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    10 Ways to Train Like a Pro

    Your time is valuable…and that includes the time you spend on exercise. Here are tips from professional trainers on how to get the most out of your workouts.

    Set Clear Fitness Goals—And Don’t Make Excuses

    People exercise for a lot of reasons: basic health maintenance, sculpting muscles, training for a specific sport.

    What’s your reason for working out? Knowing your “why” will determine the specific fitness program you should follow.

    Once you know what you’re trying to accomplish, you need to devise a plan to help you get there. Set goals that depend more on what you do—working your way up to running a full mile, for example—rather than how you’ll look, such as losing a certain number of pounds. (Gohere for help with goal setting in general.) 

    It helps to have subgoals: Want to run a full mile within a month? Break that down into weekly and daily goals. (If you’d like help from a professional trainer, you can find onehere.)

    Of course, having a beautifully designed fitness plan won’t get you anywhere if you don’t actually do the excuses! Use a vision board, put a sticky-note reminder on your bathroom mirror, schedule gym sessions or classes into your planner—whatever it takes to get you moving.

    Invest in Fitness Equipment

    And wedon’tmean a fancy setup with lots of gear.

    Actually, the best starting point is to get the best fitness shoes you can afford, preferably ones designed for your specific sport or activity. Go to a store that specializes in fitness footwear.

    For strength work, “don’t overlook the power of resistance bands,” says “With that small piece of rubber, you can create an insane amount of burn and pump, stimulate growth and strength, and inflict less impact on your joints.” (Gohere for a great band workout.)

    If you don’t have an MP3 player or a music app for your phone, consider getting one;research indicates listening to music helps improve performance. “Create a playlist of your favorite songs that jack up your adrenaline,” says Jim Stoppani, PhD, author ofJim Stoppani’s Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength (Human Kinetics).

    Finally, if you’re statistics oriented, try wearing aheart-rate monitor. This will let you check your heart rate in real time, which lets you know how hard your body is working…as opposed to how hard youfeellike it’s working.

    Fuel Your Workouts By Eating Properly

    Don’t be tempted to undereat: Your body, thinking it’s on the verge of starvation, will go into survival mode and slow your metabolism…which is not what you want.

    Instead, suggests “prioritizing lean protein sources and making sure you’re getting complex carbohydrates and healthy fats throughout the day to keep you energized.”

    Stoppani advises having those complex carbs before workouts, saying that athletes who ate things like oatmeal or whole-wheat bread “had more endurance and burned more fat during exercise compared to those who ate fast-digesting carbs such as white bread or plain bagels.” On the other hand, he recommends avoiding higher-fat meals for up to four hours before exercise sessions.

    Finally, “don’t try to out-train a bad diet,” says “You're not going to make progress unless you're eating the right foods.”

    Train with Others (But Don’t Compare Yourself to Anyone)

    It’s easier to stay motivated when you have a fitness buddy who can remind you that it’s go time. If the two of you can help each other commit to a healthy lifestyle outside of the gym, such as making positive changes in eating habits, so much the better.

    But while it’s good to trainwithothers, it isn’t good to compare yourselftoothers; someone will always be ahead of you on the fitness curve. Instead, measure success by the progress you make towards achieving your own goals.

    Think Fitness Safety First

    If you’re just starting an exercise program, don’t decide to start training an hour every day and then give up after two days when you're too sore to get off the couch…or worse, wind up with an injury. (Gohere for muscle recovery tips.)

    Instead, start with 30 minutes a day for three days a week, which gives your body a chance to adjust to your new schedule and allows for recovery days. Also, concentrate more on consistency than intensity; if you want to start a running program, for instance, start by walking and then gradually build up to full runs.

    Every workout should begin with a proper warmup and end with a cool-down period. And take breaks, remembering to hydrate as you go.

    Focus on Fitness Fundamentals

    Master the basics before moving on to more advanced work. 

    For weight training, that means doing basic dumbbell exercises—such as curls, presses and rows performed in simple rep/set counts with rests in between—before trying things such assupersets(two sets of exercises back to back). For bodyweight exercises, that means lunges, planks, pushups and squats before attempting one-legged squats or walking lunges.

    You also need to focus on what you’re doing. “Your form is imperative,” saysAmerican Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA), a certification group for trainers. “Performing each exercise correctly is not only important for preventing injury, but for achieving the best possible results.”

    In addition, Stoppani says you should concentrate on the specific muscle you’re training. “British researchers discovered that subjects who focused on their biceps while doing biceps curls had significantly more muscle activity than those who thought about other things,” he notes.

    Sequence Your Cardio and Weight Work

    Activities such as running and biking representcardio, the exercises that improve your overall fitness. Weight or band workouts count asresistance training, the type that tones and strengthens muscles. You should do both, in varying proportions depending on your overall exercise goals. 

    One common way of scheduling cardio and resistance is to do them on different days. If you’re going to do them on the same day, Stoppani recommends saving cardio for after your weight workout.

    However, suggests combining the two “through ‘active rest,’ performing short bursts of cardio during your strength routine rest periods. Keeping your heart rate elevated during strength training helps you burn more calories, build bigger and stronger muscles, and increase your flexibility.”

    Which approach would work best for you? If you’re a fitness newbie, separating the two is probably a good idea. If you’re a veteran workout warrior, you can try the active rest method and see if it helps you attain your goals.

    Don’t Forget Your Legs

    Go to your average gym and you’ll see a lot of arm and chest work going on. Leg work…not so much.

    But training your legs is important; your lower half is where all the biggest muscles are. Calf raises, deadlifts, lunges and squats all strengthen your leg muscles and help balance out your upper body development; here’s aleg day sequence you can do at home.

    Train to the Edge of Failure

    Sometimes if you can’t do all the reps in a set or all the sets you wanted to accomplish, it can feel like you’ve failed somehow. Try not to think that way; not being able to squeeze out that last rep or two actually means that you’ve pushed yourself—and that’s a good thing!

    However, too much of a push isn’t a good idea either. Steppani says that to avoid losing strength gains, “don’t train to failure on every set.”

    Have Patience When Training

    Sometimes exercise can feel like a grind, especially when you’re impatient to see results. But as with any other worthwhile pursuit, patience is the key: Nothing happens overnight.

    Instead, be grateful for any improvements you do see, no matter how small. And focus on how good you feel after a hard, productive workout—you earned it!

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    **These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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