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As CrossFit gains popularity, science takes a closer look. Here are the results of several studies that examined CrossFit, both as a movement and a modality.

CrossFit as a Cult

Next time annoying haters ask you whether CrossFit is a cult, you can tell them that it’s actually a “reinventive institution.” Or so says an article published in 2015 in the journal International Review for the Sociology of Sport. In it, the author explains that while CrossFit can be polarizing, its emphasis on performance regulation and mutual surveillance (i.e., athletes scoring and coaching each other) provides evidence that it has recalibrated and changed the institution of fitness. And in case the haters want to get in-depth, you can tell them that a reinventive institution is a place, like a spiritual retreat or virtual community, where members voluntarily go to improve themselves

Strength Wins Out

Ever wonder what it really takes to excel in a benchmark WOD? So did researchers at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. So they compared the times of competitive CrossFitters in “Grace,” “Fran” and “Cindy” with three physiological measurements — VO2 max (a measure of endurance), Wingate (anaerobic power) and “CrossFit Total” (essentially overall strength: 1RM back squat, overhead press and deadlift). Interestingly, there were no significant associations with Cindy. However, Grace and Fran were a different story. While whole-body strength (CrossFit Total) and power (Wingate) scores were strongly related to Grace and Fran scores, only CrossFit Total survived the rigorous analysis. In other words, in the end, how strong the competitor was best predicted how well they’d do in Grace and Fran. Stay strong, my friends.

The Culture of Community

In this study, published in the Journal of Exercise, Movement, and Sport, researchers held focus groups in CrossFit gyms in Canada, asking members various questions about their box’s culture. They based their questions on Edgar Schein’s model of organizational culture, which describes (a) artifacts (visible aspects, such as dress code), (b) espoused values (philosophies and statements of identity) and (c) assumptions (unspoken or unconscious behaviors). Members reported the rugged nature of the gym and the social behavior of members around a WOD to be important artifacts. In addition, pride in the gym and their workouts were espoused values, as were the inclusion of all people regardless of abilities and a strong sense of community that extended beyond the gym. And the shared underlying assumption by all members, coaches and owners? Improvement in members’ health and well-being.


In a detailed in-depth study published in Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal, Bobbi Knapp looked at themes within a CrossFit box relative to gender. In applying a critical feminist geographical approach, she found multiple elements within a box that create a welcoming culture for women, including a strong sense of community, the emphasis on pushing through physical limits, coed workouts and the acceptance of being “beaten by a girl.” She concludes that while there is some reinforcement of gender norms in CrossFit, there are also many ways in which “ideal femininity” and “hegemonic” (controlling) masculinity are resisted.

Genuine Cross-Training

In a study published in December 2015 in the International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, researchers measured physiological responses to a single bout of CrossFit training. After looking at things like heart rate, blood pressure, pulse pressure, mean arterial pressure, blood lactate, blood glucose, and total cholesterol values before and following that bout of CrossFit, they determined that athletes’ physiological responses were consistent with those in athletes following high-intensity interval training and conventional cardiorespiratory training. In other words, yes, CrossFit is a good workout.

5 Ways CrossFit Training Differs From Bodybuilding

5 Ways CrossFit Training Differs From Bodybuilding

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What do lifting weights, compound exercises, cardio sessions and competing all have in common? CrossFit and bodybuilding. There’s plenty of overlap, but these athletes are firing on two completely different engines. Step into each world and you’ll see just how deep their differences are. Some athletes move from one discipline to the other for a new challenge, while others remain content and never change, but you’ll find a rare breed of those involved in both simultaneously … and unless you’re factoring in national-level competitors, you’ll probably see those who practice crossover training are the fittest bunch on both sides of the table. If you’re looking to really mix up routines for a while, it’s best to know the fundamental differences between each of these intense worlds.

1. Range of Motion (ROM)

CrossFitters are monitored by a judge to ensure they perform the exercises fully during competition — no cheat reps allowed. On the flip side, bodybuilders will modify their ROM as needed throughout training to target different muscle groups or to alter the training goal. For enhanced assault, bodybuilders incorporate bottom-half-range reps (just the first half of the move, reps intentionally not going for full extension) to pump the muscle with blood at the end of their last set. It’s brutal, but damn does it work wonders. Come competition time, CrossFitters need to be hitting full- range movements. But incorporating some controlled partial-range sets in training will increase all-around strength so you’re not limited by the weakest part of the ROM.

2. Training Principles

CrossFitters learn the specifics of the WOD upon entering the box. It’ll be a mix of movements, essentially using the whole body and throwing in some cardio for good measure. A variety of muscle groups will be used in each workout session as you focus on overall performance. When bodybuilders enter the gym, however, their game plan is focused on one major muscle group — a wide array of exercises to stress every fiber that comprises it. Most exercises can be done with different grips or foot placement, to hit the muscle in slightly different ways, for multiple sets of the same exercise.

