Make Your Workout Work For You

Make Your Workout Work For You

"I run five miles every day and my calves still jiggle!"

"I've been trying to tone up my arms for weeks, but I'm not seeing any results!"

"I'm finally sticking to a workout regimen – why don't I have the body I want?"

Do any of those statements sound like you? Many people struggle with the frustration of ineffective workout routines, but they don't realize that just a few simple changes could make all the difference. No extra time, money, or skill is required – just a little know-how to make every movement count.

The most obvious thing that too many exercisers seem to forget about is staying hydrated. As you work out, your body is losing water through perspiration. But over 70% of our bodies are made up of water, and we need to maintain that balance in order to function normally. Keeping plenty of water in your system is essential to avoid such dangers as dehydration, heat exhaustion, cramps, and sudden drops in blood pressure. Moreover, staying well-hydrated is key to maximizing your workout – fluids help you avoid succumbing to fatigue. Have you noticed those people at the gym who seem to stay on the treadmill forever, but they barely pick their feet up and they lean heavily on the handlebars? Those people are not getting the full benefit of their workouts, because they have let fatigue take over. A good dose of water will perk up the lazy exerciser and dramatically increase the results of any activity. Your body will work longer, harder, and more efficiently if you give it plenty of H20!

Another simple tune-up that can be made to your exercise routine is to alternate the muscle groups worked each day. Perhaps you've had a streak of energetic motivation and you've been to the gym every day for a month. Or perhaps you have a set of favorite machines you enjoy using and you tend to stick to those for each session. These habits can decrease the effectiveness of your workout. Why? Each time you work a specific muscle group, you create small tears in the muscle fibers. When these tears heal, they create new muscle tissue, giving you that toned and shapely look. But if the tears aren't given time to heal, this process of muscle growth takes much longer. So give yourself a break! If you're a frequent exerciser, alternate the muscle groups that you work during each session. Focus on upper body one day and lower body the next, for example. You'll see better results in less time, guaranteed!

Finally, many of us neglect two of the most important parts of each workout – the warm-up and the cool-down. Exercisers often find these boring, so they choose to jump right into a long bike ride, or head straight for the weight room. However, skipping a warm-up session causes your body to work much harder during your workout in order to reach the peak level of calorie-burning, heart-healthy activity. A warm-up can be as simple as 3-5 minutes of walking, marching, or slow jogging – anything that raises your heart rate slowly and safely. After your workout is done, a cool-down session is just as important. Many exercisers are in a hurry to get to the next part of their busy day, and view stretching as a waste of time. However, effective stretching during a cool-down session is the best way to avoid muscle soreness! It doesn't have to take long – simply choose stretches that focus on each muscle worked during the session, and hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds. Always incorporate stretching into your cool-down session, not your warm-up. Many people misplace their stretching activities, but they should always be done when the muscles are warm – after a workout – rather than when they are cold. Stretching cold muscles can be dangerous as the possibility of tearing exists. During your cool-down, concentrate on breathing deeply and allowing your body to move from intense workout mode to a relaxed and more regulated state.

See? It's not that hard! Just make these three simple changes – drink more water, alternate your muscle groups, and make time for warm-ups and cool-downs – and watch your workout start to work for you!

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