from folk to rock and rap to classical, and even in a mixed playlist of different styles. It all depends on the individual. Of the athletes he’s worked with, Maffetone says: “Some have favourites, others choose what the brain craves, others choose a random play of their collections.”
So whatever your pitch you play on or exercise you’re powering through, it’s those tracks that bring joy, calm you, and bring you back to a resting head space that help you get ready for the next round.