A bodybuilder’s training is split up to divide muscle groups, ensuring muscles grow and rest in balance, providing weaker groups the extra attention needed to balance physique. Bodybuilders will cycle through training plans with varying sets and reps, sometimes focusing on lower reps at a heavy weight or more reps with lighter weight. Rest time between sets is also considered, a notion almost unheard of in CrossFit circles (or boxes ☺). Bodybuilders, on the other hand, can tell you which muscle group they’re training on a given day and the entire week ahead. It’s easy to suffer an injury because of weak supporting (or antagonistic) muscles, so athletes of both sports should make a point to address all muscle groups equally. Trying to increase your squat but not strengthening your hamstrings and lower back? Good luck. Looking for a bigger back while ignoring your biceps and shoulders? Don’t bother. CrossFit covers all bases, so bodybuilders can quickly find any weak links in their anatomical chain after dropping in for only a few classes.

3. Nutrition

The better half of anyone’s physical fitness upkeep is nutrition. Most CrossFitters see this in its purest form: fuel. Bodybuilders may only hit the gym three days per week, depending on what phase of training they’re in, but their daily nutrition is calculated down to the last gram. Their focus is repair and recovery. They time their nutrition to the minute to maximize muscle growth. Whey protein is loved by all for its quick digestion and absorption speed, while the lesser-known micellar casein goes to work over an extended period. Bodybuilders love drinking casein shakes before bed to give the body an overnight, slower-digesting source of protein. Quest Protein Powder strikes a near 50-50 balance of whey and casein, making it a hard-to-beat choice and safe bet for any hour of the day. CrossFitters who only eat for their one-hour daily energy expenditure will be pleasantly surprised to see the results of a few well-timed protein bars and shakes.

4. Time-Under-Tension

In an AMRAP (as many reps/rounds as possible), CrossFitters are working against the clock. Their goal is usually for either a high number of reps in an extended time frame or to complete a set number of reps faster than their competitors. Reps are usually done with a single-time tempo, one count up and one count down. On the other hand, bodybuilders aren’t concerned with beating a clock unless they’re in a rush to get out of the gym that day. (If so, watch out!) They put muscles under different levels of tension each time by fluctuating the tempo of their lifts. This can be done on either the concentric or eccentric phase of the movement — or both. CrossFit uses a lot of explosive movements. It’s like sprinting with every muscle in your body. Altered timing in practice can help CrossFitters boost this explosive power, much like a runner who takes practice laps at back-and-forth paces. Squats, for example: Slowing down the decline, pausing at the bottom, then quickly pushing back up will stress the fast-twitch muscle fibers more than standard form, ultimately leading to improved execution on competition day.

5. Cardio Endurance

CrossFit athletes require tremendous cardiovascular endurance to get through tough WODs and competitions, so they need cardio components within training sessions. High-intensity interval training is one of the best ways to build cardio. On the contrary, a bodybuilder’s performance doesn’t rely on a ton of endurance, yet he logs hours and hours on cardio machines to prep for the stage (and posing in the comparison round is much harder than it looks!). The goal is to shed body fat, not get better at running. During a bulking period, added calorie expenditure isn’t ideal because you then need to eat more to compensate. After a while, eating so much food can get tiresome. Some light cardio should still be part of the plan, though, at least in cycles. That way, once it’s time for a bodybuilder’s competition prep (or anytime cutting), reintroducing more cardio to lose body fat won’t cripple him or have him falling off the stair climber!

Ready to change up your fitness game? Happy sweating, in whichever new sport you choose! Hopefully, it’ll be a little bit of both. 😉

5 Moves to Master Before Entering the Box

5 Moves to Master Before Entering the Box

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Bodybuilders are quite familiar with everyday compound exercises like squats and deadlifts, but we don’t do many others … cleans-and-jerks or push presses? Sounds kind of goofy, if you ask me. In my attempt to broaden my horizons into CrossFit, though, I knew my whole repertoire was up for grabs. First-timers in a box may wonder, What actually happens during CrossFit workouts? Are there breaks? What do I need to master before making the jump?

These are the five biggest exercises to know going in for anyone looking to be a strong athlete in the gym and the CrossFit realm.

1. Squats

While many bodybuilders and coaches will swear that deep squats are the only way to build great glutes, another camp disagrees. In my own quest to grow bigger quads, I’ve found success in keeping the work just above parallel and never fully coming to the top of the movement.

