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Archive for March, 2016

5 Medicine Ball Moves For The Ultimate, Strong Booty

5 Medicine Ball Moves For The Ultimate, Strong Booty

Darryl Estrine / Getty Images

Medicine balls are little orbs of weighted magic for your muscles. You can lift them, twist with them, toss them up, and throw them down. They add resistance making those basic exercises a little extra challenging—which is why we love using the training tool for working dem glutes. Plus, it’s a great way to mix things up and prevent squat fatigue.

The quick routine below is a little bit strength and a little bit cardio—because sometimes two is just better than one. You’ll need a medium-weight medicine ball (try starting with six to eight pounds and go heavier when you can). Five effective medicine ball exercises for your butt coming right up…

1. Lunge Drop – do two sets of 10 reps, alternate sides with each rep

Stand facing forward with feet hip-width apart, holding medicine ball at chest. Twist both feet to left and take a big step forward with left foot. Bend both knees lowering into a lunge while extending arms down, bringing ball in front of left foot. Push through heels to return to start position, alternate sides with each rep. Do two sets of 10 reps.

2. Bridge With Medicine Ball Squeeze – do two sets of 10 reps

Lie faceup with knees bent and feet flat on floor, heels close to glutes. Place medicine ball between knees and rest hands along sides of body with palms facing up. Squeeze the ball and drive through heels to lift hips. Pause at top, and return hips to mat. Do two sets of 10 reps.

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March 31, 20160 commentsRead More
5 Ridiculously Effective Bodyweight Exercises That Work Your Butt

5 Ridiculously Effective Bodyweight Exercises That Work Your Butt

Julia Albrecht / EyeEm / Getty Images

Having a strong butt is really, really important. That’s because knee pain is often traced back to weak hips and glutes. So targeting these areas and focusing on strengthening your hips, thighs, and butt can help prevent pains. 

Plus…your glutes are involved in almost every athletic activity from running and jumping to plié-ing, dancing, and pulsing. So working on your backside can help lead to improvements in future workouts.

So add any (or all!) of these bodyweight butt moves below to your regular strength routine.

1. Rainbow Down Dog — do two sets of 10 reps on each side

Start in a downward dog position. Shift weight to left and extend right leg to right with foot pointed. Lift right leg up and over, creating a semi-circle, lowering on a diagonal behind left leg. Retrace the circle with right foot. That’s one rep. Do two sets of 10 reps on each side.

2. Figure 4 Bridge— do two sets of 10 reps on each side

Lie on back with knees bent, feet flat on floor with heels a few inches away from butt. Cross right ankle over left knee and spread arms in a low “V” next to body with palms facing up. Press through left heel to lift hips a few inches off mat. Pause, then slowly return hips to mat. Do two sets of 10 reps on each side.

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5 Types Of Workout Pains You Should Never Ignore

5 Types Of Workout Pains You Should Never Ignore


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Pain is weakness leaving the body? Not exactly. While some discomfort is a hallmark of a challenging but effective workout (they don’t call it delayed onset muscle soreness just for fun), some pains definitely aren’t worth ignoring, no matter how tough you are. 

“No pain, no gain is not always true in exercise, so don’t push through it if your mind is telling you it may be something else,” says Natalie Neuharth, D.P.T., physical therapist at Orthology. “It’s always better to prevent injury than to try and fix it.” And if you are injured, don’t brush off the pain. “The longer you wait, the more chronic it can become, and it can potentially take longer to heal and lead to other pains and injuries,” says Neuharth.

Whether you’re concerned about your rotator cuff, shin splints, hip pain, or an irritated knee, follow these guidelines below to help you decide on a plan of action.

5 types of workout pains to pay attention to: 

1. Sharp pain

A sharp or stabbing pain during exercise (or any time, really) is a red flag that something is up. “Sharpness is not a normal physiological response. If you are experiencing sharp pain, it usually means there is something not functioning properly in that body system,” says Neuharth. “A few common causes of sharp pains are impingement of a tendon, such as at the shoulder, a loose body [such as] a bony fragment, bone on bone contact, or a tear of the meniscus in the knee. If the sharp pain occurs once and not again, it is probably an anomaly and nothing to be concerned about.” But checking in with your doctor is always a good idea if something feels wrong.

2. Pain with swelling

“If [pain] is associated with swelling, that usually indicates a more serious issue,” says Marci Goolsby, M.D., attending physician at the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery. “With swelling, the body is sending inflammatory factors to the area. When there is injury, the body can’t necessarily differentiate which specific structure to heal, so it sends a lot of blood and other substances to the area or joint, creating a diffuse swelling,” adds Neuharth. Inflammation is our body’s way of healing, explains Neuharth, but if swelling persists or returns with activity, there is likely continued injury to that tissue or area.

3. Localized pain

Another sign that something’s not right is when you’re experiencing pain in just one place. “Any pain that seems to be localized [shouldn’t be ignored],” says Goolsby. For example, “It’s not just a general soreness of the thigh muscles, but a pain that’s sharp and in your groin.” If this type of pain doesn’t linger, there might be no immediate reason to be concerned. “If [pain] occurs consistently with a specific exercise, I would suggest getting it checked out,” says Neuharth.

4. Pain that gets worse during your workout

“If you are working out or exercising and your pain is gradually continuing to get worse the longer or more intensely you exercise, you are likely causing further injury to that specific tissue or joint, and the exercise should be stopped,” says Neuharth. Her rule of thumb is that if pain gets higher than a five (one being no pain, 10 being extreme pain), stop what you’re doing. 

