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You're not alone if your workout routine has been inconsistent during the last several months. Summer is a unique season in that longer days are generally spent arranging after-work plans with friends, taking family trips, and spending weekends at outdoor barbecues or the beach – rather than hours invested inside a gym.

While the warm weather provides plenty of opportunities to get active outside, a more unpredictable schedule can make it tough to do so on a daily basis. Now that fall is here and our work and family duties have returned to normal, we can make exercise a more consistent part of our schedule once more.

However, after a few months of laxity, this is easier said than done. Anyone who has attempted to reduce weight, tone up, or simply recommit to exercise understands that the battle is frequently more mental than physical.

Top 10 Fitness Plan

Keep It Short:

Always opt for a short and intense workout over a longer one where you don't push yourself. HIIT it, then quit it.

Get It Done:

Start your day with a workout so you don't have a chance to skip it later. This one is great for all the procrastinators out there. If you want a little more inspiration, check out these tips to help you crush your morning workout — a little prep goes a long way.

Two Birds, One Stone:

Cardio and strength training don't have to happen separately. Combine them in one workout like this 30-minute printable for a killer workout.

Hit the Floor:

Yes, you can lie on the floor and still get an awesome workout. These moves are proof.

Double TV Time:

Your commercial breaks are mini workouts that add up after an hour or two of your favorite shows. Try this three-minute workout the next time you want to binge on the tube.

Socialize:

Grab friends for your next class. Scheduling a fitness date will make you more likely to stick with the game plan. No one likes to bail on someone they love.

Pack Up Early:

Get your gear ready to go the night before your workout. That way you don't have to rush around right before your workout or end up skipping it altogether.

Change Your Commute:

Ride your bike or walk for a portion or all of your commute. Making things active will help you burn calories and keep you off public transportation for as long as possible.

Multitask the Mundane:

You can always sneak in some exercise. Move through calf raises when you're standing in a long line or waiting for the bus, and try this two-minute workout you can do while brushing your teeth.

Enjoy a Snack:

The right pre workout snack can fuel you up for better performance at your next workout. Try one of these and enjoy.

How to Get Into A Workout Routine

1. Assess your fitness level

You probably have some idea of how fit you are. But assessing and recording baseline fitness scores can give you benchmarks against which to measure your progress. To assess your aerobic and muscular fitness, flexibility, and body composition, consider recording:

  • Your pulse rate before and immediately after walking 1 mile (1.6 kilometers)

  • How long it takes to walk 1 mile, or how long it takes to run 1.5 miles (2.41 kilometers)

  • How many standard or modified pushups you can do at a time

  • How far you can reach forward while seated on the floor with your legs in front of you

  • Your waist circumference, just above your hip bones

  • Your body mass index

2. Design your fitness program

It's easy to say that you'll exercise every day. But you'll need a plan. As you design your fitness program, keep these points in mind:

  • Consider your fitness goals. Are you starting a fitness program to help lose weight? Or do you have another motivation, such as preparing for a marathon? Having clear goals can help you gauge your progress and stay motivated.

  • Create a balanced routine. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during the course of a week. Greater amounts of exercise will provide even greater health benefits.
    But even small amounts of physical activity are helpful. Being active for short periods of time throughout the day can add up to provide health benefits.
    Do strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week. Aim to do a single set of each exercise, using a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions.

  • Start low and progress slowly. If you're just beginning to exercise, start cautiously and progress slowly. If you have an injury or a medical condition, consult your doctor or an exercise therapist for help designing a fitness program that gradually improves your range of motion, strength and endurance.

  • Build activity into your daily routine. Finding time to exercise can be a challenge. To make it easier, schedule time to exercise as you would any other appointment. Plan to watch your favorite show while walking on the treadmill, read while riding a stationary bike, or take a break to go on a walk at work.

  • Plan to include different activities. Different activities (cross-training) can keep exercise boredom at bay. Cross-training using low-impact forms of activity, such as biking or water exercise, also reduces your chances of injuring or overusing one specific muscle or joint. Plan to alternate among activities that emphasize different parts of your body, such as walking, swimming and strength training.

  • Try high-interval intensity training. In high-interval intensity training, you perform short bursts of high-intensity activity separated by recovery periods of low-intensity activity.

  • Allow time for recovery. Many people start exercising with frenzied zeal — working out too long or too intensely — and give up when their muscles and joints become sore or injured. Plan time between sessions for your body to rest and recover.

  • Put it on paper. A written plan may encourage you to stay on track.

3. Assemble your equipment

You'll probably start with athletic shoes. Be sure to pick shoes designed for the activity you have in mind. For example, running shoes are lighter in weight than cross-training shoes, which are more supportive.

