Memorial Day is quickly approaching–yet, despite exercising and watching what you eat, the elastic in your workout shorts seems to be as tight as your hamstrings. We’ve all been there.
Last week, we listed the top 10 eating habits that put you on the fast-track to a healthier, summer body. Getting lean requires more than just dieting, though. You need to be vigilant about your diet and consistent with exercise so that you maximize calorie burn, increase muscle mass, and decrease body fat. This week, we’re sharing our top 10 list of fitness tips from dietitians and coaches. Get ready to lose!
1. DON’T BELIEVE WHAT YOU SEE
While pace and incline numbers on the treadmill are accurate, one number likely isn’t: the calorie count. “The number doesn’t take into account your metabolic rate or current condition, which make a big difference in the rate of calories you burn,” says Gregory Florez, spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise.
2. BE HONEST
Was that really a six-miler, or was it four? Did you take an extra, unscheduled rest day? “Many people believe they’re consistent with their workouts when they’re not,” says Tony Williams, a coach in Seattle. A surefire way to stay consistent: Map out a workout plan and set realistic fitness goals. “When you have a plan, you have a way to set and reach goals so you taste success,” says Briana Boehmer, a personal trainer and coach in Delafield, Wisconsin.
3. RUN, RUN, RUN…
“The total amount of time you spend running is going to have the biggest influence on your calorie burn,” says Matt Fitzgerald, author of Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance and a coach in San Diego. Start by adding easy miles, no more than a 10 percent increase a week. If you run in the morning, go for another two-miler after work. Increasing the distance of your long runs should be your last priority, because they require more recovery.
4. …CROSS-TRAIN IF YOU CAN’T RUN
A stress fracture or a case of plantar fasciitis takes you off your feet, so be smart about your training. If you’re a beginner or injury-prone, don’t do intense workouts every day; instead, get in at least three days of cross-training a week, says Williams, so you don’t bring on overuse injuries. “Bike, swim, get on the elliptical, whatever doesn’t aggravate your body,” says Williams. See this list of top cross-training activities for ideas:
Bicycling [14 to 16 mph]: 682 calories
StairMaster [no hands]: 614 calories
Swimming [50 yards/min]: 545 calories
Elliptical: 491 calories
Walking [15-minute mile]: 341 calories
5. PUMP THE IRON
In order to maximize lean mass, stick with simple strength-training exercises for your major muscles, like squats, lunges, bench presses, and triceps dips. “You want to move big loads to build muscle,” says Fitzgerald, who recommends lifting a weight that you can handle for eight to 10 reps.
6. OVERCOME THE OBSTACLES
There are days you won’t want to work out, and days you want to raid Dunkin’ Donuts. Tell yourself you’ll just exercise for 30 minutes; chances are you’ll pass up the DD.
7. CRANK THE INTENSITY
If your volume is nearing maximum capacity or you’re crunched for time, then add more challenging workouts that strengthen your anaerobic system. But the key is to do these workouts prudently–no more than once or twice a week–and to pay attention to your form so that you don’t strain a muscle or otherwise get injured. Follow a training plan appropriate for your level of fitness
8. STAY MOTIVATED
Surround yourself, either virtually or in person, with like-minded people. Join a fitness group or a charity organization training for a race; accountability is motivating.
9. DON’T LET INJURY BE A SETBACK
An injury doesn’t give you a pass. Successful members of the National Weight Control Registry average one hour of brisk walking daily. “Consistency is key,” Thomas says.
10. THE WINNING WEIGHT-LOSS COMBO
Approach eating and training with the same mind-set. You have to be consistent with both. Just like you can’t workout sporadically and expect results, you can’t focus on your diet just a few days of the week. But remember, one bad workout doesn’t ruin your training, just like one bad meal (or day of bad eating) doesn’t derail your weight-loss quest. Lace back up and get out there!