Tricks to Make Over Your Exercise Habit: Part 1

couple working out
There is no shortage of inspiration when it comes to choosing your exercise routine, or designing a workout plan. Hopefully, you’ve found some activities you truly enjoy.

But what happens when you’ve been working out long term, with weight loss or fat burning goals that you haven’t been able to reach yet? Maybe it’s time for an exercise makeover.

A Wealth of General Health Advice

If you go for bike rides, try to park far away so you take more steps, and always use the stairs, you’re already putting good advice into action, and taking actions that keep your muscles active and can strengthen your heart and lungs.

If you’re hitting the gym with regular frequency, you have a choice of even more equipment, classes and training approaches to experience every time you visit. Maybe you’re the cardio class type, who loves to burn off energy after long days sitting on your office chair. Or maybe you are simply trying to stay active on the treadmill for medical reasons, or so you can keep up with the kids.

Whatever your choices, the best and most basic health advice tells us consistency is key—it’s ideal if you develop an exercise habit. It’s even better if you take that habit to the next level, and make sure you’re getting all you can out of the time you spend exercising.

If you’re hoping to slim down and lose body fat, one thing you want to make sure you’re doing is adding some resistance to your routine. The key to an exercise habit that supports a leaner body composition is less about the moderate exercise you do every day, and more about the intensity, and how it activates your body systems and hormone release.

So, what if you could do that with just a couple of short sessions per week? By combining a few simple tweaks to your exercise approach, you might find that’s all it takes to give your fitness the kind of makeover that will give you the results you’ve been missing.

Three Tips and Tricks to Get Started
  1. Add some high intensity interval training (HIIT). You don’t need to start a whole new program from scratch if you simply combine some of your favorite classic moves with the idea that you need to move with more power and sprint-like intensity. Select just a few moves that work multiple joints at the same time, and perform them with as much resistance as you can handle for 60 seconds at a time. Alternate your tough intervals with some lower intensity intervals of 30 – 60 seconds without as much resistance, for example light jogging or lunging side to side. About ten minutes two or three times a week is enough to make a huge difference to your exercise habit by stimulating your metabolism to function at a higher level in between all workouts.
  2. Focus more on eccentric exercises, which are those that extend your muscles while you lower the weight or resist the force of gravity, like a leg press, versus concentric exercises, which shorten or contract your muscles, such as a hamstrings curl. Eccentric training also includes slowly lowering the weight in the eccentric phase of an exercise, such as the second half of the biceps curl. You can stimulate more of your muscle fibers by generating more force with eccentric actions that allow you to handle more weight. It’s deep work, which also tends to fatigue you faster, and therefore gives you more bang for your buck than a routine filled with more popular concentric weight lifting. Aside from leg presses, chest and shoulder presses are effective choices for eccentric training. For cardio, walking downhill is an example of eccentric movement.
  3. Even if you already have a strong handle on your strength training routine, you could find a new way to improve your form, balance your body, and activate new muscle groups by adding 10 – 15 minutes of yoga postures to your routine. Another tweak is to add several minutes of ab-focused work. You can boost the effects of your weight training by making sure you maintain good form, something is aided by both a strong core and the mindfulness of a yoga practice. Not to mention, the flexibility work of yoga will help you increase your range of motion, which is another trick to getting more from your resistance exercise.

Slowing down and switching up your focus, plus speeding up and increasing your intensity, are the kind of adjustments that will not only help you makeover your fitness habits to improve your results, but also keep your regime interesting and effective. Watch for even more tips and tricks in Part II of this article in our next edition of The XSport Life.

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