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17 Secrets to Sticking to Your Exercise Routine - and Maximizing Results

By Kelli Calabrese MS, CSCS

1. Make natural food choices - go through the pantry and donate anything that is in a box, can or frozen from a processed source. The more natural the foods you eat - in their most raw states, the more energy you will derive from it. Avoid anything that has a wrapper or if your tongue has to do gymnastics to pronounce the ingredients. Food shop often to keep fresh organic foods readily available. Shop only around the outside of the grocery store. The more money spent on marketing a food item, the worse off it is for you. If the food was around 100+ years ago, it's most likely good for you and not genetically modified, fortified or altered from its natural state.

2. Rely on the Thermic Effect of Food - Ten to 35 % of our metabolism can come from the Thermic Effect of Food - which is the energy needed to process the food consumed. If you eat 5 - 6 smaller meals a day, you will never feel like you are on a diet, your energy will be steady, you will never go into a hyperglycemic state and your body will become a fat burning machine which will be prepared to exercise at any give time. Each meal should be a mini version of what you are likely used to if you currently eat 3 meals a day. Every meal should contain a lean protein, a starchy carbohydrate and a fibrous carbohydrate.

3. Change Your State - Once you make up your mind about something, become relentless about it and the process of achieving the result is much more seamless. When you decide you want to feel and look better and acquire the knowledge to do so, making the right decisions regarding eating and exercising becomes effortless. Relate your health to other accomplishments you have achieved in your life. To decide means to cut off any other possibility. Make your health a must in your schedule and in all of your decisions.

4. Apply the 90 / 10 rule - If 90 percent of the time you are making healthful food choices in the right amounts and you are exercising regularly and intensely, enjoy the other 10% of the time without an ounce of guilt. You can plan ahead for your 10% if you know a party is coming up over the weekend or if you will be traveling and have to miss a workout. But in the event that you are overcome by the dessert menu, indulge without any remorse and know the very next meal that you will be back on track.

5.Warm up before a strength training session - Warming up increases blood flow to muscles by about 55%, giving you better muscle contraction. You'll sweat earlier, which helps to regulate your body temperature. It also jump starts the neuromuscular connection which initiates the release of carbohydrate and fat enzymes and hormones while reducing your perceived exertion during strength training. Just 5 minutes of walking or cycling will meet this requirement.

6.Vary your cardio exercises - Alternate between two or more cardiovascular activities like walking and cycling or kickboxing and step aerobics. This will help to optimally develop your cardiovascular fitness, maintain the element of fun in exercise, help you avoid over-training, as well as injury. Bottom line, you will expend more calories.

7.Incorporate several cardio techniques - Use a combination of continuous, interval, circuit and Fartlek (speed play) training. Changing techniques forces your body to adapt and become more efficient. Vary the intensity and modify impact styles. For example, if you have been walking the same path at the same pace every day, begin to incorporate bursts of acceleration intermittently. The underlying principle is that change is what keeps the body progressing, making improvements and burning fat.

8.Plan your workouts in Phases - Organize your workouts into a cyclic structure. For example, for two to three weeks, exercise at a lower intensity for 45 to 60 minutes, and then, for the next two to three weeks, perform 20 to 30 minutes at your highest intensity. The following 2 to 3 weeks, workout at a moderate intensity for 30 to 45 minutes. This system allows you to maintain a high level of fitness and not over-train. This cycling of workout structures will help your body become more efficient at fat burning.

9.Circuit Train - Perform several strengthening exercises interspersed with a short cardio segments. For example perform a leg press, lateral pull down and abdominal crunch followed by 3 minutes of cycling. Then repeat another 3 strength exercises followed by 3 minutes of walking. Circuit training has a lower dropout rate, is an efficient calorie burner, increases muscular strength and decreases body fat.

10.Strength Train with Multi Joint exercises - Choose exercises that work compound muscle groups - meaning more than one muscle group at a time. This will give you the most mileage per exercise. Examples include squats, lunges, and push ups. For every pound of muscle on your body you need 35 to 50 calories per day to sustain it, while every pound of fat on your body requires only a modest 2 calories per day.

11.Exercise first thing in the morning - Morning exercisers have a higher likelihood of showing up. Later in the day, the odds that you'll skip your workout increase as interruptions arise and fatigue sets in. Morning exercise also helps regulate your hormone response, telling your body to release fat and kick start your metabolism.

12.Eat a "primer meal prior to working out - Having a small balanced meal prior to exercise will help you burn fat. After you eat, your blood sugar rises and exercise acts like insulin to help regulate blood glucose. Eating will also give you the energy for a more intense workout - you will therefore burn more calories.

13.Train with intensity - To get the full benefits of exercise, you must graduate from the "pink weights and moderate walking. Do not be afraid to increase your resistance and challenge your muscles and cardiovascular system. In order to change, you have to push your physical limits beyond what you are accustomed to.

14. Stay hydrated. In order for fat to be metabolized, it must first be released from the fat cell and then be transported by the bloodstream where it is shunted to the liver and other active tissues to be used as fuel. If you are in a dehydrated state, the liver has to come to the aid of the kidneys and can't focus on it's role of releasing fat. A general rule of thumb is to take your body weight and multiply it by.55 to estimate how many ounces of water you should consume daily.

15. Exercise using bursts of acceleration and recovery. Research shows that heart rate variability is the greatest predictor of health. To train for the greatest heart rate ranges, perform bursts of activity throughout the day. For example, you can sprint out to the mail box, run in place for 60 seconds while your food is heating up or burst up 3 flights of stairs. Bursts of acceleration can last up to 60 seconds and can be repeated 5 - 7 times daily every other day. Your metabolism will remain raised after the burst (known as the afterburn) and will remain elevated for up to an hour or more depending on how intense the burst was. Overall, performing short bursts throughout the day contributes to calories burned, fat lost, improved health and mental clarity.

16. Journal - writing down your goals, having a mission, recording physical activity and logging food consumed are a proven way to get results. Those who commit goals and a plan to paper have a higher success rate. You can use a journal that is specifically developed to walk you through the fat loss process like the one available in the Feminine, Firm & Fit program ( or use a new blank document or notebook to record your feelings, successes, obstacles and achievements.

17. Exercise with a buddy - your chances of sticking to your exercise program are higher when you enlist a significant other. Having accountability to a partner is more motivating than exercising alone. Choose a partner who is important to you, who shares in your goals and is of a similar physical ability (or slightly better).

About The Author

Kelli Calabrese MS, CSCS, 2004 Personal Trainer of the Year, Editor Personal Fitness Professional Magazine, Editor of Wellness and Fitness Entrepreneur Magazine, Board of Directors for the Personal Trainer Business Alliance, Lead Exercise Physiologist National Exercise Sports Trainers Association, Former Lead Fitness Expert for eDiets and eFitness. Kelli has 3 science degrees in the areas of Cardiac Rehabilitation, Exercise Physiology and Biology. She has attained over 20 Fitness and Nutrition Certifications. She is the author of Feminine, Firm & Fit and co-author of The Power of Champions. Kelli is available for seminars, personal training, online training and phone coaching, grocery shopping tours. For more information about Kelli please visit or call 908-879-1469.


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