If your workout has gotten a little stale or rusty, the following tips from some of the nation’s top trainers are guaranteed to get you out of winter hibernation. After all, springtime is almost here and that means the skin-bearing season is just around the corner.
The following recommendations from seven leading fitness experts offer safe and effective ways to keep you on track with your cardiovascular, mind-body and strength-training workouts, and can accommodate even the busiest schedule.
Todd Galati, ACE Director of Academy and exercise physiologist, often finds his days filled with writing or editing course content, meetings and managing staff. As a former competitive endurance athlete, Todd gets a bit stir crazy if he doesn’t get outside a few times a week.
“With my current schedule, this generally means running,” says Galati. “There are great trails a few miles away from the ACE office where I can run 3-4 miles during lunch. The trails are hilly, so they provide natural interval challenges.”
Todd tracks his workouts using his Garmin Forerunner®, and rates his overall workout satisfaction by the various wildlife he spots and peace of mind he experiences after trail running.
Olga Kutsanova, Group Fitness Director at Frog’s Fitness in Carmel Mountain Ranch and Mission Valley, has worked as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor for more than 10 years. She feels too many people look for excuses to not exercise.
“I deal with clients who often tell me they don’t have time to work out or that they travel or don’t have a gym to go to or find any number of excuses they can come up with to avoid working out,” Olga says. She strongly believes that people don’t need a gym membership or a lot of equipment to start exercising. “Using body weight alone can give you a great workout,” says Kutsanova.
Here are Kutsanova's top five exercises that can be done anytime, anywhere for a great full body workout.
For beginners, Kutsanova suggests practicing with a chair by “pretending” to sit down or squatting until the butt barely touches the seat, then returning to a standing position. Advanced exercisers may want to add a jump between each squat to raise their heart rate.
For beginners, Kutsanova suggests holding on to a chair for balance while keeping proper form. For advanced clients, adding a jump can make this exercise more challenging.
For beginners, Kutsanova recommends starting with their knees on the floor. Kutsanova has her advanced clients clap in between each push-up, which makes it quite a bit more challenging. Really advanced clients perform single-arm push-ups.
The burpee is a full-body exercise used in strength-training and as aerobic exercise. It is performed in five steps: Start in a standing position. Drop to a squat position with your hands on the ground and then kick your feet back while lowering yourself without a push-up. Return your feet to the squat position while straightening your arms. Leap up as high as possible from the squat position with your arms reaching overhead. More advanced exercisers can add a push-up after lowering their bodies (and after kicking their feet back), then straighten their arms to leap up. According to Kutsanova, this exercise works the whole body and gets your heart rate up.
Kutsanova suggests performing each exercise in sets of three doing 10-15 repetitions to get a great workout. Best of all, there’s no equipment needed and you don’t even have to leave your living room.
Lawrence Biscontini, owner of FG2000 and a mindful movement specialist, says that fitting in workouts is as important as any other meeting or appointment.
Tip No. 1: “I use my calendar, alarm and memo functions on my laptop and PDA, so I get alarms and reminders with impending times to work out or take a class,” Biscontini says. “With each pop-up reminder, I also get a motivational message, such as “500 calories to be burned” or "endorphin rush from this instructor" to help focus and be reminded of the many health benefits.
When you don’t feel like changing your clothes and heading to the gym, the motivational messages can really make a difference, he finds.
Tip No. 2: “My favorite time-crunch, 30-minute workout involves the free-training area of the gym with minimal equipment and my playlist,” Biscontini says.
He uses a 55cm stability ball, BOSU Balance Trainer, and a foam roller. For the 8-10-minute warm-up, he performs functional exercises in three planes using the stability ball; for the next 15 minutes, he does various core and cardio exercises on the BOSU ending with standing plyometrics and then cools down by massaging his muscles on a foam roller.
Music and other people can be a huge motivator. Biscontini likes hitting the gym during prime time when lots of people are around for that extra “buzz” and always listens to his favorite tunes. When he’s on the road, Biscontini finds that many hotels offer his favorite exercise equipment. Even during travel, there is no need to fall off the exercise bandwagon.
Mike Robinson, ACE-certified Personal Trainer and owner of MZR Fitness in San Luis Obispo, says his “on the go workout” is perfect for time-crunched individuals.
