Updated: October 04, 2012

Today's blogger: Marissa Stephenson, Shape's assistant fitness editor

My iPod is just as essential to a cardio workout as a sports bra, and of course I push harder when it's cranking out something with a quick pace like M.I.A.'s "Boyz" as opposed to Peter Frampton's mellow "Baby I Love Your Way."

Choosing the right music for a session is as easy as matching a song's cadence-or its beats per minute (bpm)-to the pace you want to keep. When you handpick songs based on their tempos (instead of just listening to a hodgepodge of tunes you like) your music becomes a motivational tool.

When I put together a running mix, I start with a warm-up song that's between 80 and 100 bpm. Then I add three or four songs that are 130 bpm-a pace where I'm pushing hard, but can still carry on a conversation-and slip in a few 160-bpm songs for fast-paced intervals. I cap off my playlist with another 80- to 100-bpm tune to cool down.

You can find the bpm for songs in your library by downloading the free software at mixmeister.com and potionfactory.com or searching for songs on bpmdatabase.com. To calculate a song's bpm on your own, follow this formula: Count the number of beats during a 15- second segment, then multiply that value by four.

If your workout mixes aren't helping you dig deep, use my ideas to create a new one. Lately I've been hooked on songs from Of Montreal and Okkervil River-check them out!



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