Health & Fitness

Ten fitness secrets no one ever told you

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Expert tips to get the body of your dreams

Apart from lethargy, boredom is the single biggest reason why most men and women stop going to the gym. In fact, a University of Florida study discovered that people who modified their workouts at least twice a month were more likely to stick to their regimes compared to others who unfailingly—and boringly—stuck to the same routine day after day. You don’t want dal chawal everyday so why shouldn’t your workout have some variety too? Here are ten fitness fundas to help you realize your dream physique.

Let the music begin

There’s a reason why all gyms play some foot tapping music. Experts suggest rocking to your favorite playlist helps you power through a grueling workout. In fact a combined German and Belgian study found that working out to the beat of music—think Zumba and aerobics steps—could actually impact exercise performance. If you prefer running on the treadmill or using the elliptical, listening to your favorite band will help you exert more energy without you even realizing it.

Never skip breakfast

Forget about that post-workout shake you dutifully glug down. We’re talking about the meal you should be having post workout. “So many people skip breakfast after their morning workout because they think they’ll undo the calorie burn,” says fitness trainer Neha Brackstone. “That’s a complete misnomer. Ideally you should be getting a combination of 10 to 15 grams of protein and 20 to 30 grams of carbohydrates within 30 minutes of your workout to refuel your body to promote muscle recovery and get a leaner body,” she says.

Strength train sensibly

You want rippling biceps and pectorals but always reaching for the 20-pound dumbbells isn’t the way to get them. “Ideally, you should add two or three compound barbell lifts (such as a squat, deadlift, or press) to your weekly training schedule and gradually increase the weight used on each lift by two to five pounds a week,” says Roshan Patil, a personal trainer who used to work with the Talwalkar chain of fitness centers. He says doing three to five sets of three reps will help boost strength, not bulk, to give you a tougher, streamlined physique.  

Run right

If you train outdoors, most runners instinctively slow down when it drizzles but the secret to not slipping is actually to speed up and shorten your stride. “Ideally your foot should hit the ground 90 times per minute,” says Brackstone. This higher cadence will ensure that each foot lands beneath the center of your weight rather than ahead of it that could throw you off your balance when the roads are slippery.

Spice it up

You training regime is geared to giving you washboard abs. But no amount of training will give you those unless you burn abdominal fat. Watching what you eat is one way of doing this but eating metabolism boosting foods will give faster results. Red and yellow sweet peppers to the rescue! Add them to your soups, salads or stir fries for best results. “Peppers contain chemicals called capsinoids that are similar to the capsaicin found in hot peppers. Studies show that they can increase the amount and activity of brown fat cells to give your metabolism an extra boost,” says health expert Naini Setalvad.

Never do the same workout

You have to learn to work hard AND smart. If you’ve been doing the same workout for months without the results you want, it’s time to change things up. “Create a challenge every time you exercise,” says Brackstone. She suggests adding a little more weight, taking a five second break, add a few more reps or adding another exercise. “Adding these variations will work a different set of muscles or work the same muscles harder. The result: tighter, more toned muscles. 

Pace yourself

It’s important to pace yourself when you do high-intensity interval training. “Ideally follow a 2:1 work-to-rest ratio, such as sprinting one minute followed by 30 seconds of recovery,” says Patil. A Bowling Green State University study revealed that this formula maximizes your workout results. Pacing yourself helps to work your heart harder and increases oxygen consumption much more than if you were to do a high intensity workout without a break.  

Get the technique right

You could be doing 100 pushups and 200 ab crunches but it comes to naught unless you’re doing it right. “Doing exercises without proper form is not just pointless but dangerous,” says Patil. He suggests perfecting your technique first and then later adding weight and/or speed. This is especially important if your workout involved multiple reps in a given set of time. “Always choose quality over quantity to stay injury-free,” adds Brackstone.

Jump rope

Remember childhood afternoons spent jumping rope with friends? It’s time to grab that bit of childhood memorabilia again. Did you know all the top athletes worldwide routinely jump rope to build stamina and muscle? You need very little space, it’s inexpensive, portable, and easy to use almost anywhere, even in your hotel room when you’re traveling. Jump rope for 20 minutes thrice a week to boost cardiovascular health.

Be your best inspiration

Your biggest mentor is you! If you like prompting yourself through a tough workout, go ahead. A European study revealed that motivational self-talk can significantly help you to not just stick to a diet but also reduce the pain and fatigue from a grueling workout so that you can go longer and further.
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