It doesn't matter where I am or what I happen to be doing, whenever I hear the "mum mum mum mah" of Lady Gaga's "Pokerface," I feel like I should be running—it was the first song on the playlist I used to train for and run the Chicago Half Marathon last September.
Gaga takes me back to those early morning runs around Saint Mary's College and the University of Notre Dame. To the gunshot that signaled the start of the race. And most importantly, to that feeling of accomplishment (or was it my burning thighs?) when I crossed the finish line 2 hours and 21 minutes later, having completed 13.2 miles.
Just this week I strapped on the iPod to run a 5K outside for the first time in a very long time. Despite the chill, I needed a break from the treadmill. I thought for sure I was in for it, but when I queued up my playlist, she was there for me. And it pumped me up.
The run was great, and I spent a lot of it thinking about the concept of a go-to song. How easily something so simple can transform your mood. How it can make you work a little harder in or out of the gym. Google "music" and "exercise" and you'll find a number of links to studies that show how music improves cognitive function. And how that, in turn, helps you pull more out of your workout.
A study from Ohio State University gets even more specific—people with lung issues have shown marked improvements in their workouts when they listen to music. They focus more on the music and the workout itself, distracting themselves from the sounds of their own breathing.
You may not have a breathing issue, but I bet you have a go-to song. Is it "Poker Face"? Tell me.