Bodybuilder Tip: While going full-out ass-to-grass has butt-building advantages, that range of motion isn’t needed to score you points in CrossFit. The judges are looking for your butt to get to parallel — that’s what makes it a successful squat. If this proves to be a struggle with poor mobility, try putting some small plates (5 pounds) under your heels.

2. Box Jumps

Some bodybuilders include cardio conditioning in their circuits, but many stick to the basics for stripping fat. Moderate-intensity stairs, intervals and Wingate sprints are found in the majority of our plans. Box jumps, though? Fear of catching my toes and smashing my shins (or knocking out my teeth) makes me shudder. And as a competitive athlete, I see a bunch of boxes and go straight for the tallest one, hip height — which may be a little overzealous and self-handicapping.

Bodybuilder Tip: Check your ego at the door and start small. Squat low, explode up and land low. Use your arms to generate momentum. Box jumps add up fast, especially in repetition, regardless of your cardio level. Of course, mastering a new metabolic routine also means you’re going to need to update your nutrition to maximize recovery. I’d recommend a high-quality blend of casein and whey protein isolates like Quest’s Cookies & Cream Protein Powder. It provides readily available amino acids to keep you in top form and some slower-digesting aminos to help sustain you through the day.

3. Pull-Ups

Lat pulldowns, barbell rows, cable rows and wide-grip pull-ups are pretty standard in a back workout for bodybuilders. But ask for something beyond a wide or narrow grip pull-up and you’ll probably just get a blank stare. A kipping pull-up? A butterfly pull-up? These are pretty standard in a box and moves to get familiar with as you embrace the new sport.

Bodybuilder Tip: A kipping pull-up may look like it uses momentum, but it requires a lot of strength and control to complete properly. “Kip” yourself up with a small swing at the bottom before pulling your chin up over the bar. The butterfly is even harder, like a kipping pull-up with a circular movement. To master these, start by progressing up from standard bodyweight pull-ups. You can anchor a band around the bar and rest your knees in the loop to take some of your weight out of the exercise, if necessary.

4. Barbell Thrusters

As if maxing out on each individual exercise wasn’t difficult enough, this combines two — a front squat into an overhead press with a barbell! This move requires the athlete to lock out at the top of the press for it to fully count as a rep. The major advantage of this exercise is that it’s a full-body burn, recruiting all major muscle groups, pumping your heart through the roof and torching calories (while building serious strength). It doesn’t get much better than that!

Bodybuilder Tip: Master each move independently before combining. Find your balance with the front squat and work on getting full depth by pushing through your heels. Work your way up to the press by building strength through reps of both seated- and standing-form shoulder presses. Pay extra attention to your weaker side (we’ve all got one) because any strength imbalance or lack of mobility in a shoulder joint can lead to injury easily. Don’t overlook your core! Keeping your torso straight and strong will go a long way.

5. Burpees

Ahhhh, everyone loves to hate burpees! From boot camps to conditioning workouts and now WODs, you’re bound to encounter them in a box. At a glance, they’re not too intimidating — vertical jump and a push-up? Easy enough … until you string them together for an endless minute and your oxygen supply runs out. Cardio endurance is needed here, especially as these get incorporated into a WOD among other strength moves.

Bodybuilder Tip: Push through it. The safety comfort here is that you don’t have to land on an object, so your shins are safe. But the hard truth is that you just do them over and over, again and again … and again! Building overall cardio endurance will be your greatest strength, so you might want to pick up the pace on the stair machine.

10-minute workouts

10-minute workouts

Short on time? Hate the gym? Too tired to exercise after work? These 10-minute workouts are just what you need.

These equipment-free fitness routines are great to do at home and short enough for you to easily fit them into your daily schedule.

There are six workouts, one for every day of the week if you include a rest day, each working on a different area of your fitness.

Try to do one of these routines daily to improve your general health and strengthen and tone different muscle groups.

The workouts can also be bolted on to your regular workout sessions if you want to tone your abs, legs, triceps or buttocks.

6-minute pre-exercise warm-up

Warm up and stretch properly before exercising to prevent injury and make your workouts more effective. This warm-up and stretching routine should take about 6 minutes.

10-minute cardio workout

Exercise your heart and lungs with this 10-minute cardio workout routine for aerobic fitness. If you have a skipping rope, replace any of the exercises with a 60-second burst of skipping.

10-minute toning workout

Firm up your bum, abs, legs and arms with this 10-minute toning workout. You will need a resistance band for some of the exercises but if you don’t have one, you can use water bottles.

10-minute legs, bums and tums workout

Tone up, firm up and burn fat from your tummy, hips, thighs and bottom with this 10-minute workout for legs, bums and tums.

10-minute abs workout

Tone your tummy muscles and get a flat stomach with this 10-minute abs workout. These abdominal exercises strengthen the muscles around your trunk.

