This is the formula for your happiest workout yet


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Photo: Getty Images/Blends Images and Erik Isakson


I kicked off last Saturday by running a 10K with a coworker in New York City’s Central Park. The weather was perfection. We wore matching outfits and earned medals of Olympic-level shininess. But the best part of the 6.2 miles we jogged together is that we both laughed and chatted the whole time. By accident, our ear-to-ear grins fulfilled the “smile test”—a formula for finding your ideal run pace that you can use for any (and every) workout.

According to an Instagram post by athletic clothing company Outdoor Voices, the “niko-niko” or “smile” jogging method is the brainchild off Hiroaki Tanaka, PhD, professor at Fukuoka University in Japan. It goes a little something like this: “[A]ccording to Dr. Tanaka, you’ve hit your smile pace when you can sing your favorite song comfortably,” reads the caption. I know—cute, right?!

No, my colleague and I weren’t singing as we traversed the hills of Central Park. But judging by our spirits, we might as well have been! Besides, for those of us who don’t love singing in public, there’s another way to calculate the correct run pace that involves just a teeny-tiny bit of math.

Dr. Tanaka’s recommendation is to check off your miles at 50 percent of your total VO2 max.  In other words, to keep your heart rate at 138 minus [your age divided by two] beats per minute. I’m 23-years-old, so I should be operating at about 127 BPMs.

Once you’ve found your prescribed pace, cruise control is the next step. Because you’re operating at a less rigorous pattern of one foot in front of the other, Niko Niko purportedly keeps cortisol—a stress hormone—from spiking after the workout. So score, you should feel calmer and less anxious during your cool down as result.

Spinning, rowing, HIIT—you name it. The formula was designed for runners, sure, but you can use it to set the pace for all your cardio endeavors.

Now to get you some new gear for your workout! Lavender is athleisure’s preferred hue of the season, so sport it to the gym and to work

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