To warm up, he jumps rope for 3-5 minutes, followed by traveling push-ups and these dumbbell exercises: Squat and overhead press, power jumps in place (holding dumbbells), side lunge with dumbbell (reaching downward) and lateral raises with weights, squats and monkey rows. He finishes with some bicycle flutter kicks.
“I speed through everything and do my sets in increments of 30 seconds, trying to increase my reps every time I perform that exercise,” Mike explains. He adds, “It forces me to challenge myself each set to get better, and it also helps me kill the boredom of counting reps.”
With some “very loud hip hop tunes” plugged into his ears, Robinson says his workout is both fun and motivating.
Ryan Rogers, Director of Mentorships and Internships and Strength and Conditioning Coach at Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, says with two young children, time is of the essence.
Whenever Rogers is outdoors biking, running or rollerblading, he likes to challenge himself by picking up the intensity and burning calories. The best way to do this is by picking landmarks on the road that he tries to reach as fast as possible. This is a great way to do “intervals.”
“When I get there, I will slowly come back to a moderate pace to recover a bit, and then do it again. Sometimes, the interval may be only 10 yards, but at a very high intensity, and other times, it can be quite long and a little less intense,” Rogers says.
These mind games will keep you from getting bored and help burn extra calories.
To build strength, Rogers, who is an expert strength and conditioning coach, puts together a very time-efficient push, pull and lower body circuit.
“For example, I may do a circuit where I do a dumbbell incline bench (horizontal push) press, a standing one-arm cable row (horizontal pull), and a barbell deadlift (lower body), going straight from one exercise to the next with no rest for 2 to 4 sets. That way, I am not wasting any time standing around in between sets, but the muscles that have just worked get a little rest while I do the other two exercises.”
The added benefit of this type of training is that it’ll keep your heart rate high, which gives you a cardio benefit during the strength-training session. Circuit training is a great way for busy individuals to combine cardio and strength, which you need for good heart health and to strengthen bones.
Tracie Rogers, program director at A.T. Still University in Phoenix, Ariz. and owner of The BAR Fitness, says as a working mother with two young children her workouts are precious.
She says, it’s the only time of the day when she’s able to focus on herself and doesn’t have to take care of others. This attitude has changed her approach to exercise altogether.
“I head to the gym early in the morning before the chaos of my day begins – it’s the only way I can guarantee that I get my workout in,” Tracie says. “My workout priority is making my workout fun. It consists of a high-intensity circuit that is different each time.”
Rogers works out in a group of 10-20 people who have become her early morning social group as well: “We laugh, listen to great music and sweat like crazy!”
Kim McDonald, an ACE-certified Personal Trainer and an internationally ranked amateur triathlete, says his favorite and hardest workout of the year is a “brick workout,” which in the triathlon world means running off the bike.
He’ll do this on the second and third week before his key Olympic distance (1.5km swim/40k bike/10k run) race of the year, the USAT National Championships.
This workout is designed to simulate race pace on the run and bike, specifically being able to maintain a high wattage on the bike after maximum efforts on hills and turns, then training your mind and legs to run fast on fatigued legs.
McDonald will do this set two to three times. To keep him on track during his workout, he recruits another triathlete who can really push him on the run to join him in this suffer fest.
He sets up the bike on a trainer at the track, then bikes for 12 minutes at 215 watts (hard effort), including a 10-second max effort at 400 watts (ridiculously hard effort) at 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 minutes. After a 1-minute recovery from the 12-minute workout, he’ll run off the bike for 1.5 miles at a 6-min/mile pace.
Then he repeats the set. This workout is very specific and geared for an elite triathlete. At age 56, McDonald is both gifted and a hard worker. At the same time, he provides a great example that people in midlife and older can still perform at a very high fitness level, provided they are healthy and enjoy pushing physical boundaries as many triathletes do.
You can see that even the busiest fitness professionals find a way to make regular exercise a priority in their lives and so can you. To kickstart your workout, check out the ACE Get Fit website complete with Fit Facts, an exercise library, workouts and more. Consider joining a local health club, running club or other active organization and look for an ACE-certified Personal Trainer near you to get started.
Marion Webb is the writer and editor for the American Council on Exercise and is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer and an ACE-certified Group Fitness Instructor. To leave comments, please share them below. For specific fitness-related story ideas, please e-mail her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.