1. Make the most of your living room floor. If you’re already paying for a gym membership, use it. But if you can’t afford one, don’t feel pressured. You can get a great workout at home. Shop Amazon or eBay for inexpensive second-hand workout DVDs that are sure to get the blood pumping. If you’ve got some back yard space, try five-minute intervals of jumping rope followed by 30 seconds of walking in place (repeat the circuit 5 times for a fat-blasting cardio workout). Live in a dorm room or one-bedroom apartment with minimal space? Stationary lunges, jumping jacks and pushups are super effective even if you’ve only got a few feet to work with.
2. Your treadmill should not be a dust mill. If you’ve got one, use it. Don’t let it be a safe-haven for dust bunnies by letting it sit there unused. If you’re not a fan of running until your kneecaps fall off, try running for one minute and then walking for thirty seconds. Repeat this segment for 25-30 minutes, increasing the incline by .5 every time you start to run again. This run-walk combination is an example of interval training, and is a classic way that athletes burn fat and keep it off.
3. Power-walk or run outdoors on chillier days. My favorite time of year to walk or run along the beach is during the fall when the sun isn’t scorching. A cool sea breeze will give you that extra motivation to keep moving so you don’t get too chilly. If you live in a metro area, go for a brisk walk or jog on the sidewalks. Put on those headphones and let the music pump along with your heartbeat as you become part of the city’s fast pulse.
4. It’s all about the music. Good, upbeat music will keep your heart beating at a quick pace and motivate you to finish those last few sets of pushups (or whatever exercise you’re doing). Dance club remixes are perfect for keeping your heart rate in the cardio zone. And they’re a guaranteed mood-booster, which is great if you had a crummy day at work or bumped into your ex at a coffee shop.
5. Instead of drinking the night away, dance the night away with your friends. Go crazy. Who cares what people think? You won’t even realize how many hundreds of calories you’re burning. And if you can’t resist the booze, choose a lower-calorie option such as flavored vodka mixed with seltzer, a squeeze of lemon and a splash of pineapple juice. It’s refreshing and delish. Just don’t ruin your hard efforts by stopping at a fast-food joint at 3am (we’ve all been there). If you’re hungry when you get home, reach for a piece of fruit or some whole-grain crackers, and be sure to combine with protein such as a small wedge of cheese or a spoonful of peanut, almond or soy nut butter. This will help stabilize your blood sugar and prevent it from crashing in the middle of the night.
6. Pop a squat. That’s right. Squats are, as my martial artist friend Kristina says, “the mother of all exercises.” When you squat, bend your knees at a 90- degree angle and stick your butt out as if you’re sitting in a chair. Hold for 30 seconds or do them against a wall and hold for a minute each. Squats tone your butt and quadriceps. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Your leg muscles are the largest ones in your body, so a consistently good leg workout will eventually equal fat obliteration.
7. Don’t stick to the same machines at the gym. In college I would see the same people on the same cardio machines every day. They’d work out for a good 45 minutes a day, but they’d soon wonder why their bodies didn’t feel strong anymore; their muscles didn’t seem to grow and they didn’t seem to burn as many calories. Why? Well, when your body gets used to a certain type of workout (e.g. the elliptical every day for a month without adding anything new), it hits a plateau; it fails to change and improve. Imagine reading the same book every single day. Bo-ring! You’ve got to keep changing your workout by doing different kinds of exercise. Mix it up: try tennis, rebounding on a trampoline, or Bikram yoga. Doesn’t matter what you do, even if it’s chasing your three-year-old nephew around the house pretending to be a bananasaurus rex. Whatever the activity, get excited about it and you’ll be excited to see the results when you look in the mirror.
8. DO NOT exercise when you are hurt or ill. I don’t know why, but many people think they’re going to be called “weak” or “prissy” if they admit they’re legitimately sick, hurt or fatigued to work out. I’m not talking about the “oh I’m so tired and don’t feel like working out” excuse; I’m talking about the “I’m in so much pain but I have to work out” conversation you might have with yourself. If you don’t let yourself rest, you’re only fooling yourself. The “no pain, no gain” phrase is over-used. If there’s too much joint pain, for example, you need to stop exercising, rest, and/or see a doctor. Working out when injured will only prolong the injury.
9. You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: drink lots and lots of water throughout the day. A 118-pound person who does moderate weight training every day needs about 95 ounces of water a day, which equates to about 12 eight-ounce glasses of water a day (water intake data source: “Fitness: The Complete Guide” by Frederick C. Hatfield, Ph.D). Yes, twelve! You may need even more water. One test? You should be able to see through your urine. If it’s too yellow, you’re dehydrated and need to chug water immediately. Water will also help cleanse the body of toxins and aid in water weight loss, which will help you ease into those jeans.
10. Enjoy yourself. Don’t make working out a chore or you’ll never do it! I don’t care if all you want to do is dance around your living room to 80s Madonna (I’m guilty of that…shhh!). Do it with passion. The more of a blast you have, the more calories you’ll blast.