5 Ways to Maximize Your Solo Workouts

A good trainer holds a wealth of knowledge. Unfortunately, your bank account doesn't necessarily hold a wealth of, well, wealth. To make sure your fitness doesn't pay the price, we asked experts around the country for their best tips for landing big results in the gym—when there's no clipboard-happy trainer. Apply this know-how during your next solo session.

1. Don't Be Lazy

When you can do 12 reps of a move with perfect form for two workouts in a row, it's time to increase the amount you're lifting by five percent, says Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., author of Get Stronger, Feel Younger.

2. Don't Be Lazy, Part II

Last year, researchers at Stanford University found that people who received automated exercise reminders by phone were about as likely to go to the gym as people who had real-life trainers harassing them. Keep yourself honest by registering for prodding e-mails from hassleme.co.uk. Plug in your e-mail address, how often you want to be nudged, and a direct order ("Get to the gym! Now! Love, Your Incredibly Skimpy Bikini").

3. Take It Slow

Chances are, you're lifting too fast, says Gloria Bender, a personal trainer at Powerhouse Gym in Santa Clarita, California. Research from the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts, found that lifting weights slowly — 10 seconds up and four seconds down—activates more muscle fibers than hoisting a weight as fast as you can. Why? When you lift too quickly, you use momentum, not muscles.

4. Be Efficient

Trainers usually have, at most, 30 to 60 minutes with clients two to three times a week, so in order to get results they have to make the most of every workout. Crib this secret: Build interval training into your strength routine, says Rachel Cosgrove, owner of Results Fitness in Newhall, California. Hop on the treadmill or bike between sets of strength exercises and do two to three minutes of intense cardio—up the incline for resistance and go as hard as you can. Then go back to the weights. Repeat four to seven times. In 2005, researchers at McMaster University in Ontario found that 30 minutes of cardio intervals done three times a week increased aerobic capacity by almost 10 percent over two weeks.

5. Check Yourself Out

Whether you're hitting your delts or your glutes, stand in front of a mirror. "This provides instant feedback; you'll know if your form is off, which is what a trainer would tell you," says Carla Sottovia, Ph.D., a senior personal trainer at the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas. Look for these common mistakes: not keeping your neck in line with your spine and letting knees jut out past your toes when doing squats. Another mirror plus: A 2001 study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that seeing yourself sweat can give the boost you need to eke out another rep.

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Airport delays are worse than ever—may as well sweat them out. Before a trip, search this site by city and state to find the gyms nearest the airports you're flying into and out of (some are even in the airports). The site will tell you distance (in minutes and miles), a way to get there (cab, free shuttle, etc.), and price (usually $10 to $20 per visit).

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