We love Adele, but if one of her heartbreak ballads pops up during our morning-run mix, we're more likely to sit on a curb and cry than crank up the pace. So what are the best songs for finding that next gear? To find out, we spoke with music guru Daniel Hubbert, the CEO of Power Music, Inc., who has dedicated his career to studying the science behind fitness music, and DJ Steve Porter, ESPN's resident mix master and the man behind the monthly "SportsCenter" mash-up music videos.
Follow their playlist pointers to cue up the best beats for beating the competition.
1. Consistent rhythm. Music gurus like Porter and Hubbert suggest designing mixes with songs that have a constant count for 32 musical bars. (This allows you to do weightlifting sets or run to an even tempo. The beat will never break; therefore, your motivation will stay high.) Another good bet is to choose tunes that fall in the range of 120 to 140 beats per minute. If music theory isn't your thing, DJ Porter said to simply consider whether you could dance to a particular song if you were at a club with friends. If the answer isn't "hells yeah!" scratch it from the playlist.
2. Keep your activity in mind. A solid playlist isn't essential just for cardio workouts. One study from York St John University in the U.K. found that subjects could hold a weight straight out at shoulder height for up to 10 percent longer when they listened to motivational tunes. So design a separate mix for strength training and even yoga (if you have an at-home practice). In general, DJ Porter recommends a steady dance rhythm for sustained efforts such as running, and a hip-hop beat with steady bass for strength training. Expert tip: You can't go wrong with songs with action lyrics -- like "Jump!" or "Run fast for your mother, run fast for your father!"
3. Strategically place "power songs." A properly engineered playlist should act as a coach. For a long run, Hubbert suggests building a playlist that crescendos first, then plateaus in the middle. Insert a power song (one you belt out in the shower or in the car) toward the end to give yourself a second wind. For speed work, up-tempo beats with breaks for rest work best.
And to keep your dance party a private affair, a good set of headphones is key. Click here to find the ultimate headphones -- and steal Olympic swimming gold medalist Natalie Coughlin's playlist while you're at it.