By Jenna Mahoney
Just like your wardrobe, your workout routine can get a little stale. Always doing the same cardio routine, fudging your exercise time and avoiding the weights can compromise results, says trainer-to-the-stars Gunnar Peterson, who has worked with everyone from Jennifer Lopez to Penelope Cruz and Kim Kardashian. Take advantage of the season’s new light and energy to sweep out the cobwebs from your routine — and get better results now.
1. Treat your routine like a job interview.
You tell yourself “I’m going to the gym in the morning.” Yet when the alarm goes off, you’ve hit snooze so much that you’ve whittled down the actual exercising time in half. Sound familiar?
“Treat your routine like a job interview or first date,” says Peterson. “Set a time, put it on your calendar and stick with it — period.” Have your clothes and gear ready to go and plan out the basics of your workout so you’re ready when you arrive. To get the most out of your gym time, aim to arrive at off-hours to beat the crowds — and bring your headphones. “They signify that you are engaged in your workout and not in socializing,” says Peterson.
2. Switch it up.
Having a plan doesn’t mean doing the same exact moves in the same exact order every single time. Being too predictable in your routine can not only bore you but also lead to overuse injuries and muscle imbalances.
Instead, try a different approach to cardio once a week. If you can’t tear yourself away from the elliptical, try changing the program. So for example, instead of always doing the fat-burning routine, opt for intervals one day. Switch up the number of pounds you lift, as well as the reps. For best results, do this every two weeks.
3. Focus on one thing at a time.
Forget doing cardio before weight training, says Peterson, who likens the habit to cleaning before the cleaning lady arrives. “You don’t really accomplish anything.”
Instead, he suggests doing either cardio or weights during each session and focusing solely on the activity at hand.
Aim to keep your exercise time consistent (at least 30 minutes), and try to get some cardio into your schedule every day that you’re not doing strength training. (Yes, a walk outside counts.) But don’t be tempted to skip your weight workout! Muscle blasts more calories than fat, and the only way to build muscle is through strength training, so be sure to incorporate at least one day of it into your routine each week. Choose weights that are heavy enough to only complete eight to 10 reps per set.
4. Take it outdoors.
Running, walking, cycling and swimming on naturally varying terrain challenges your body in various ways and keeps you focused on the activity. Since you aren’t likely to get lost in the latest gossip on “Entertainment Tonight” when you’re jogging on an outdoor trail, you can concentrate on your time, pace and — most important — breathing.
Health bonus: Bringing it outside can increase your exposure to much-needed vitamin D as well as fresher air. And the best part: It’s free!
5. Don’t skip your cooldown.
Working too hard is just as ineffective as working too lightly. Your muscles (and mind) need time to recuperate in order to properly strengthen. Take time after each exercise session to cool down. Set the treadmill to a lighter speed and incline for five minutes and concentrate on your breathing. Or stretch it out — use a foam roller to target tired muscles. Once a week, take a low-intensity yoga class to feel more limber and focused.