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Looking for some easy ways to rev up your workouts? (And who isn’t?) Just in time for the lazy days of summer, the American Council on Exercise has released its list of the top 10 ways to improve your workout.

Many of these ideas are no-brainers, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth trying. Sometimes even the simplest change can make the difference between a good workout and a great one.

As ACE experts point out, simply going through the motions when you exercise won’t get you the results you’re after — it’s only when you push yourself (safely) past your comfort zone that you will get stronger, leaner, faster, and generally more fit. However, sometimes finding the motivation to push yourself can be tough.

These tips should get you started:

• Change the mode or intensity of your training. Mixing up your routine will help you avoid troublesome plateaus, challenging your muscles in new ways. Don’t get caught in the same-old, same-old workout trap. For instance, if you’ve been doing cardio four times a week for 45 minutes, try shorter, more intense sessions (say two or three 20-minute interval workouts).

• Hire a personal trainer. Working with a qualified trainer is an almost-guaranteed route to results. A trainer will safely push you beyond your boundaries — it’s usually those last couple of reps (the ones you might not do on your own) that accomplish the results — and also will design a program that meets your body’s particular needs.

• Eat properly and stay hydrated. If you don’t eat right, your body won’t properly fueled to make it through a workout, and also won’t be able to recover adequately from intense exercise sessions. Most experts recommend eating small, balanced meals throughout the day.

• Think “quality,” not “quantity.” If you work out hard, you will need more rest. More does not always mean better. As ACE experts recommend, more-intense workouts performed less often will actually produce greater results.

• Try mind-body training. Workout regimens such as yoga and Pilates can help improve strength, flexibility, balance and coordination, as well as help battle stress. It seems counterintuitive, but when you’re battling to hold a tough yoga pose for 30 seconds, your mind is forced to shut off, and that can be incredibly relaxing.

• Exercise at the right time for your body. If possible, exercise when you feel the strongest and have the most energy. For some people, that’s in the morning, and others, it can be in the late afternoon and evening. Sometimes work schedules get in the way of this strategy, but when possible, try to work out at your optimum time a couple times a week.

• Find a workout partner. Exercising with someone else can help keep you accountable for getting to the gym, as well as help push you during your workouts, as long as you focus on exercising and not on socializing.

• Don’t forget to breathe. Sometimes when we’re pushing ourselves, we hold our breath — that’s a big mistake. When strength training, be sure to exhale on the exertion (usually lifting) and inhaling on the release (usually when lowering a weight). During cardio workouts, make sure to take regular full breaths so hard-working muscles get the oxygen they need.

• Use a heart-rate monitor. While not foolproof, monitors are a good way to gauge how hard you’re working, and also can help you safely push yourself during interval workouts.

• Listen to music. Studies show that when you listen to music, it doesn’t feel like you’re working out as hard. So not only can music be a boredom buster, it can help you work out longer or harder.


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