10-minute bingo wings blaster

Banish those flabby upper arms for good with this 10-minute bingo wings workout. These arm-strengthening exercises tone your triceps, the muscle above your elbow.

10-minute firm butt workout

Lose the droopy booty and get the perfectly toned posterior with this 10-minute firm butt workout. These exercises strengthen your buttocks, thighs and back.

5-minute cool-down routine

Stretch and cool down after exercising to relax, improve flexibility and slow your heart rate. This cool-down routine should take about 5 minutes.

Walking for health

Walking for health

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Walking is simple, free and one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier.

It’s underrated as a form of exercise, but walking is ideal for people of all ages and fitness levels who want to be more active.

Regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers.

Use this guide to increase the amount of walking you do every week and maximise the health benefits.

Before you start

Any shoes or trainers that are comfortable, provide adequate support and don’t cause blisters will do.

Wear comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely. Choose thin layers, which you can add or remove depending on conditions.

If you’re walking to work, you could wear your usual work clothes with a comfy pair of shoes and change shoes when you get into work.

For long walks, you may want to take some water, healthy snacks, a spare top, sunscreen and a sunhat in a small backpack.

If you start going for regular, longer walks, you may want to invest in a waterproof jacket and some specialist walking shoes for more challenging routes.

Starting out

Start slowly and try to build your walking regime gradually. To get the health benefits from walking, it needs to be of moderate-intensity activity. In other words, it needs to be faster than a stroll.

If, to begin with, you can only walk fast for a couple of minutes, that’s fine. Don’t overdo it on your first day.

You can break up your activity into 10-minute chunks, as long as you’re doing your activity at a moderate intensity.

Begin every walk slowly and gradually increase your pace. After a few minutes, if you’re ready, try walking a little faster.

Try to walk 10,000 steps a day. Most of us walk between 3,000 and 4,000 steps a day anyway, so reaching 10,000 isn’t as daunting as it might sound.

Towards the end of your walk, gradually slow down your pace to cool down. Finish off with a few gentle stretches, which will improve your flexibility.

From walking to the shops or part of your journey to work, to walking the dog and organised group walks, try to make every step count.

Staying motivated

Make it a habit

The easiest way to walk more is to make walking a habit. Think of ways to include walking into your daily routine. Examples include:

  • walking part of your journey to work
  • walking to the shops
  • using the stairs instead of the lift
  • leaving the car behind for short journeys
  • walking the kids to school
  • doing a regular walk with a friend
  • going for a stroll with family or friends after dinner

If you live in a city, Walkit has an interactive walk planner to help you find the best walking route. Each suggested route includes your journey time, calorie burn, step count and carbon saving.

Mix it up

Add variety to your walks. You don’t have to travel to the countryside to find a rewarding walk. Towns and cities offer interesting walks, including parks, heritage trails, canal towpaths, riverside paths, commons, woodlands, heaths and nature reserves. For inspiring walks, visit Walk Unlimited.

For wheelchair users, visit Walks with wheelchairs and for parents with buggies, visit Walks with buggies.

Join a walking group

Walking in a group is a great way to start walking, make new friends and stay motivated.

Walking for Health’s Walk Finder allows you to search for organised walks near you. Many of the walks are aimed at people who do little or no exercise, but who would like to become more active. Watch a video about Walking for Health’s walking groups.

Ramblers organises group walks for health, leisure and as a means of getting around to people of all ages, backgrounds and for all levels of fitness. Its website has details of many locally organised walks in towns and cities, as well as the countryside.

The UK’s 15 National Parks run free guided walks for the whole family during the holidays.

Become a volunteer

One way to keep walking regularly is by becoming a volunteer to promote walking in your community and help other people get active. Walking for Health is England’s largest network of health walk schemes, helping people across the country lead a more active lifestyle. Volunteering is a great way to keep active, make new friends and explore your local area. Watch a video about volunteering for Walking for Health.

Set yourself a goal

You can walk 1,000 steps in around 10 minutes. Pedometers are a fun way to keep track of your walking. Use a pedometer to work out your average daily steps and then start adding extra steps.

Running tips for beginners

Running tips for beginners

Running is free, you can do it anywhere, and it burns more calories than any other mainstream exercise.

Regular running can reduce your risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. It can also boost your mood and keep your weight under control.

This guide is designed to make running a safe and enjoyable experience for beginners, and to provide you with tips on how to stay motivated.

Before you start

If you’ve not been active for a while, you may want to build your fitness levels gently with our guide to walking for health before you move on to running.

Running requires very little equipment, but a good pair of running shoes that suit your foot type may help improve comfort.

