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Healthy Habits: How-Tos

Amp up Your Workout Today!

Try these simple strategies to get better results -- in less time, and just in time for summer.

No one wants to spend hours at the gym. With these tips from Thomas Altena, associate professor of exercise and movement science at Missouri State University, you don’t have to. “By tweaking your workout routine in little ways, you can increase its intensity, effectively getting the same results in less time.”

Make a Game Plan

If you think about your fitness goals before you set foot in the gym -- whether they’re to tone your biceps or to drop pounds as quickly as possible -- and then write down exactly what exercises you plan to do, you won’t waste time wandering around the machines. Not sure what routine will help you achieve the results you want? Enlist the help of a trainer or sign up for a group class that’s in line with your goals.

Work Multiple Muscles at Once

If you’re looking for modest gains in strength or muscular endurance, moves that activate more than one muscle group simultaneously can help minimize gym time. Try a lunge with bicep curls, for example, instead of doing the moves separately. One caveat: Altena points out that it’s difficult to see dramatic muscle gains if you’re blending exercises.

Give Rest a Rest

When focusing on resistance training, many people take breaks in between sets. An easy way to cut down on the number of hours you spend at the gym is to minimize that downtime. If you’re alternating between bench presses and bar rows, for example, do one move right after the other and then give yourself 15 seconds (rather than 30 or 60) before starting your next set.

Switch From a Fast Walk to a Slow Jog

Altena tested the caloric cost of walking at 4 mph, compared to jogging at 4 mph. The result: You burn 20-30 percent more calories by shifting from a brisk walk to a slow run -- even though you’re not actually increasing your speed at all.

Think Small

Another small switch Altena recommends making on cardio machines: Increase the incline on the treadmill (say, from 0 percent grade to 3 or 4). If you’re on an elliptical machine or stationary bicycle, step up your resistance one or two levels while maintaining your typical speed.

Add Intervals

Trade your steady, moderate pace for a routine in which you push yourself harder than normal for a brief period, let yourself recover at a slower speed and then repeat the process. If you typically run at 5 mph, for example, Altena recommends intervals of 6 mph for two minutes, then 4 mph for one minute. Bonus: Switching up your pace can help you beat boredom.

Robin Hilmantel is an associate editor at Food Network Magazine. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, USA Today and Maxim, among other publications. She is a frequent contributor to Completely You.

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