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How Music Motivates Athletes: Olympian Lindsey Vonn's Rap-Enhanced Workouts
One thing Olympic athletes such as skier Lindsey Vonn have in common with pro sports stars such as LeBron James and Floyd Mayweather Jr. is their reliance on musical motivation during intense training sessions. Music adds value to many things in life, but its connection to physical performance enhancement has made a wide audience curious whether motivational playlists can help them boost their own fitness.
On Nov. 5 Genius details downhill Olympic skiing champion Lindsey Vonn's personal picks — especially rap and hip-hop — meant to inspire athletes of all levels to push through the common love/hate relationship with training, centered on the song "You Can Make It If You Try."
Vonn's favorite artists to train to encompass Beyoncé, Kodak Black, Drake, Far East Movement, Jay-Z, Jessie J, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, Missy Elliott, Nas, Notorious B.I.G., Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, and more — a list that almost pumps you up just reading it.
Another 2018 skiing medalist, Cassie Sharpe described music's invigorating effect, saying, "It really keeps me focused and keeps me in my own space." This interest in staying in the zone and being in a flow state underlies the wider public interest, as athletes at every level seek higher performance and increased focus in their own lives.
Vonn isn't the first marquee athlete to reveal her playlist. Floyd Mayweather Jr. released his "Hard Work & Dedication" 42-song playlist in summer 2017 before his bout with Conor McGregor. On Apple Music this past Sept., new Laker LeBron James released a 62-song playlist titled "The Strongest." Hip-hop was also heavily represented in both playlists, and James even took representation to a personally inspiring level by selecting all women.
"I believe that African American women are some of the strongest people on earth," James said. "I grew up around some amazingly strong women and am inspired by the strength I see around, including my mom, wife, and daughter."
Sports playlists are motivating scientific research as well. Last year, an academic paper appeared in Frontiers In Psychology titled "The Sound of Success: Investigating Cognitive and Behavioral Effects of Motivational Music in Sports," exploring this topic more rigorously. The authors found a distinction between the way music does assist endurance and risk-taking and the way it did not improve the motor coordination of participants in their study. A control group with no music was compared with participant-selected playlists as well as an experimenter-selected playlist including Eminem, David Guetta, Katy Perry, and Kanye West. Comparing their own results with the academic literature on the subject, they considered this a rich subject for further future investigations.
As sharing music becomes more of a no-brainer, this practice has become more digital and daily. The group effect among high school students, where friends and teammates listen to each other's favorite artists, has been a staple of growing up in America. In addition to playlists' impact on sports training, it seems another dimension being added to American life is answering the question, "What do your heroes listen to?"