There are many types of trainers on the market, so get advice from a specialist running retailer who will assess your foot and find the right shoe for you.

The shoe’s structure weakens over time, especially with regular use. Running experts advise replacing running shoes every 300 miles (482km).

Plan your runs. Work out when and where (the exact route and time) you’re going to run and put it in your diary. That way, it won’t slip your mind.

If you feel out of shape, or you’re recovering from injury or worried about an existing condition, see your GP before you start running.

Starting out

To avoid injury and enjoy the experience, it’s essential to ease yourself into running slowly and increase your pace and distance gradually over several outings.

Start each run with a gentle warm-up of at least five minutes. This can include quick walking, marching on the spot, knee lifts, side stepping and climbing stairs.

Start walking for an amount of time that feels comfortable.

When you first start out, try alternating between running and walking during your session.

As time goes on, make the running intervals longer until you no longer feel the need to walk.

For information on good running technique, read How to run correctly.

Give yourself a few minutes to cool down after each run by walking and a doing few stretches. Try our post-run stretch routine.

Regular running for beginners means getting out at least twice a week. Your running will improve as your body adapts to the consistent training stimulus.

It’s better to run twice a week, every week, than to run six times one week and then do no running for the next three weeks.

We have produced a series of podcasts to help absolute beginners get into running.

Our Couch to 5K programme is designed to get just about anyone off the couch and running 5km in nine weeks.

Staying motivated 

Set yourself a goal

Whatever your level, setting challenges is useful to stay motivated. Training for a race, such as a 5K, or a charity run is a good way to keep going. Find a running event using our run finder or parkrun.

Run with a friend

It really helps to have someone about the same level of ability as you to run with. You’ll encourage each other when you’re not so keen to run. You’ll feel you don’t want to let your running partner down, and this will help motivate you. Find a running partner on realbuzz or JoggingBuddy.

Keep a diary

Keep a diary of your runs. Note down each run, including your route, distance, time, weather conditions and how you felt. That way, whenever your motivation is flagging, you can look back and be encouraged by how much you’ve improved. Check out realbuzz’s running blogs.

Improve your running

If you’re looking to improve your running, why not try the NHS Choices 5K+ running podcasts. Each podcast in the series provides a structured run with running music and coaching to develop your running technique, speed and stamina.

Mix it up

Keep your running interesting by adding variety. Running the same route over and over again can become boring. Vary your distances, pace and routes. Use realbuzz’s route planner to find, record and share your favourite running routes.

Join a club

A running club is the perfect way to commit to running regularly. Most clubs have running groups for different levels, including beginners. Clubs are also a great way to find running partners to run with outside of club sessions. Find a running club near you using RunTogether.

Should You Lift Weights to Lose Weight?

Should You Lift Weights to Lose Weight?

“Muscle weighs more than fat.” You’ve probably heard that phrase a million times before. And although it’s false (a pound is a pound), you may have taken it to mean you should stay far, far away from the weight rack if you’re trying to drop pounds. We get where you’re coming from, but it’s not exactly that cut and dry.

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The Need-to-Know

At the most basic level, losing weight comes down to being at a caloric deficit, which means you take in fewer calories than you burn, says Nick Tuminello, a personal trainer and author of Strength Training for Fat Loss. You could do that by skipping your afternoon vending machine visit or by jogging for an hour after work or—yep—by lifting weights. While some studies show cardio is king when it comes to the best exercise for weight loss, there’s something to be said for strength training.  With lifting, you’re still burning calories and fat all over—including your midsection. Harvard researchers found men who lifted weights for 20 minutes a day had less stomach fat than those who spent the 20 minutes doing cardio.  As for women: This study found resistance training helps women reduce their risk of fat in the belly region.

But more importantly, there’s what happens after you’ve built muscle. Muscle burns more energy (read: calories) throughout the day than fat does, so having more muscle stokes your metabolism. A recent study found that nine months of resistance training increased study participants’ resting metabolic rate by an average of 5 percent.

Think of it this way: Even if you’ve committed to the couch for a Big Little Lies marathon, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn while you’re just vegging out. “Basically, you have a bigger engine that needs more fuel,” Tuminello says. We’re not talking massive amounts of calories—adding one pound of muscle will burn an extra five to 10 calories per day, Tuminello says—but every little bit helps you inch closer to the calorie deficit needed to lose weight.

Even though exercise (no matter what type) is always a good idea, intensity is key. More challenging workouts will have a greater impact on your metabolism, which helps you burn more fat during and after exercise, Tuminello says.

