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If you're no longer getting results from your exercise routine, it may be time to kick it up a notch. With our 48-hour jumpstart plan you'll be upping the ante, reviving your energy, motivation, and momentum in two days flat.
Here are a few key points to get started:
Set new goals. Set your sights on the not-so-distant horizon by aiming for a specific goal, like running in a 5 or 10k in three months, completing a triathlon, or playing in the next level tennis league. Write down your goal and post it somewhere visible as a daily reminder, suggests Stacey Rosenfeld, PhD, the chief sports psychologist for the New York City Triathlon.
Clock in. Buy a cheap pedometer (found at any Target or drugstore chain) to count your daily steps, suggests Doris Dodge-Thews, master trainer for 24-Hour Fitness in Orange County, California. "You're going to be moving the next two days, and you want to see your progress," she says. Shoot for a minimum of 3,000 steps per day.
Mix in some fun. Think of people you know who are fit and motivated, and set up some new "workout dates." They'll help you stick to your new plan. "Think of them as guest appearances, so it's exciting and there's variety," says Dodge-Thews.
And keep in mind that an amped-up fitness plan can be enjoyable. Rosenfeld encourages her clients to try something new and fun. "Take a belly dancing class, go rock climbing with friends, join a soccer league, train for a triathlon -- anything that gets you moving and that you approach with excitement, or as a challenge, rather than with boredom or dread."
Customize online. Don't let the economy become an excuse. If you can't afford a trainer anymore, we've got several for you -- all free -- at FitnessMagazine.com. Pinpoint your trouble spots with what you have at home using our customized "Build a Workout" video tool. "You can focus on the specific body parts you want to firm up," says Mary Christ Anderson, FITNESS magazine's Fitness Director. "You'll have it all ready to go when you are."
Get ready to re-start your engines!
Breakfast. You've heard it before: Don't skip breakfast. This goes doubly so since you'll be working out more vigorously than you normally do. Try a yogurt parfait with plain yogurt instead of a flavored one -- once you wean yourself from sugar, you'll likely find that you prefer the taste, says Jackie Newgent, RD, CDN, author of The Big Green Cookbook. She recommends creating your own flavors with seasonal fruit and adding a tiny drizzle of honey. "You want to be excited about what you're eating, so pick your favorite fruit and your favorite nuts," Newgent says.
Before work. Try to sneak in a mini workout before your workday, like hitting a yoga class in the park or gym. "It's a good way to get centered on priorities and goals for next two days," says Dodge-Thews.
Make the most of your commute. If you can, walk or bike to work -- it'll give you a whole new experience in the morning while boosting your heart rate and metabolism.
However, if you have to drive, you can still do some Pilates exercises in the car (really!), says Emory Story, owner of Emory Pilates in Brentwood, California. "Since traffic schools now teach us to keep our hands at 9 and 3 on the steering wheel -- this is safer in the event that airbags deploy -- drop your elbows straight down so they point toward your thighs. Pull your shoulders back so your shoulder blades are plugged into the back, then lift out of your hips and lengthen your neck as if you are trying to touch your head to the top of the car," he explains. This works wonders for the posture and spine, and helps get you the oxygen you need to stay calm in traffic, Story says.
A.M. snack. Every three hours, eat a healthy snack that you really enjoy, be it your favorite fruit or a handful of almonds, which fill you up while supplying a great source of protein, carbs, and fiber. Snacking will also help keep you from being ravenous at lunchtime and will help fuel your afternoon workout.
Lunchtime. Rather than sit at your desk and read headlines on the computer or catch up on e-mail, try to recruit some colleagues and organize a half-hour office boot camp, suggests Dodge-Thews. All you'll need are jump ropes, handheld weights, and a stretch of grass.
Afternoon desk exercises. Give up your cushioned office chair in favor of an exercise ball -- it'll force you to sit up straight, which encourages you to engage your core.
Don't have an exercise ball (or, rather, can't risk having the boss see you sitting on one)? Try a 15-minute desk workout instead. You can tighten up some muscles without breaking a sweat with these quick moves, recommended by Pete Cerqua, author of The 90-Second Fitness Solution.
P.M. snack. When you find yourself hitting the 4 p.m. crash, have another healthy snack around 150 calories.
After work. Amping up your workout doesn't mean you have to skip happy hour -- just tweak it. In lieu of cocktails, Dodge-Thews suggests grabbing your friends and heading to the nearest juice bar, then hit the dance floor together. "Dancing burns about 290 calories an hour, based on a 135-pound woman," according to Christ Anderson.
Breakfast. Once you've gotten your full eight hours, wake up and hydrate with 8 ounces of water, and fill up your water bottle for the day too.
For breakfast, try half a banana and a bagel with peanut butter. The banana will give you much-needed potassium (an electrolyte, which often gets depleted during exercise) while the bagel and peanut butter offer a good balance of protein and complex carbs to keep your energy levels even.
Only have 10 minutes? Skip the bagel and just have a banana. It's easy to digest and will give you a steady release of glucose into the bloodstream, while replacing the potassium and magnesium that are lost in sweat, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, an American Dietetic Association spokesperson and FITNESS advisory board member.Afternoon
Get to the track. Forgo the gym and change up your run by heading to the nearest high school or college track (or any running trail, for that matter) to get in some speed work, suggest Dodge-Thews. "You'll work slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers, while going from an aerobic zone burning fat to anaerobic zone, burning a ton of calories."
You'll be running a total of a 5K, which is a little over 3 miles.
Get in your Rocky stairs. To up the ante and get a full-body workout, look for a track that has stadium stairs. "With stairs you'll work the glutes, the hamstrings, and all the big muscles that burn a lot of calories," says Dodge-Thews.
Shift to plank work to focus on your core.
Splash in some resistance. You could also change up your strength-training routine by heading to your nearest pool. "Water provides eight times the resistance of air," says Christ Anderson. If you can, find an aqua aerobics class -- they're a lot more challenging (and fun!) than they look. Dodge-Thews has her classes tackle water-bound jumping jacks, kick-boxing drills, and "horse racing on noodles," which challenge the core and the cardiovascular system without any impact to bones or joints.
Dinnertime. Shoot for a meal with ample protein combined with a carbohydrate, which helps repair muscle tissue and replenish your energy post-workout. Barbecues are great because you can easily achieve the protein/carb mix without using oils, butter, and frying. The trick is to avoid the high-sugar, high-calorie sauces, and work in lots of vegetables.
After dinner. Look for a sunset yoga class in your local park so you can unwind your mind and stretch out your hardworking muscles. As a mind-body practice, yoga helps prepare the body for rest, says Dodge-Thews.
When your two days are up, check your pedometer to see just how much you've moved and how many calories you burned -- it should give you a sense of accomplishment and a new threshold to aim for. To keep up your new momentum, pick out the exercises that really challenged you and incorporate them immediately into your weekly routine. Says Rosenfeld, "It's important to shift your focus to how exercise makes you feel, rather than its effects on your body or health, which are less immediate."
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, July 2009.