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Bump up your workout routine

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Work harder and smarter

Sometimes, we stick to the same workouts -- even though they're boring -- just because they are familiar. The new year is the perfect time to bust out of your exercise rut and get super-enthused about fitness. Not only will you have more fun when you sweat, but you’ll also actually get results that boring exercise will never help you achieve. Here are the most effective ways to bump up your workout routine.

Fitness dance class

Take a new class

Even if you've been a faithful follower of the 6 a.m. spin teacher, consider taking another class. Your mind and body quickly adapt to the same workout, and your muscles become efficient at doing the same exercise. That means you won't increase your fitness level until you do a more challenging spin class or you do a new workout. Try cross-training; take a boot camp or body pump class, or go for a run.

Wear a heart rate monitor

You're likely to exercise harder when you know how high your heart rate should be for optimal fitness and calorie-burning results. At the very least, while you're using an elliptical or other cardio machine, take advantage of the heart rate sensors on the handles. Paying attention to your heart rate can motivate you to boost the intensity of your cardio or circuit-style workouts.

Find your cardio zone >>

Add strength training

You might think lifting will bulk you up, but instead, it will make you stronger, sculpt your muscles and help you work out harder. You don't have to spend hours in the weight room to get results. Simply do a full-body weight lifting routine two times a week. As an alternative to dumbbells, do kettlebell workouts or use fitness tools, such as the TRX, BOSU or resistance bands. You can also jump into a strength-training class or try the P90X or Insanity fitness systems on DVD.

Sign up with a personal trainer

If stepping outside your fitness comfort zone is intimidating, meet with a personal trainer who can help you set new fitness goals and design workouts to achieve them. A professional can show you how to use equipment properly, perform exercises, change up your routine and track your progress. Having appointments scheduled with a personal trainer also keeps you accountable to your workouts so you are less likely to miss them.

Take a break

If you're working out hard every day yet seeing no results and feeling burned out, take a break. We're creatures of habit, and if you just happen to be the creature who has developed a habit of working out to the extreme nonstop, you are likely wearing your body out rather than building up your fitness level. Schedule one or two recovery days every week to give your mind, muscles and joints the opportunity to rest and rebuild. You may wonder how you can possibly skip a workout, but any fitness professional will tell you: Recovery days are essential to getting the results you desire, thwarting burnout and avoiding injury. (Imagine not being able to work out for weeks!)

More health tips for the new year

Eat all 5 food groups daily in 2012
Accomplish your fitness resolutions
5 Steps to make your fitness resolutions stick

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