It's easy to start an exercise regimen, but not always easy to stay on the wagon. As fitness and exercise specialist Kelli Calabrese explains, common pitfalls have a lot to do with patience. "A common mistake is to give up too early before a training effect takes place," she says. "Others don't push themselves hard enough or they repeat the same exercises over and over again."
Here are some tricks of the trade to get the most of out your workout and to stay out of the danger zone: A rut.
Don't allow for distractions and down time. Get rid of cell phones and magazines (which should be impossible to read during an intense workout). If you have a tendency to seek a break between songs on your iPod, reduce the time in between songs by changing your playback preferences.
If you have a fitness buddy, don't get bogged down in a conversation. "It shouldn't be comfortable to talk while working out," says Juliet Kaska, fitness expert and celebrity trainer. "If you can talk, it's a sign that your body has gotten used to your routine."
Vary your exercises often, says Calabrese. She recommends changing your routine in some way every six weeks. You can change the exercises, speed, range of motion, duration, intensity, length of the workout, ratio of cardio to strength, days of the week, times of the day, location — any change that is progressive and motivating is good.
Kaska agrees. "You can work on a treadmill routine for six to eight weeks, but then change it up. For the next few weeks, go to a bike, then change it up again. You need to continuously shock the body to keep the metabolism up."
Calabrese says short bursts of high-intensity exercise will serve you better than longer, slower, lower-intensity exercises. Try intervals of a strength move alternated with a high-intensity move like jumping rope, high knees, butt kicks, side hops, jump shots, single leg bounds, etc.
You need energy for your workouts. To Calabrese, that means having eight-plus hours of quality sleep and consuming healthy, balanced meals throughout the day. "If your blood sugar is low, you are not going to have energy for your workouts and you could have a hypoglycemic reaction," Calabrese says. "Hydration is also important, especially when exercising in the heat or outdoors."
Have a fitness assessment done so that you can compare improvement over time and set goals. Written goals help you track your progress. Calabrese also suggests setting rewards as incentives.
Kaska suggests a session with a personal trainer, with a specific goal in mind. "It is worth it to have a trainer teach you proper alignment and form to safely work out and get the most out of your routines," she says. Cost is a common deterrent to hiring a trainer, but Kaska points out that many trainers are willing to take on clients in pairs or small groups.
Outside of a session with a trainer, consider a personalized online fitness program in which a professional customizes a workout for you that you follow at home, says Calabrese. Use exercise videos or DVDs to keep you from getting stuck at a plateau.
Kaska also suggests buying low-maintenance equipment, like bands that are easy to travel with and stow away.
"We are all guilty of trying to squeeze fitness into our busy lives," says Kaska, "so it makes all the difference to get the most out of your workout by paying attention and switching up your routines."
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