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Maximize Your Workout

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You go to the gym, but results aren't showing as quickly as before. You remember to drink enough water, exercise three to five times per week, and eat healthy. But finding a routine that works is just the first step; achieving consistency, varying exercises, and maintaining motivation are the keys to long-term success. Here are some simple ways to maximize any workout.

Keep a Log. Grab a pen and paper and write down every exercise in your routine. Having a game plan before you hit the gym will promote a quicker and more efficient workout. You'll be less likely to skip exercises as well.

Each week, list times and weight amounts beside each exercise. You'll be able to record what exercises you're improving on, and which ones you need to spend more time on.

Do Your Homework. The more you focus on form, the faster you'll see results. Performing exercises incorrectly can work the wrong muscles and put you at high risk for injury. Consult a personal trainer, or print out how-to exercises from accredited fitness Web sites. Don't learn how to do a workout by watching someone else. Who is to say they are doing it correctly?

Break It Up. Finding it hard to fit your workout into your schedule? Breaking your cardio routine into two separate exercises actually promotes higher fat loss. "Two 15-minute sessions of high-intensity aerobics per day (before breakfast and after your last meal) is more than twice as effective as a single low-intensity 60-minute session," says Timothy Harris, Director of Athletic Development at Adaptagenix Biosciences. "Focus on brief, intense, and more frequent aerobic exercise for faster results."

If exercising more than once a day is out of the question, try strength/interval training. "Break up your [lifting] exercises and run on the treadmill for three minutes in between to keep your heart rate up and strengthen your muscles in the same amount of time," says Kevin Gianni, author of Lifestyle Fitness Points System. "You will spend less time in the gym and see better results."

Change It Up. Prevent hitting a plateau by mixing up your workout routine every four to six weeks. New workouts will keep you from getting bored at the gym, and give you an opportunity to find what exercises your body responds to best. "Don't continue a program if you don't get measurable results within six to eight weeks," says Sarah Lurie, owner and founder of Iron Core La Jolla, California's original kettleball fitness center. "If your clothes aren't fitting better after consistently working out and eating healthfully, ditch the workout and find something else."

Warm Up. Cool Down. Do you start the day without breakfast? You shouldn't. And you should never workout without warming up your muscles first. Stretching not only prevents injuries and makes muscles more limber, but it also gives you a chance to mentally focus on the task at hand. Add a pre-workout walk to help loosen up your legs, especially if you plan to do a lot of cardio. "Include a cool down to help prevent lactic acid from pooling into the legs," says Evan Chacker, founder of the American Fitness Institute and personal trainer manager of the New York Health & Racquet Club in Manhattan. Stretch after each workout to help relax your muscles, and pamper yourself by massaging your legs and arms. Massage increases circulation, reduces cramping, and increases joint flexibility.

Mask Your Trouble Areas. Exercise isn't always enough to achieve an ideal hourglass figure. Genetics plays an important rule, but enhancing the physique of your hips and shoulders can make the midsection appear smaller. "In the gym, perform the following exercises every Monday and Friday for one set to positive muscular failure: deep leg-presses with feet shoulder-width apart, hip abduction machine, and lateral raises with dumbbells (10-12 repetitions)," says Ferriss.

Attend Class. One of the easiest ways to stick to a fitness program is by simply joining a class. Many gyms offer free classes including water aerobics, yoga, and spinning. Some programs like QuadSpin Pilates ™ can burn over 500 calories per hour. "We do 30 minutes of spinning and 30 minutes of equipment work," says Lisa Johnson, Master Pilates Instructor at Studio Elle Pilates in Brookline, Massachusetts. "The first 30 minutes burns tons of calories and then your heart rate stays elevated as you move onto the equipment for a fast but intense Pilates workout."

Classes are not only great for motivation, variety, and improved fitness, but they give you a chance to interact with people who are also interested in staying active.