What's standing between you and a hot body? Boredom? Lack of motivation? Too little time? Chances are, you're in an exercise rut. We had readers list top fitness frustrations, then went to experts for ideas to revive any routine. Try their techniques and see amazing results. You'll be saying, "I can't wait to work out!"
Rut #1: "I do lots of cardio and get sweaty but not skinny!"
Mix it up: If you only run or bike each session, you have likely become so good at the motions that you're using fewer calories. Switch it up twice a week (swap Spinning for squash) for a fat-melting jolt to your system, says Kara Mohr, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist in Louisville, Kentucky.
Learn to burn: Do seven sessions of intervals--fast bursts--in a two-week period (complete at least three in one week) and you'll shed 36 percent more fat during an hour of steady cardio time, research from the University of Guelph in Ontario shows. (Sessions included 10 four-minute sprints with two minutes of rest in between.) But don't stop after two weeks. Add one to three days of intervals to your weekly cardio (or four to six speedy sets per workout) and you may keep increasing your fat burn indefinitely, says Jason Talanian, Ph.D., a coauthor of the study.
Muscle your way fit: Most people stress less about their weight if their body looks toned, Mohr says. Strength training does that; it shapes and redefines. (Add the "Tone Without Cardio" program to your usual routine.) Torch more calories by doing the contraction part of moves--like the lift--fast, with as much effort as possible, then lower on two counts.
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Rut #2: "All these squats and lunges I'm doing aren't toning my lower half."
Trick your muscles Do a plyometric exercise, an explosive leaping move such as a jump squat, followed immediately by a free-weight exercise, a la a leg press on the same side. Plyometrics burns serious calories, plus fatigues muscles, which is essential for toning, without extra reps or weight. By maxing your effort like this, you use more energy in less time, shaving minutes off your workout and sculpting lean curves, Mazzetti says. Find more plyometric ideas in the Burn More Calories in Less Time! routine.
Focus on the bottom line Add hip extensions and step-ups to your regular routine. The moves tap hamstrings 55 percent more and glutes 79 percent and 59 percent more, respectively, than squats, a study by the American Council on Exercise in San Diego shows. For hip extensions: Get on hands and knees, press one bent leg toward ceiling, keeping knee bent. Do 12 reps. Switch sides. For step-up: Holding a 5- to 8-pound dumbbell in each hand, step left leg onto a bench (as shown, left). Step down on right leg. Do 12 reps. Switch legs; repeat.
Work the angles "Your glutes create an external rotation when contracted [like the side-pushing motion in skating], so doing moves in that same range of motion makes the exercises more effective," says Kurt Murray, a certifying trainer in Philadelphia for the American College of Sports Medicine. One example: Stand holding a chair in front of you. Extend your right leg straight behind you, foot flexed. Point your toe, then sweep leg counterclockwise until toe reaches a 4 o'clock position. Do 12 reps, switch sides. Or take it outside and mimic this movement as you ice skate or Rollerblade--but be sure to contract glutes at the end of each skate stroke to work the muscles to full potential, Murray says.
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Rut #3: "I go from gung ho to no-show within weeks of embarking on just about any new regimen."
Build up gradually Do too much too fast, and you'll burn out, says Diane Klein, Ph.D., assistant professor of public health at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Aim for readily achievable mini-goals; consistent success fuels enthusiasm for the long haul.
Follow your mood When you can pick an exercise based on how you feel (e.g., hip-hop dance out of a funk) or what fits the day's schedule, exercise becomes part of your life versus feeling like another chore. Do solo workouts (kayaking, biking, swimming) as well as group classes or sports, and you're more likely to stick with your routine, research suggests.
Map out fitness Plan goals for the month on a calendar. (See SELF's program.) Sign up for a triathlon or schedule weekly bowl-a-thons with your buds. Seeing plans in writing makes you accountable, Mohr says. Keep a log of your workouts and compare them with your goals to see where and when fitness levels dip.Reach you goal! Check out SELF's one-month total body makeover!
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