The Best Way to Lift for Weight Loss

You can tweak your strength-training sessions to maximize the number of calories you burn. Tuminello suggests focusing on metabolic resistance training (MRT), which is basically high-intensity interval training (HIIT) with resistance added. He suggests performing circuits (completing 3 rounds of 3 to 4 total-body exercises back to back) and complexes (circuits using the same piece of equipment to minimize down time). For example, you might grab a pair of dumbbells and perform bent-over rows and then go straight into Romanian deadlifts and then dumbbell squats without resting in-between.


The idea is to get your heart rate elevated and keep it there, but you also want to make sure the dumbbells you pick up are challenging without compromising your form. Lifting heavier weights for fewer reps burns significantly more calories for two hours after a workout than more reps with lighter weights.

Don’t Be a Slave to the Scale

Here’s the catch: Building muscle might have you looking and feeling fitter and more toned, but those changes may not be so obvious when you hop on the scale. That’s because muscle is denser than fat, and one pound of fat takes up about four times as much space as muscle. “If the mirror is looking good, but the scale isn’t necessarily changing, what you’re really doing is changing the composition of your body,” Tuminello says. And that’s a great thing! You’re losing fat and gaining muscle, which resistance training does more effectively than endurance training, according to recent research. This post from a fitness Instagrammer sums it up: She’s clearly her fittest at 140 pounds, even though that’s 18 pounds heavier than her lowest weight.

9 surprising fitness tips

9 surprising fitness tips

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1. Go barefoot for whole-body health

If you refuse to wear shoes in the summer, you may enjoy better blood circulation, a happier mood, stronger bones and better posture. According to Barefoot in Toronto, a group that promotes a barefoot lifestyle, barefoot walking increases skin health, reduces foot calluses, builds arch strength and enhances sensory stimulation. Going barefoot also creates healthier toenails and reduces foot odour.

2. To burn fat, don’t sweat it

Sweat signals a rising body temperature, not necessarily an increased calorie burn (although most of us will sweat as we work harder). ‘In the sauna you’ll sweat buckets but you aren’t burning fat,’ says Brad Schoenfeld, author of 28 Day Body Shapeover. ‘The best indicator of calorie burn is either heart rate or a rating of perceived exertion (RPE).’ RPE is a self-report scale that ranges from 1 (complete rest) to 10 (maximum effort). High intensity equals increased heart rate, which equals more fat burn.

3. Yell to increase fitness levels and self-confidence

IntenSati is ‘active meditation”a fitness program that uses the voice and mind to intensify physical workouts. Participants say or shout empowering affirmations while kicking, jumping or lunging. For example, while punching, they yell, ‘I. Am. Strong. Now!’ These motivational phrases boost confidence and distract participants from feeling fatigued, which increases the workout benefits. If you can’t join the program, you may want to try this one in the privacy of your home gym.

4. Choose interval training for best results

‘You can do too much cardio,’ says fitness lifestylist Susie Shina, author of 60 Second Circuits: 1000 Ways to Get Your Body Back. ‘To burn fat effectively, one-minute sprint/recover repeats (interval training) on any cardio machine for a total of 20 minutes can be more beneficial than exercising at a steady rate.” Or tackle your intervals outside by walking, running, biking or skipping.

5. Bond to increase motivation and focus

‘It’s not necessarily resistance training, cardio or core work that keeps you fit,’ says Florida-based John Kent, owner of Adventure Boot Camp for Women. ‘It’s meeting with others.’ Healthy bonding moments’such as running hills or attending Pilates classes in a group setting’keep you motivated and focused on your fitness goals. (Learn about how one reader found motivation in a cycling fundraiser, and in group spin classes.)

6. Take celebrity fitness advice with a grain of salt

‘Don’t believe everything you read about how the stars stay fit,” says Los Angeles-based fitness instructor Torri Shack. “Many celebrities work out four to six days a week for up to 90 minutes each time, have professional trainers and eat a clean, very calorie-restrictive diet. They don’t ‘just’ do Pilates or yoga twice a week.’ When you compare yourself to a svelte movie star, remember that it’s her job to stay beautiful.

7. In a time crunch? Get a better workout!

‘People are surprised at how little exercise they need to get and stay fit,’ says personal trainer Keith Morton, founder of CityWide SuperSlow in Chicago. ‘It’s the quality, not quantity, of exercise that counts.’ Mississauga-based fitness trainer Marc Lebert adds that his best workouts occur when he’s pushed for time. ‘If I give myself 20 minutes to work my legs, I know I have to increase my intensity,’ he says. ‘A time limit makes every set count.’

8. Food packs more punch than exercise

‘When it comes to changing the size and shape of your body, exercise is only 30 percent of it,’ says Ariane Hundt, a New York City-based certified personal trainer and instructor at Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp. ‘The rest needs to come from proper nutrition and a positive sense of self.’ It only takes a few minutes to consume about 1,000 calories (one Quiznos Classic Italian sub, for instance)’but it can take hours to burn that sandwich off.

