Anti-chafe leggings, compression socks, five-finger running shoes … I’ve tried all manner of trends to make my treadmill sessions more bearable. Today, however, I'll be striding to a different beat as, alongside my AirPods and iPhone, I'm tuning into a playlist that’s “scientifically” proven to transform my energy levels.
I’m currently in training for my second Dubai Creek Striders half marathon, which has so far consisted of scoffing protein bars and run-walking on the treadmill at various paces.
Of course, a vital part of distance running is crafting the perfect playlist. Up until now, I’ve been limping along to a jaunty little mix of Little Mix, Destiny’s Child and some old-school Spice Girls.
Then I came across a recently released “algorithmically suitable” playlist, called The Workout by BPM, which promised to wipe the floor with Baby Spice and co, with EDM, RnB, K-pop and Mandelao recited in English, Korean, Spanish and Portuguese from emerging and established artists. Sounds posh. And a little bit scary.
The algorithm – dubbed DJ Science by researchers at fitness site Total Shape – evaluated the audio features of all the songs on Spotify global charts over the past summer, picking out tunes with a strong, regular, uninterrupted rhythm of between 120 and 130 beats per minute (BPM). The songs were then ordered by BPM for smooth transition between tracks, (apparently) helping gym-goers to maintain a constant, medium-paced session for the full 60 minutes.
Scrolling through the list, I’m a bit disgruntled to see I only recognise four of the artists (and like only two, if I’m being honest). I’m heartened to see Queen Bey makes the 21-strong compilation, and a banger at that, with America has a Problem, though I don’t know how I’ll quite survive the stitch stage without Run the World to see me through.
The hour-long playlist is supposedly best suited for a cardio workout based on danceability, energy, stability and tempo. We kick off with Los del Espacio by Lit Killah and a bunch of other people I am presumably too old to have heard of. For someone whose Spanish extends to “dos paginas de patatas fritas” (that’s “two bags of crisps” for the uncultured), the track is a bit wasted on me, though it has a catchy beat.
Second up is Shakira, featuring Bizarrap, on the rather unimaginatively titled Bzrp Music Sessions Vol 53.
Hips Don’t Lie it ain’t, but the second Spanish number of the list gets the thumbs up from me (even more so when I later read it’s dragging her allegedly cheating ex). So far, so good, and I’m starting to warm up into the run as Shakira warbles along in encouragement.
I’m not much of a Calvin Harris fan, but One Kiss featuring Dua Lipa is the first English song on the list and I celebrate by increasing my pace a little and having a bit of a breathless singalong.
El Merengue, however, brings me back to a listless plod as I Google “Spanish lessons JLT” and curse my British comprehensive school education.
La Bachat gets skipped after the first few notes – sorry, Manuel Turizo – while Tiesto’s Lay Low gets shelved for the next time I want to slow nod with my eyes closed.
Seven by Jungkook featuring Latto is an unexpected – if explicit – hit, then it’s the moment I’ve been waiting for. As Beyonce blasts out her opening bars, my shoulders uncontrollably jerk and my stride lengthens, while my cross-training neighbour widens her eyes in alarm. Once she's reassured I’m not in cardiac arrest, I’m left to groove to the Kendrick Lamar remix in peace, putting in my best performance of the day in both the “danceability” and “energy” categories.
From here I fast-forward a fair bit – S91 being a hip-swaying high and Queencard a definite low. New Jeans by NewJeans confirms my strong suspicions that I am not a fan of K-pop, before ETA by the same band reaffirms my stuffiness.
By the time we reach the final tune, Automotivo Bibi Fogosa, I’ve found myself in Portuguese Cheeky Girl-esque hell. Oh, and I stopped running ages ago.
From my personal experiment, I have drawn a handful of findings. Firstly, I’m nowhere near fit enough to run 21km. Secondly, my language skills need work. Thirdly, I am now so old that “emerging artists” sound like nails on a chalkboard. And finally, even science can be open to interpretation.