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5 Minutes to a Better Body

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The secret to burning more calories and sculpting more muscle? Think before you sweat.
Rehearsing your routine with a friend primes your brain for exercise.

Your best workout starts in the locker room. Spending a few minutes calming your mind and reviewing your routine boosts your motivation and endurance and primes your body to burn calories and build muscle. Get the most out of your exercise plan by following these steps.

Breathe deeply while you change.

If you're rushing to the gym to make a class or squeeze in a workout, you're usually taking quick, shallow breaths by the time you get there, which increases muscle tension and anxiety. "As you undress, start breathing in through the nose and exhaling fully through your mouth," says Mark T. Cuatt, assistant general manager at Club Fit in Jefferson Valley, New York. Taking deeper breaths speeds up oxygen delivery to -- and carbon dioxide elimination from -- your muscles, increasing energy levels and helping you think more clearly.

Drink some water.

Research has shown that exercisers who are sufficiently hydrated can work out for up to a third longer than those who don't drink enough fluids (that could mean burning an extra hundred or so calories, depending on your workout). "Dehydration is a major factor in fatigue," says Kristine Clark, PhD, RD, director of sports nutrition at Pennsylvania State University. She recommends drinking about 16 ounces of fluid 30 to 60 minutes before exercising. Keep sipping in the locker room.

Review your entire routine.

Write down the day's exercise plan beforehand, then review it while you're getting ready, suggests Tishin Donkersley, a Phoenix-based sports psychology consultant. This reaffirms your commitment and helps you use your time more efficiently, she says. An example of a 50-minute workout plan: "Today I will do 30 minutes of cardio intervals on the treadmill, 15 minutes of resistance training focusing on my arms and glutes, and five minutes of stretching."

"Practice" your workout in your head.

Take a minute to visualize yourself doing lunges and squats, for example, or climbing hills in cycling class. "Your unconscious mind doesn't differentiate between what's imagined and what's real," says Nikki Goldman, PhD, a motivational therapist and author of Success for the Diet Dropout: Proven Strategies for Women Who Want to Stop Hating Their Bodies (Behavioral Consultants Press, 2003). When you picture yourself going through a workout, your heart rate increases slightly, your muscles start to contract, and your breathing becomes a little heavier. It's like a mini rehearsal, and it can improve performance, says Goldman. By the time you pick up your weights or climb onto your bike, your heart and muscles will be ready for action.

 

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