9. Tackle the best time to burn fat

Hundt advises doing cardio in the morning, on an empty stomach, if you’re looking to shed some weight. ‘Since you haven’t eaten since dinner, the carbohydrate stores in your muscles and liver will be nearly depleted,’ she says, ‘so your body has to reach into your fat stores for energy.” She encourages lean people to eat easily digested carbs before morning workouts, such as oatmeal and fruit’or risk losing lean muscle mass.

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15 Best Workout Tips of All Time

15 Best Workout Tips of All Time

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Want to know the secrets to getting a toned, trim body in record time? We did too, so we went straight to the top personal trainers, exercise physiologists and fitness instructors for the ultimate moves and motivation tricks to kick a fitness routine into high gear. Put a few of these tips into action each week and you’re guaranteed to see faster results!

  1. Tone Up on the Treadmill
    “Save time at the gym with this 10-minute cardio/sculpt session: Hop on a treadmill holding a three- to five-pound dumbbell in each hand, and set the speed to a brisk walk. Do a one-minute set each of shoulder presses, biceps curls, triceps extensions, side laterals, front laterals and standing triceps kickbacks one after another as you walk. I’s an amazing upper-body challenge that also gets your heart pumping. Do this series two or three times each week. As you improve, work up to doing four-minute sets.”
    —Michael George, trainer and owner of Integrated Motivational Fitness in Los Angeles
  2. Power Up Your Runs
    “Adding wall sits to the end of every run will strengthen your quads, hamstrings and glutes, improving your speed and endurance. Lean against a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart, then squat until your knees are bent at 45 degrees. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds; work up to doing 10 sets. Add a challenge by including heel raises: Lift your left heel, then the right, then lift both together twice.”
    —Mindy Solkin, owner and head coach of the Running Center, New York City
  3. Chart Your Progress
    “Stay motivated using a fitness report card. Jot down these subjects: Cardio, Muscle Conditioning, Flexibility and Attitude. Set goals (for example, doing 10 “boy” push-ups) and grade yourself A through F at least four times a year. When you see how much you improve, you’ll want to stay in great shape.”
    —Ken Alan, Los Angeles—based personal trainer
  4. Try This All-in-One Toner
    “A side-step squat with wood chop works your arms, torso, abs, back, legs, inner thighs and butt. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a three- to four-pound medicine ball in your hands. Bend your arms up so that the ball is at eye level over your right shoulder. As you bring the ball toward your left knee, step out with your left leg and bend it no further than 90 degrees, keeping your right leg straight. Return to the starting position. Do 10 to 15 reps and repeat on the other leg.”
    —David Kirsch, trainer and author of The Ultimate New York Body Plan (McGraw-Hill, 2004)
  5. Break Out the Shovel
    “Why pay someone to clear snow from your driveway? Besides burning nearly 400 calories per hour, shoveling snow develops muscular endurance and power. But be safe: Minimize the amount of snow on each shovelful, and bend from your knees and hips, not your back.”
    —Tom Seabourne, Ph.D., exercise physiologist and sports psychologist at Northeast Texas Community College in Mount Pleasant, Texas
  6. Work Out During Your Workday
    “Sit on a stability ball to strengthen your core, and keep dumbbells or exercise tubing at your desk. Squeeze in 12 to 15 reps of exercises like dumbbell curls, overhead presses and ab crunches; aim for two or three sets of each. This gives you more free time to fit in fun workouts like biking or tennis.”
    —Gregory Florez, personal trainer and CEO of Salt Lake City — based
  7. Take This Jump-Rope Challenge
    “The best cardio workout is the jump-rope double-turn maneuver. It’s intense: You’ll burn about 26 calories per minute! Do a basic jump for five minutes, then jump twice as high and turn the rope twice as fast so it passes under your feet twice before you land. This takes timing, patience and power. But you’ll get in great shape just by working at it.”
    —Michael Olajide Jr., former number one world middleweight contender and cofounder/trainer at Aerospace High Performance Center in New York City
  8. Give Yourself a Break
    “You don’t have to be a fitness saint to get results. Follow the 80/20 plan: Eighty percent of the year, you’ll exercise regularly and eat well. Know that you’ll slip 20 percent of the time due to holidays and work deadlines. When you accept that fitness isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition, you’re more likely to stick with it for life.”
    —Maureen Wilson, owner/personal trainer/instructor, Sweat Co. Studios, Vancouver, B.C.
  9. Get a Jump on Weight Loss
    “Add plyometric box jumps to your workout to improve your cardiovascular stamina and leg strength — you’ll really sculpt your hamstrings, quads and glutes. Find a sturdy box that’;s at least one foot high [like a Plyo Box, $139.95; 888-556-7464;]. Starting from a standing position, explosively jump to the middle of the box, then jump back down. Repeat 20 times.”
    —Michael George
  10. Don’t Skimp on Carbs
    “Your body needs them to fuel a workout, so reach for fruit or high-fiber crackers an hour beforehand. If you’e exercising for 90 minutes or longer, include some protein so that the carbs break down more slowly, giving you longer-lasting energy. Your best bets: low-fat cheese and crackers, trail mix or half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
    —Cindy Sherwin, R.D., personal trainer at the Gym in New York City
  11. Maximize Your Crunches
    “Don’t relax your abs as you lower your chest away from your knees during a crunch — you get only half the ab-toning benefit! To get the firmest abs possible, you need to sustain the contraction on the way down.”
    —Steve Ilg, founder of Wholistic Fitness Personal Training and author of Total Body Transformation (Hyperion, 2004)
  12. Intensify Your Push-Up
    “Squat-thrust push-ups get you in great shape because they work your upper body, core and lower body and improve agility, strength and endurance all at once. From a standing position, bend down, put your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart, and jump your feet back into plank position. If you’re strong, cross your ankles; otherwise, jump your feet wide apart. Do a push-up, then jump your feet together or uncross your ankles. Jump your feet back to your hands and stand up. Do eight reps total, rest for one minute, and repeat.”
    —Keli Roberts, Los Angeles — based trainer
  13. Paddle Your Way to Flatter Abs
    “Go kayaking to get a taut stomach — it’s ideal because much of your rowing power comes from your core. Mimic the motion and resistance of the water at home by looping an exercise band around the bottom of a table leg or other fixed object. Sit on the floor with legs extended, knees slightly bent; grasp one end of the band in each hand. Rotate your torso to one side as you bring the elbow back slightly, then switch sides. Do three sets of one to three minutes each.”
    —Barbara Bushman, Ph.D., associate professor of health, physical education and recreation at Southwest Missouri State University
  14. Make Over Your Running Routine
    “Unless you’re training for a marathon, skip long, slow, distance running — sprinting builds more muscle. Add a few 10- to 60-second sprints to your run, slowing down just long enough to catch your breath between them.”
    —Stephen Holt, 2003 ACE Personal Trainer of the Year
  15. Super-Sculpt Your Butt
    “Get great glutes by targeting the muscles and connective tissues buried deep in your body. To hit them, do high-intensity squats, such as jump squats. Then, blast off butt flab with cross-country skiing, bleacher running and stair climbing.”
    —Steve Ilg
Eating and exercise: 5 tips to maximize your workouts

