Music as a Motivator in Running: A Literature Review and Experimental Research Design Proposal
Ever since Sony first introduced the Walkman, listening to music on the go has become something that many individuals take for granted during a variety of activities. When tapes went out of style the Discman and competing portable CD players came along, and then the iPod and other portable mp3 players arrived on the stage. One demographic that has a very high proportion of portable music listeners is joggers and runners -- indeed, people engaged in exercise of any sort simply for the sake of that exercise are often plugged into their music device as a motivating force. This has led to many studies regarding the motivational role music plays in running, though some questions still remain. This paper will examine several studies on this topic and propose a further experiment to increase knowledge in this area.
One study conducted in 2004 examined what effect the specific type of music had on motivation during running, finding that it didn't really matter what type of music was playing for runners in terms of their self-stated motivation (Tenenbaum et al. 2004). Slightly less than a third of study participants reported feeling better initial focus and increased motivation to continue running, although the researchers observed no physiological changes brought about in participants when listening to the various types of music or no music at all (Tenenbaum et al. 2004). The conclusion reached in this study is that music might be psychologically motivating, but it doesn't have a physical effect on runners (Tenenbaum et al. 2004).
Other researchers have focused more on the technology aspects of the motivational music issue in running and athletics, rather than the physiological or psychological features. Wijnalda et al. (2005) set out to design an effective computer-assisted personalized music system specifically designed for use by athletes and exercisers, primarily focused on running. Through the course of this technology's development and the research concerning the interface's construction, certain details regarding how runners interact with music and what motivational elements they perceive have been brought to light, and the research indicates that while slightly different motivational effects are reported, runners and other users of this product all experienced greater enjoyment of the activity (Wijnalda et al. 2005).
Biehl et al. (2006) take this type of research even further: having conducted research that suggests the type of music does indeed have an impact on the runner based on several factors, including personal music preferences and the pace or rhythm of the music, this group of researchers attempted to develop a computer assisted technology that would actually adjust the music soundtrack as the runner runs. By measuring the pace of the runner and certain other physiological features, and comparing these readings with data collected regarding the individual runner, the DJogger attempts to play music that will be the most motivating for the specific runner at the specific point in their workout/run (Biehl et al. 2006). This research suggests that, while a direct relationship between music and running performance might not exist, music can be a motivating force that triggers a decision to increase performance.
Another study involving a larger cohort of elementary school students found that interest in running was the primary predictor of motivation in both the short- and long-term, and that (possibly as expected) interest waned the longer the running program was in force at the school (Xiang et al. 2006). That is, even students that started out with high degrees of motivation were demonstrating lower motivation and generally lowered running performance further on in the year-long study due to reduce interest levels (Xiang et al. 2006). Though this study did not directly observe the effects of music on motivation during running, it has certain implications for an understanding of this subject. As interest is a primary motivating factor in running, and as music has been found in other studies to contribute to longer retention of interest, it would seem that music could indeed be motivating to runners.
In one of the most direct studies conducted on music and its effect on running performance, Simpson and Karageorghis (2006) tested a panel of volunteer runners engaging in a series of four hundred meter sprints: once with music they had previously labeled motivational, once with music that was not considered motivational, and once with no music. The evidence supported the hypothesis that motivational music would improve running performance over the no-music control sprints, but the researchers were surprised to find that music identified as non-motivational actually created an improvement of the same level among the study's participants (Simpson & Karageorghis 2006). This places creates a greater level of uncertainty as to whether the type of music matters insofar as its motivational effect.
From an examination of the previous literature conducted as to the motivational force, if any, that music provides to runners, it is clear that there are many ambiguities. Different studies have come to completely different results, and thus almost any research conducted in this area will be a positive force in the growth of knowledge and the certainty of that knowledge. Still, a particular focus is needed to make any proposed research truly effective and trustworthy, and for that reason the proposed research will focus on the type of music and any change in motivational force that arises out of changes in the type of music played. This can also help increase the understanding of whether or not music has a motivational effect on running overall, and possibly of how that effect is achieved in individual runners.
To begin with, this study will attempt to collect a broader selection of subjects than has heretofore been present. Subjects will be recruited from local gyms and athletic clubs, with information regarding the study made available through each gym's service desk and subject contact information collected by gym personnel to protect privacy -- only individuals that want to participate and volunteer contact information will be made known to the researcher. Certain minimum health criteria will be established in order to ensure subject safety during the experiment, but other than this subjects will consist of the broadest possible array of ages (though all participants must be over eighteen), races, and genders. This will make the results of this study more comprehensive and more generalizable.
Following the selection of participants through the use of voluntarily submitted contact forms and the administering of basic health tests by a licensed physician, the participants will need to be informed about as many of the details of the study as is deemed possible without influencing the results of the study. Explaining the full parameters of the study would likely lead to an impact on the results due to subconscious biases created; for example, if participants are told that their motivational responses to different types of music are being measured, they might create an unintentional bias in favor of one type of music or another, or become conscious of changes in motivations or performance and attempt to even them out so as not to influence the study, and actually end up influencing it by doing so. Instead, participants should only be told exactly what they will be doing, not the specifics of what is going to be measured or how those measurements are going to be interpreted.
What these participants will be doing is running on a treadmill on three successive mornings, under instructions not to eat or drink anything other than water between waking and arriving at the testing laboratory, so as to ensure consistency. Participants will then run on a treadmill listening to either one of two piece of music or no music at all, completing both pieces of music and the no-music run by the end of the three-day study period. While running, the participants will be connected to equipment monitoring perspiration, heart rate, blood flow, and other relevant physiological factors. The distance ran in every twenty minute period will also be measured, and the results of all of these measurements will be compared.
Increased motivation will be determined by increases in the distance run, the obtaining of an optimum heart rate sooner in the running process and the maintenance of this heart rate for longer in the running period. It is hypothesized that the type of music listened to will have no effect on the motivation, while listening to music of any sort will increase motivation as perceived through these factors. Participants' experiences will also be recorded in a qualitative manner in order to establish any trends in the perception of music's effects on running and motivation by the runners themselves, adding supplemental information to the quantified data that will supply the main information of the research. Through statistical analysis of the results it can be determined whether or not any observed trends are actually of a significant enough proportion to have meaning outside the population of the research study itself. Demonstrating the degree of correlation can also point to…