Secrets of top fitness pros!

https://media.zenfs.com/en-US/blogs/partner/416F66RTE0L._SL500_AA280_.jpgAt SELF, we're agents of slim. Our mission: to discover the shape-up strategies fitness pros use themselves and reveal them to you. Here, the coveted file. With these ingenious tips, you, too, have the power to burn fat, tone muscle and rescue your shape from evil flab!

By Beth Janes

1. Pay lip service to hot abs
To achieve the firm midsection you've always wanted, become a blowhard. "When doing crunches, I exhale during the contraction, my lips pursed, as if I'm blowing through a small straw," says Jay Blahnik, a trainer in Laguna Beach, California, who has worked with Jane Fonda. "I feel my stomach muscles contract more intensely, and I stay more focused." 30 simple, effective tricks to slim and trim your tummy.

2. Set it and forget it

Watch the clock go ticktock and a 20-minute treadmill jog can feel like the Boston Marathon. (It's only been five minutes?!) Instead, try a countdown. "I set a kitchen timer with the minutes I'm aiming to be active and go until I hear the alarm," says Tom Seabourne, Ph.D., director of exercise science at Northeast Texas Community College in Mount Pleasant. When you can't see the time, you're more likely to concentrate on what you're doing right now-your form, how strong you feel-rather than how long until you can stop. Plus, you'll avoid the urge to let up on the intensity when you have only a minute or two left. Get fit in 15 minutes!

3. Grab an icy beverage

Chilled H²O (You thought we meant beer? Sorry!) could help you maximize your exercise. Cyclists were able to work out 23 percent longer when they drank cold water than when the beverage was at body temperature, a study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found. Blahnik's keep-it-cool tool: a refillable aluminum bottle.

4. Be belle of the ball
A $1 rubber ball can help you score million-dollar legs. During crunches and other ab moves, "holding an 8- to 12-inch ball between your knees or ankles gets your inner thighs and glutes in on the action," says Brooke Siler, owner of re:AB Pilates Studio in New York City, who has worked with Kirsten Dunst. See how to get on the ball for big body benefits!

5. Keep a to-do list

Planning strength workouts ahead can get you out of the gym (and into those skinny jeans) in record time. "I have a template-I always know what to do next so I'm not wasting time wandering around," says fitness and lifestyle consultant Ashley Borden of Los Angeles, who trains singer Natasha Bedingfield. You can make your cheat sheet basic (a quick list) or more structured-whatever works best to keep you focused. The SELF Challenge has a simple but effective example.

6. Groove and get fit
Music is a great distraction; these iPod ideas turn it into a magic motivational tool, too: Make your music meaningful "I pick songs with lyrics that support the goals in my life," says Mandy Ingber, a yoga and Spinning instructor in L.A. who trains Jennifer Aniston. "For example, I'm letting go of a relationship and a job. George Michael's 'Freedom 90' and Frou Frou's 'Let Go' reflect that theme of release and let me use emotional energy to fuel my workout. It becomes a cathartic, therapeutic experience." Add a goal song "Put your favorite song or a new tune at the end of your playlist, like a special treat to keep you exercising until you hear it," says Meaghan B. Murphy, SELF's fitness director and a personal trainer.

Find out how to make the most of the elliptical and get 14 more expert tips here!

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