Eating and exercise: 5 tips to maximize your workouts

Eating and exercise go hand in hand. When and what you eat can be important to how you feel when you exercise, whether it’s a casual workout or training for a competition. Consider these eating and exercise tips.

1. Eat a healthy breakfast

If you exercise in the morning, get up early enough to finish breakfast at least one hour before your workout. Be well-fueled going into a workout. Studies suggest eating or drinking carbohydrates before exercise can improve workout performance and may allow you to work out for a longer duration or higher intensity. If you don’t eat, you might feel sluggish or lightheaded when you exercise.

If you plan to exercise within an hour after breakfast, eat a light breakfast or drink something such as a sports drink. Emphasize carbohydrates for maximum energy.

Good breakfast options include:

  • Whole-grain cereals or bread
  • Low-fat milk
  • Juice
  • A banana
  • Yogurt
  • A pancake

And remember, if you normally have coffee in the mornings, a cup before your workout is probably OK. Also know that anytime you try a food or drink for the first time before a workout, you risk an upset stomach.

2. Size matters

Be careful not to overdo it when it comes to how much you eat before exercise. The general guidelines suggest:

  • Large meals. Eat these at least three to four hours before exercising.
  • Small meals or snacks. Eat these about one to three hours before exercising.

Eating too much before you exercise can leave you feeling sluggish. Eating too little might not give you the energy to keep you feeling strong throughout your workout.

3. Snack well

Most people can eat small snacks right before and during exercise. The key is how you feel. Do what works best for you. Snacks eaten soon before exercise probably won’t give you added energy if your workout lasts less than 60 minutes, but may prevent distracting hunger pangs. If your workout is longer than 60 minutes, you may benefit by including a carbohydrate-rich food or beverage during the workout. Good snack options include:

  • An energy bar
  • A banana, apple or other fresh fruit
  • Yogurt
  • Fruit smoothie
  • A whole-grain bagel or crackers
  • A low-fat granola bar
  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • Sports drink or diluted juice

A healthy snack is especially important if you plan a workout several hours after a meal.