Make strides towards being the best you and stay on track, with these 10 golden tips of fitness.
1. Don't Skip the Warm-Up1 of 11
Warm-ups are a too often overlooked part of the fitness equation. While they won't necessarily lead to "gains" or end in record-breaking numbers, warm-ups do something more important—they help prevent injury.
By steadily increasing your heart rate and loosening your joints, warm-ups prepare your body for the activity that's about to come. Warm-ups also help enhance performance by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the muscle.
Make sure your warm-ups are dynamic, meaning they engage and activate muscle groups you'll use during your workout. As opposed to a static hold, dynamic stretching has been shown to improve body awareness, range of motion and even muscular performance. This means it can translate to gains during the lifting portion of your workout, too. A general recommendation is to begin with low-intensity aerobic activity, such as running, cycling or swimming. Aim for easing your body in with a 10- to 20-minute warm-up before diving into your fitness program.
2. Stay Hydrated2 of 11
When it comes to staying fit, water is your friend. Whether you're sweating it out on the track or getting your heart rate up with squats and deadlifts, all exercise calls for hydration. Depending on intensity and air temperature, an hour of exercise can mean that you're losing more than a quart of water—and without enough water for your body to maintain homeostasis and stay cool, you risk dehydration and energy loss. You could also develop muscle cramps.
So how much H2O do you need? The American Council on Exercise recommends you drink one cup of water 20 to 30 minutes before exercising and another cup for every 15 additional minutes of physical activity. Prevent dehydration by drinking water before, after and during a workout.
3. Fit in Cardio3 of 11
Cardio might be what you dread most, but getting your heart pumping is important for more than just looks. Regular cardiovascular training means improved heart health, stronger lungs and increased bone density. It's recommended that healthy adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.
Looking to kick things up a notch? You can further boost your metabolism with 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off high intensity interval training (HIIT). The excess post-exercise oxygen consumption process (EPOC) means you'll burn calories long after you're done sprinting on the track. Regardless of what type of cardio you choose, aim to fit it in three to five times a week.
4. Lift Weights4 of 11
Despite the myths, strength training won't make you overly bulky. In fact, it can help you slim down by increasing calorie burn while simultaneously enhancing muscle mass.
How does strength training boost your metabolism? Lifting weights stresses muscle and breaks down tissues. The harder your muscles work, the more post-workout rebuilding they have to do. According to the American Council on Exercise, one pound of muscle burns seven to ten calories per day, while one pound of fat burns only two to three calories.
Lifting weights is good for your bones, too. It helps protect bone health and even reverses bone loss.
5. Change Up Your Routine5 of 11
Making fitness a habit means keeping things fresh. Change up your routine from time to time to help yourself stay engaged. How you change things is up to you—trade in the gym for the park, hit a Zumba class instead of going for a jog on the treadmill or simply change up your reps and sets.
Just don't get stuck in the same routine for months on end. Not only will you feel bored, but you'll also stop seeing progress as your muscles get used to the exercise.
6. Prioritize Protein6 of 11
When it comes to living a fit life, nutrition is key. To successfully power your workouts, it's important that you prioritize protein. Protein is a major building block for muscles, and it's important that you consume protein post-workout to ease your recovery.
An easy rule of thumb is to aim for roughly a gram of protein per pound of body weight.
7. Don't Forget the Post-Workout Stretch7 of 11
After you've put in the hard work, it's easy to head home without going through a proper post-workout regimen, but stretching is essential.
After all of the reps you did during your workout, your muscles are left shortened. Proper post-workout stretching helps reset your body. While stretching might not help with post-workout soreness, it can help with mobility and increase your range of motion—a payoff that could help ensure you're reaching the full-range of motion on each and every rep. Post-workout, make sure to hold static stretches for about 30 seconds each, and aim for a total of 15 to 20 minutes of cool-down.
8. Rest as Needed8 of 11
If you're looking to make fitness a life-long commitment, it's important to listen to your body and take breathers when needed. Working out tears down muscle fibers. In order for them to rebuild, and for you to gain strength and endurance, you need to allow your body to rest.
To prevent overtraining and injury, allow for at least one rest day a week (more if you're a beginner). And don't worry about losing the results of your hard-earned effort. It takes the body nearly two weeks of inactivity before performance starts to dip.
9. Track Your Progress9 of 11
As you develop a routine, make sure to track your progress over time, whether it's your best mile time, the weight you're lifting or even how often you're working out. It's guaranteed that your motivation will lag occasionally, but seeing your progress written down—and how far you've come—will remind you why you started in the first place.
Before you know it, you'll be back on track and ready for more.
10. Do Something You Enjoy10 of 11
This is perhaps the most important rule of all—make exercise something you actually enjoy.
If you train in a way that you don't enjoy or even dread, you will never be able to sustain the habit. Willpower can only go so far, and your couch will start looking more appealing--it's human nature. Pick exercise you actually look forward to. This will be different for each person, so don't be afraid to experiment.
If you're new to fitness, try different classes or activities until you find what really lights you up.