By Josh Taylor in 2017.
Every snowboarder has a preference as to whether or not they enjoy listening to music whilst riding. This is definitely a personal choice that can be influenced by past experiences of trying it out or even as to what your peers choose to do. I’m going to put forward some scientific evidence as to how listening to music before and during snowboarding can improve both performance and experience. Through scientific enquiry and advances in neuroscience we are able to quantitatively measure how music affects the brain and a persons biological processes. These are broken down into five key criteria; dissociation, attainment of flow, synchronisation, acquisition of motor skills & arousal regulation.
This involves diverting the mind from sensations of fatigue and pain. Brunel University in the U.K., demonstrated that music can reduce the rate of a persons perceived effort by 12% and improve endurance by 15%. This works best when there is synchrony between the music and the movements involved within the task at hand. Also, when music is listened to and enjoyed with others, it stimulates the brain hormone oxytocin (‘trust’ molecule), which in turn not only enables us to trust the people around us, but also ourselves to achieve a desired task. Rather than wasting our brain’s energy on feelings of exhaustion and negativity.
ATTAINMENT OF FLOW
This is when the mind and body function on auto-pilot with minimal conscious effort. Some refer to this as being in ‘the zone’. Humans have used music as a way to prepare for different occasions for thousands of years. Of course, different types of music are used depending on the event and the atmosphere and mood desired. We can relate the need to be in the zone for snowboarding being similiar to going to war. The reason we want Flow, is so we’re acting on instinct without hesitation. When performing different motor skills, our body takes commands from 2 different parts of the brain; cerebellum & pre-frontal cortex. The cerebellum will give very detailed descriptions to every specific part of the body required as where as the pre-frontal cortex just gives simple ques for movement patterns that should already be autonomous. For example, a snowboarder needs to suddenly ollie over a rock slab; the pre-frontal cortex will simply tell the body to “Ollie”, the cerebellum will say, “bend knees, shift weight to back foot, lift front leg, jump off back leg, suck feet up, extend legs, land, bend knees.” Or when a warrior needs to swing their sword, I’m sure they want the simplest que imaginable, “Swing”. So when we’re snowboarding, we want to be acting on auto pilot when put into difficult situations, and by listening to music before and during an event allows the person to put aside all other outside distractions in order to concentrate and envision the task at hand.
Synchronisation is defined as the operation or activity of two or more things at the same time. Listening to music whilst performing tasks with repetitive movements can increase the amount of work output. Studies have shown cyclists using 7% less oxygen to perform a task whilst pedalling in time to music. This is great for other activities like, rowing, swimming & cross-country skiing. It’s best utilised for snowboarding to help create rhythm and flow for certain tasks where you want all turns to have the same shape and size, like, open edged retraction turns or medium radius skidded turns.
ACQUISITION OF MOTOR SKILLS
Right from a young age, we play games and learn dances to music. This helps develop coordination and explore different movements. One of the best examples of this is doing the Hokey Pokey; “put your left foot in, take your left foot out, put your left foot in and shake it all about…” The body can also provide a visual analogue of a given sound, such as, bang, splash, chatter, oink, etc. Lastly, lyrics can be used to reinforce strategy and technique. So for a person wanting to do as many flatspin 360s in a row as they can, a good song choice would be “You spin me Round” by Dead or Alive, or for a person that’s having a lot of falls trying to learn a new trick, and they know they just need to persist and push through, a great song choice would be “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba, which recites, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down”. We already know that the most important thing when teaching and learning (especially for children) is to make it fun, music helps achieve this, therefor increasing peoples intrinsic motivation to master new and different skill sets.
The Pshchology Dictionary defines this as, the controlling of cognitive and physiological activation using natural or cognitive-behavioral methods (to learn more about this, see https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/cognitive-behavioral-therapy). Because music can alter emotional and physiological arousal, it can be used as both a sedative and a stimulant. This is because listening to music can increase a persons levels of serotonin (mood stabiliser). Therefor regulating their mood by managing nerves and anxiety, which in turn lowers the release of the stress hormone, cortisol. In contrast, when we choose the right type of music, we can psych ourselves up before and even during game-time because as we listen, the body also releases the neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is our body’s motivation molecule. Thus providing optimal arousal for peak performance. Choosing the correct music for the individual is key here. You can even try making a playlist that is essentially a warm-up; start with music that soothes your soul, then gradually build up to the songs that really get YOU going.
In conclusion, through the advances in technology we are able to quantitatively measure how listening to music before and during game-time can affect a persons biological processes, like, fatigue, heart rate, oxygen intake and chemical balances. And this is best demonstrated through the research and evidence uncovered in the five key criteria; dissociation, attainment of flow, synchronisation, acquisition of motor skills & arousal level. In the words of Dr. Costas Karageorghis, a world leading researcher on music for performance, “music is a type of legal performance enhancing drug.”