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Take your workout up a notch with one simple principle

There’s this tool in the world of fitness termed the F.I.T.T. principle. It’s a simple acronym that works as a guideline for creating and monitoring fitness programs, reminding you to manage your routine by thinking about Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type (F.I.T.T.). In other words: how often are you exercising, how hard are you exercising, how long are you exercising and what exactly are you doing?

The beauty of the F.I.T.T. principle is that it’s not a tool relegated to fitness professionals — anyone can use it to pursue their goals. And because it offers flexibility, you can adjust individual variables based on your schedule and constraints while still improving your overall fitness. So, if you’re ready to ramp up your workouts and conquer your resolutions, these F.I.T.T.-based solutions can help you get there fast.

1. Schedule an extra workout each week

If you’re already hitting the gym two or three times per week, how much harder would it really be to add one more workout to your schedule? The beauty of adding an extra workout each week is that you don’t necessarily have to add extra time. In other words, if you’re currently doing three, 60-minute workouts, you could add an extra workout to your week, but split the time so that you do two 60-minute workouts and two 30-minute workouts. This increased frequency forces your body to acclimate to reduced rest periods between workouts and also gives you the flexibility to mix up your routine more, adding a few high intensity protocols or a yoga session to your standard program.

2. Opt for at least one HIIT workout

When time is of the essence, your best workout buddy is a high intensity interval training session. During interval training, you alternate between periods of high intensity and low intensity work. The high intensity intervals should, in fact, be high intensity, as in, you shouldn’t be able to think about carrying on a conversation while you work. These tough bouts of exercise are followed by brief recovery periods, where you either reduce your intensity significantly, opting for active rest, or you take a complete break to recovery.

HIIT workouts can be cardio-based, strength training-based, or a combination of the two, so it’s completely possible to get an effective full-body workout done in just 20 to 30 minutes. Want to give it a whirl?

Try this routine on for size:

  • 60 seconds jumping jacks
  • 30 seconds rest
  • 60 seconds squat with dumbbell shoulder press
  • 30 seconds rest
  • 60 seconds mountain climbers
  • 30 seconds rest
  • 60 seconds dumbbell renegade row
  • 30 seconds rest
  • 60 seconds high-knee jogs
  • 30 seconds rest
  • 60 seconds pushup with side plank rotation
  • 30 seconds rest

Repeat the whole series three times through.

3. Carry a workout “go bag” with you

Increasing total workout time can be tough; if you’re like everyone else in America, time is an asset you just don’t have enough of. But one of the best ways to improve your fitness and hit your goals (not to mention stave off chronic disease) is to spend more time being active. If spending more time at the gym just isn’t in the cards, I’ve got a solution for you — a workout “go bag,” or what I like to call a mini gym.

This isn’t your usual gym bag; you don’t load it with toiletries and full changes of clothing because it’s not intended to take you to the gym and back. Rather, it’s a tool to use as a gym whenever you have a free 10 or 20 minutes. For instance, if you finish your paperwork and you have a 20-minute break before your next meeting or if you find yourself with time to spare after dropping your kids off at soccer practice. That’s when you grab your go bag (I suggest keeping two to three of them around — one in the car, one at the office and one at home) and get to work.

As a general rule, I suggest keeping a couple things in these bags:

  • Jump rope (perfect for a quick cardio sesh)
  • Resistance band (the easiest tool for adding resistance)
  • Sports bra (because ya support the girls)
  • Socks and a pair of shoes (you certainly can’t jump rope in heels)
  • Headband or hair tie (for comfort)
  • Set of headphones and a go-to workout app (the right app — Nike+ Training Club, Jabra Sport and Sworkit are all worth checking out — can walk you through a predetermined workout based on the time you have available, no thinking required!)
Image: Laura Williams/SheKnows

While any bag will do, I suggest using a small, backpack-style bag, such as this Vera Bradley Lighten Up Backpack ($38) because you can also use it as a strength training tool. Simply throw a couple hardback books inside and wear it on your back while doing squats, lunges or pushups to add extra weight to your workout, or grab it’s handles and use it to do shoulder presses or biceps curls.

4. Sign up for a challenging event

Typically, the “type” variable in the F.I.T.T. principle is used to make sure that you’re aligning the type of exercise you’re performing with your goals to ensure that they match up. In other words, if you want to improve as a runner, spending a whole lot of time swimming doesn’t necessarily make sense.

I’m using it here as a motivator, rather than specifically as an alignment tool. One of the best ways to stay motivated and on top of your workouts is to have an event you’re training for or looking forward to. By actually paying money and saying, “Yes, I’m going to complete this task,” you now have a stronger reason to follow through.

While many people think of athletic events as 5Ks or triathlons, there’s certainly no reason to limit yourself. You could sign up for a weight loss challenge or a strength training competition. You could commit to a spot on a recreational basketball team or pay for an intensive yoga retreat. The point is to choose something that interests you, but that seems like a challenge. Once you sign up, you’ll have a better idea of how to structure your workouts, including the type of workouts you should focus on to carry you forward to your event.

This post is part of a sponsored collaboration between Vera Bradley and SheKnows.

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