Reach Your Fitness Goals in Weeks



The Goal: Do a Yoga Headstand Without the Help of a Wall




Time Needed: 1 week (if you practice yoga regularly)

Strategy

Even if you have the core strength to master this move, you may have a mental wall to break through. "Looking at the world upside down can kick in your brain's fight-or-flight response," says Desi Bartlett, a yoga instructor in Los Angeles and the host of the DVD Yoga for Beginners. Spend the week before your next class practicing a preliminary headstand pose, like Tripod (a stable inversion in which you rest your head on the mat, with your hands in front of your face, elbows bent 90 degrees, knees on triceps) to help you get used to the sensation of blood rushing to your head. Once you can stay steady there for at least a minute, it's time to go for the 'stand. Use these pointers to stay up:

1 Weave your fingers into a basket, making sure both pinkies completely touch the floor.

2 Lift each leg on an exhalation, so you're inhaling during the first few moments of balancing. "This immediately brings oxygen-rich blood to the brain, and that helps you stay calm," Bartlett says. Remember to keep your breathing slow and steady during the entire exercise.

3 Find something directly in front of you to focus on (don't look up or down) and gaze at it to center yourself and keep your balance. Press your shoulder blades into your back and your forearms into the floor as you lift your tailbone toward your flexed feet.

The Goal: Shave a Minute off Your Runnin Pace

Time Needed: 8 weeks (if you already run at least 10 miles a week)

Strategy

"Run three to four times a week," says Lesley Mettler, a running coach in Seattle. "But twice a week, replace your same old run with one of these workouts." Rotate them into your schedule equally.

Trail or hill run
Run for the same amount of time you normally do, even if you don't go as far. "The variation in terrain teaches your nervous system to fire efficiently," Mettler says. "That translates directly to speed."

Tempo run
"Tempo runs teach the body to use oxygen more efficiently," Mettler says. Run for 3 to 5 minutes at a pace that's 85 to 90 percent of your max, then jog easy for 1 minute. Repeat 4 times. Continue to add reps and increase the speed of each tempo interval until your whole run is 40 to 50 minutes long (always include a 10-minute warmup and cooldown).

Speedwork
Warm up with a 10-minute jog, then run at 70 to 80 percent of your max for 1 minute; recover for 3 minutes. Repeat 4 times. Each session, increase the pickups by 30 to 60 seconds and drop the rest by 30 seconds.

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