If you're planning to invest in exercise equipment, choose something that's practical, enjoyable and easy to use. You may want to try out certain types of equipment at a fitness center before investing in your own equipment.

You might consider using fitness apps for smart devices or other activity tracking devices, such as ones that can track your distance, track calories burned or monitor your heart rate.

4. Get started

Now you're ready for action. As you begin your fitness program, keep these tips in mind:

  • Start slowly and build up gradually. Give yourself plenty of time to warm up and cool down with easy walking or gentle stretching. Then speed up to a pace you can continue for five to 10 minutes without getting overly tired. As your stamina improves, gradually increase the amount of time you exercise. Work your way up to 30 to 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week.

  • Break things up if you have to. You don't have to do all your exercise at one time, so you can weave in activity throughout your day. Shorter but more-frequent sessions have aerobic benefits, too. Exercising in short sessions a few times a day may fit into your schedule better than a single 30-minute session. Any amount of activity is better than none at all.

  • Be creative. Maybe your workout routine includes various activities, such as walking, bicycling or rowing. But don't stop there. Take a weekend hike with your family or spend an evening ballroom dancing. Find activities you enjoy to add to your fitness routine.

  • Listen to your body. If you feel pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or nausea, take a break. You may be pushing yourself too hard.

  • Be flexible. If you're not feeling good, give yourself permission to take a day or two off.

5. Monitor your progress

Retake your personal fitness assessment six weeks after you start your program and then again every few months. You may notice that you need to increase the amount of time you exercise in order to continue improving. Or you may be pleasantly surprised to find that you're exercising just the right amount to meet your fitness goals.

If you lose motivation, set new goals or try a new activity. Exercising with a friend or taking a class at a fitness center may help, too.

Starting an exercise program is an important decision. But it doesn't have to be an overwhelming one. By planning carefully and pacing yourself, you can establish a healthy habit that lasts a lifetime.

Fitness Life Hacks

  • Move during your meetings. 

  • Turn your commute into a workout. 

  • Don't spend an hour in the gym, just HIIT it for 30 minutes. 

  • Socialize while you're moving. 

  • Forget working out at the office—just don't sit down the entire time.

  • Kids aren't obstacles, they're actually enablers!

Fitness Workout Hacks

There’s a new workout fad every month, a new must-take supplement every year, and a new reason you’re not shedding those extra pounds every time you open a men’s magazine. It’s enough to make your head spin. To get an effective workout, perhaps you should turn to science. Here is a collection of scientifically proven tricks that will get you in  better shape. Want a more efficient and effective trip to the gym? Try these workout hacks.

Exercise Between 2:30 pm and 8:30 pm

If you follow a normal sleep cycle, the best time to train will be in the late afternoon or early evening. Studies have shown that this is the optimal time based on the body’s circadian rhythm and core temperature. That said, you can get an even more personalized recommendation by finding out when your resting heart rate is at its peak. Find that out and hit the gym at that time.

Listen to Dance Music

Whether you’ve attended an underground party with some big name DJ spinning or not, you may want to toss on some EDM when you’re about to throw around some weights. A study conducted by Dr. Costas Karageorghis, deputy head of the School of Sport and Education at Brunel University, London, found the fast, rhythmical bass of a dance track with many beats per minute is the perfect bench press soundtrack. By inducing alpha brain wave activity, a fast dance number can trick you into being less tired.

Rest for 3 Minutes Between Sets

If you’re lifting heavy weights, you’re probably not resting long enough between sets. Jeffrey M. Willardson, part of the Kinesiology and Sports Studies Department at Eastern Illinois University, states that the rest period between sets when power training should be about 3 minutes. If the person working out has not done a lot of strength training, that rest period should be closer to 4 to 5 minutes. So take a breather; it’s good for you.

Do These Exercises

On one hand, exercise seems very simple. Work up a sweat or tire out your muscles and you probably had a good workout. On the other hand, exercise can be extremely complicated. There are so many factors that come into play that the average person can’t possibly figure out the perfect workout for them. That said, science can help. These are the exercises that stimulate the most muscle fibers in a wide range of body parts. If you’re looking to blast your back, stick to deadlifts, chin-ups, and bent-over rows. Want toned shoulders? Go shoulder press and lateral raises. 

The Bottomline

Starting a fitness program may be one of the best things you can do for your health. Physical activity can reduce your risk of chronic disease, improve your balance and coordination, help you lose weight — and even improve your sleep habits and self-esteem. And there's more good news. You can start a fitness program in only five steps.