By Myatt Murphy
Tired of plugging away at the gym without seeing the pounds disappear? We found simple tricks that will transform your usual regimen into the ultimate fat-blasting routine. Whether you use just two of these strategies or all seven, our insider tips will help you get the calorie-burn you deserve.
1. Know this: "You'll be able to comfortably work out longer and harder if you're cool," says Len Kravitz, PhD, coordinator of exercise science at the University of New Mexico. "Being too hot stresses your body out, so you don't perform as well." Translation: You burn less fat.
Do this: When exercising at home, put a fan in front of your workout area. Hitting the gym? Wait to use the treadmill that has a fan built into the console.
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2. Know this: "Wearing a heart-rate monitor makes it easier to burn more body fat by showing just how hard you're really working," Kravitz says. "Keeping your heart rate in the right zone prevents you from slacking off, so you make the most of every minute."
Do this: Invest in a heart-rate monitor and wear it every time you exercise. We love Life Fitness's new Dual Watch and Heart Rate Monitor ($60; at CVS stores nationwide). It's simple to program and use. It doesn't require an uncomfortable chest strap-just touch the face with your fingertips. And it comes in a variety of sizes too.
3. Know this: "Warming up for five minutes before each workout helps you lose more weight," says Heather Dillinger, an IDEA Health and Fitness Association elite-level personal-fitness trainer. "It not only makes your muscles more pliable but also increases their range of motion, so you end up using more muscle fibers as you exercise."
Do this: Choose a warm-up routine that hits all of your muscles, not just your legs. The easiest option: Do three to five minutes of low-intensity walking while pumping your arms back and forth.
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4. Know this: "Saving your energy for the end of your cardio workout may prevent you from losing as much weight as you can," says metabolism expert Dixie Stanforth, of the department of kinesiology and health education at the University of Texas at Austin.
Do this: Instead of starting out slow and then finishing up strong, do your high-intensity cardio early in your workout. After doing your warm-up, try exercising at a high intensity for 15 minutes before slowing down to a more moderate pace for the last 15 minutes.
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5. Know this: "Two smaller workouts can be more effective than one," Stanforth reveals. That's because every time you do high-intensity exercise, your metabolism stays revved for an hour or more afterward. Splitting up your workout boosts your metabolism twice, giving you additional calorie-burning time from the exact same routine.
Do this: Divide your workout into two smaller, high-intensity sessions-preferably, doing one in the morning and one at night.
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6. Know this: If you're convinced that you're melting fat while exercising, you'll make a mind-body connection that will actually help you lose fat faster, Dillinger explains. In a 2007 Harvard study, participants who believed they were getting a good workout showed greater reductions in body fat than subjects who performed the same activities but didn't feel like they were really exercising.
Do this: The next time you do anything active, remind yourself every few minutes that you're giving it your all. This little mental move may motivate you to push yourself harder, leading to even greater fat loss.
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7. Know this: "The less time you rest between sets when strength training, the more calories you're likely to burn," Dillinger notes. "Keeping rest periods short keeps your heart rate at a higher rate, which naturally increases the number of calories you're using."
Do this: The best rule of thumb is to take only a 30-second break between sets (meaning you'll need a watch with a second hand).
By Myatt Murphy