What do you pack in your gym bag to get the best out of your workout?
The right trainers, certainly. The best kit, absolutely.Maybe your latest playlist too. But have you thought of packing perfume? Probably not, but studies show that surrounding yourself with specific scents can conjure up positive emotions to help you perform at your best. Peppermint essential oil, for instance, has been shown in numerous studies to significantly improve athletic performance. Dr Bryan Raudenbush, an associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in the US, gave 40 athletes a series of physical tasks under the conditions of no-odour or peppermint odour. The peppermint odour enhanced their performance in nearly all the tasks: they could do more press-ups, run faster and grip harder. ‘Since mood and motivation are closely related, the boost in mood may also bring about an increase in motivation,’ he says in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. ‘With an increase in motivation, athletes are likely to exert more effort.’ Aromas in the air are carried to your brain’s limbic system, thought to have developed long before intellect. Now scientists know it has an intimate connection, not only to our emotions and memory, but also to our digestion, respiration and circulation.
Even in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, fragrance was revered and essential oils and aromatic plants were used in all areas of daily life, from scenting baths and beautifying skin, to burning for religious festivals and fumigating rooms to help prevent disease. Exercise involved perfume too. Ancient Greeks were mad about exercise, and no trip to the outdoor ‘gymnasium’ would be complete without a naked rubdown with fragrant oils. Athletes carried their olive oil and herb blends in special bottles called aryballos (for men) and alabastra (for women). Fast forward a few thousand years, and studies show it could pay to harness the power of these aromas. Even a spritz of the right scent – lemon for a mood boost; lavender to reduce anxiety – could be the ticket to a few more push-ups or a faster sprint. Originally, perfumes were all-natural, made from plant extracts and oils that may not have lasted long, but were intimate and good for your wellbeing. However, while modern-day synthetics can reproduce a rose scent or even evoke a childhood memory, they can’t replicate the aroma-therapeutic benefits of natural plant oils. Whether you’re unwinding with a gentle yoga or meditation practice, want to hit it hard with some intervals, focus on endurance training or get refreshed and energised post workout, here’s how to match a fragrance to your exercise session.
YOU WANT TO FEEL: Focused for extended stamina
YOU NEED: Sandalwood, patchouli, musk
Clocking up those miles requires a lot of mental as well as physical exertion, so you need a powerful and long-lasting scent. ‘To aid in activity where prolonged concentration is required, you’re looking for deep base notes that linger long,’ says Lawrence Roullier of fragrance boutique Roullier White (roullierwhite.com). Rosemary has traditionally been used to aid memory and benzoin – a resin from a South East Asian tree – is thought to open the airwaves – great for long-distance runs!’
(1) Crabtree & Evelyn Indian Sandalwood Cologne; £30 for 100ml; crabtree-evelyn.co.uk
A men’s fragrance with a rich, woody fragrance that’s loved by women too – it’s a cologne so it isn’t overpowering. It’s blended with bergamot, lavender and vetiver to balance and uplift.
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