Want to get the most out of your time in the gym? Read on. Here are 10 tips and tricks for increasing the effectiveness of your workouts WHILE cutting your workout time. I won’t promise you ‘rock hard abs in 3 minutes a day’, but I will help you mix it up and pack more into the time you have.
1. On a treadmill, add some hills. If you’re used to just walking or running on the flats, crank up the incline for one minute, then return to flat for three minutes. The estimates vary, but you should be able to increase your output by at least 20% by adding an imaginary mountain in your run. Plus you will use different muscles.
2. Combine upper body movements with cardio. For example, jump on an Elliptical trainer with upper body arms to work your chest, arms and back along with your lower body and heart. Be sure to engage your core to protect your back.
3. In the weight room, add cardio intervals between sets. Try a jump rope, run or jump up on a small step or box, or run the stairs. Take advantage of the 30 second rest between weight exercises by pumping up your heart rate, and calorie burn!
4. Bring in balance. When lifting weights, throw yourself off. Stand on one leg, or balance on a disc or BOSU trainer. This makes you engage your core, and gives you better balance overall.
5. Engage your core. Whatever you’re doing, you can do it better with strong muscles around your mid section. Imagine a wide belt wrapped around your waist. Draw your navel inward, stand taller and pull the sides of your waist in. Engage your pelvic floor. That strong center will make every single exercise you do better, and safer. And, the more you do this one simple exercise, the stronger your core will become.
6. If you’re a group fitness person, seek out ‘Fusion’ classes, that combine two or more modalities. Boot Camp or circuit classes typically combine cardio, strength, agility, power, core and balance all in one action packed hour.
7. Try the Buddy System. Research has shown that if you work out with a partner, you are more consistent and you work harder. A little peer pressure seems to help us overcome the ‘lazies’, and can push us when we don’t feel like pushing ourselves.
8. Put on some weight. I don’t advocate walking or running with dumbells in your hands. Swinging your arms with added weight is hard on the shoulder joint, and inhibits your natural walking our running gait. Instead, consider wearing a weighted vest. Better yet, carry a toddler on your back! My favorite thing when my kids were small was to put them in a lightweight backpack (designed to carry kids) and head out. Hiking in warm weather, show shoeing in cold weather. The added weight gives you a better workout, and your child is getting the message that life is better when you’re active!
9. Take it off! I don’t know if there is any science to prove this, but I believe it to be true. If you wear less, you work harder. Showing your arms, legs, even your belly gives you the added incentive (pressure?) to work harder. When you see yourself in the mirror, you automatically pull your abs in, giving you a bonus core workout. Plus, with more skin showing, your body cools itself better so you may even work out longer!
10. One final note on what NOT to do. Although we’re talking about more bang for your workout buck here, don’t go overboard. I’ve seen so many people walking on a treadmill while watching Oprah, listening to their iPod and reading People magazine, all at the same time. A little distraction is helpful in getting you through a long workout, but if you’re wanting a fast AND effective workout, focus on the task at hand. Crank up the intensity and get it done. Save People mag. for the salon.