You can do a lot of things with your mind and a computer, but you get a lot more out of life by keeping your body honed, too. Here are our favourite exercise tips, along with tools for tracking your fitness.
#10 Stay Fit Despite The Heat
Even if you’re motivated enough to actually get out the door when it’s hot out, you might not be doing your body any favours by treating a scorcher like any other day. Try drinking a non-sugar based slushie and avoid falling for hydration myths.
#9 Create The Ultimate Workout Playlist
Creating the right soundtrack for your run, bike or other exercise is part art, part science. You can read up what the New York Times’ interview experts have to say, but you can also use some tools and techniques to pick out the right pace. Having great, high-energy music won’t make you a marathon runner, but it can keep you moving toward the finish line with determination. Our readers also offered up their own takes on the best workout music.
#8 Keep Working Out In Winter
If there’s anything worse for workout willpower than the summer heat, it’s the deep cold of winter. But take heart: the average blast of cold air can’t hurt your lungs, and if you take the right precautions, slippery roads and even bronchial symptoms can be overcome in a cold run. If you’re the biking type, but find the passing wind and conditions far too cold, take seriously avid cyclist (and MetaFilter founder) Matt Haughey’s advice on tips and equipment for winter cycling.
#7 Get In Shape With Little Or No Equipment
You think that if you drop $1500 on that elliptical machine, you’ll be honor-bound to spend some serious hours on it. But it doesn’t work that way. Instead, try some of the no-equipment roster of fitness moves explained by the Zen Habits blog, or a similar set of no-stuff-needed workouts outlined by Dumb Little Man. If you like the idea of using equipment but don’t have cash to burn, you can acquire everything you need for under $100 — this guide explains what to buy. Or, you can try getting a complete workout with a single kettlebell.
#6 Try A New Fitness Plan
Ever heard of shovelgloving? The Couch to 5K plan? Maybe you’ve heard some more gym-rat friends discuss interval training? Switching up your routine, using new tools, and picking up a different fitness plan can stretch your body and skills in helpful ways.
#5 Trade Static Stretching For Dynamic Warm-Ups
Forget what your gym teacher told you — touching your toes, bending at the waist, and other exercises that stretch your muscles don’t help much, if at all, according to a study of thousands of runners of all ages. Instead, try gradually moving up from a fast walk to a run, swinging your arms and legs a bit, and other dynamic stretches before you head out.
#4 Use The Marine Corps Test To Gauge Your Fitness
Can you pull off 20 pull-ups, 100 crunches, and a three-mile run in under 18 minutes, within the same two-hour span? Congratulations, you just scored 100 on the Marine Corps Fitness Test. If not, you’re in good company, and you can use the points of the armed forces to keep track of your fitness. (Note: The crunches scoring conflicts with other advice to avoid them, but you can swap in push-ups for a similar upper-and-mid-body test).
#3 Go Barefoot, Or Just Skip Expensive Running Shoes
You might just think of shoes as a fancy cover for your foot, but people run very differently in shoes than barefoot. What’s more, running barefoot isn’t just a natural kick — it’s usually better than wearing expensive, engineered running shoes. There’s more to it than just kicking off your shoes, of course. Leo Babuta of the Zen Habits blog has a wealth of advice on barefoot running, as do the experts interviewed by Science Daily. In any case, consider that it’s the foot, not the shoe, that does the running and start off slowly to avoid injury.
#2 Track And Train With Great Mobile Apps
If you don’t mind bringing your smartphone with you while you’re moving, you can do a lot more with it than just listen to music. Apps like RunKeeper, CardioTrainer and other great mobile fitness apps can serve as great motivators, as they show you exactly how much further you’re going, how long it’s taking, and how far you’re covering every time you head out.
#1 Stick With Push Ups For Overall Fitness
How can something as old-school as a push up — hands on the ground, knees off the floor, and push — still be in use, and even be growing in acceptance? Because it works out your whole body, it’s better on your back than crunches, and you can use your raw push up count as a graduated curve toward fitness, as with the Hundred Push Ups program. Some things about getting in shape don’t ever get tired.
What’s the best thing you’ve read about fitness, and what have you learned from your own workouts and exercises? We want to hear about great tips and new ideas in the comments.
This article has been updated since its original publication.