5. Painful pops

If you hear a pop that’s accompanied by pain, back off, says Goolsby. “A pop often indicates a tear or partial dislocation,” she says. “In an acute injury, this is often a tear of a ligament or tendon.” However, get to know what’s normal for your body, too. “Many people worry about clicking or grinding in our shoulders, knees, or other joints. These ‘noises’ are not necessarily worrisome unless they are painful.”

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March 30, 20160 commentsRead More
Here’s How To Burn More Calories On An Elliptical

Here’s How To Burn More Calories On An Elliptical

Milles Studio / Stocksy / Graphic by Dana Davenport and Jocelyn Runice

Intimidated by the elliptical? Don’t be: This gym favorite can be a great way to work out your arms and legs, and can be super helpful when it comes to weight loss, especially if you’re easing into a regular workout routine for the first time.

And while you can just hop on and log some minutes of cardio, if you get strategic, you can get even more out of your training. Here are four simple, trainer-approved tips that will make sure you always get the most out of your elliptical experience. 

Related: 12 Easy Ways To Burn More Calories In A Day

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This 1 Move Works Your Arms And Butt At The Same Time

This 1 Move Works Your Arms And Butt At The Same Time

The workout challenge: Find an ultra-effective exercise that works the arms and butt and doesn’t involve any bulky gym equipment. Well, challenge accepted and completed.

The move below combines two sculpting favorites—the reverse lunge for that booty and a front raise for your shoulders. While each move is great alone, when combined it becomes a killer total-body burner. All you need is a set of medium-weight dumbbell (start with five to eight pounds) and 90 seconds. Here’s how to do it:

Reverse Lunge With Front Raise — do as many reps as you can in 90 seconds

Photographed by Justin Steele; modeled by Astrid Swan. Hair and Makeup by Sacha Harford at NEXT ARTISTS. Apparel: Heroine Sport, Jaggad from Bandier Fit. Sneakers: APL

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart with a weight in each hand, arms by your sides.
  2. Step your right foot back and bend your knees to lower into a lunge.
  3. Hold the bottom position and lift your straightened arms in front of body to shoulder-height.
  4. Lower your arms and push through your heels to stand. That’s 1 rep; alternate sides with each rep for 90 seconds. (If the weight is too heavy, use only one dumbbell holding an end in each hand.)

This burner is from Los Angeles-based trainer Astrid Swan (she’s also the pro demonstrating the move by the way) for last year’s SELF fall fitness challenge. If you want more effective toning moves and fat-burning cardio routines make sure you sign up for the all-new 6 Weeks To Summer Challenge. We’re all starting together on April 16!

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Don’t Ignore This Type Of Training If You Want To Get Fit

Don’t Ignore This Type Of Training If You Want To Get Fit

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of SELF.

Endurance requires perseverance, pacing, and positive energy. Learn how to unlock your physical and mental superpowers, then use them to perform at your peak, whether you’re in the middle of a marathon day at work or an actual marathon. 

Alissa St Laurent had already summited two mountains, crossed a river and run more than 60 miles—and she wasn’t at the finish line yet. Thanks to the 20-plus hours per week she’d logged training for this 78-mile ultramarathon, her body was still in go mode, but the 31-year-old’s mind was a different story. “After so many hours of trying to focus, I was mentally exhausted,” says St Laurent, a restaurant finance manager from Alberta.

Then she learned she was winning: “At that point,” she says, “I emptied the tank and gave it all I got.” St Laurent finished the 2015 Canadian Death Race in just under 14 hours, becoming the first woman in the event’s 15-year history to take the top overall position. In other words, she crushed every guy. “There’s a lot of training, strategy, and mental strength that go into long-distance races,” St Laurent says. “And the fact that women are finishing first in more of these events shows that we can hold our own—and then some.”

The Power Of Possibility

What is it that makes superathletes like St Laurent excel over the long haul? Being incredibly talented and training very hard, yes—but some exciting research hints that women may have an edge when it comes to endurance. Even if your idea of an epic event is a 10K (or 10 minutes of running, period), by using these cardio and strength workouts, you can score your own edge and teach your body to go further—faster. While you’re at it, you’ll strengthen the mental skills that help you succeed when the going gets tough.

We know it takes tenacity to power through a Spin class after a full day at the office—or juggle a workout, errands, and more on a single Saturday. But scientists still don’t know exactly why women are built to succeed when stamina is required. (We’d contribute to a Kickstarter fund to finance that research in a heartbeat.) There are a gamut of theories that may explain why, at least in certain athletic endeavors, we’re really good at going the distance. Some think it may be biology, some think it’s psychology. There’s evidence that it may be related to the way our metabolisms work, or it could be our approach to decision making. It’s possible that our muscles fatigue less easily than men’s. It could even be a combination of all of those things that, together, prime us for endurance efforts.

Guys have their own competitive advantages, of course. They tend to outsprint us because they have a higher percentage of muscle mass, and less fat, than women. That gives them the power to cover short distances very quickly. But as races lengthen, the ability to go hard and fast becomes far less important than beating physical and mental exhaustion, says Stephanie Howe, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and professional ultrarunner.

Indeed, as more and more women take up endurance sports, the performance gap appears to be shrinking. In September, Heather Anderson hiked the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail in 54 days, 7 hours and 48 minutes—shaving four days off the previous record (which had been set by a man). Ultrarunner Rory Bosio ran a female best at the 2013 (103-mile) Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, coming in seventh place overall. That same year, Diana Nyad successfully swam about 110 miles from Cuba to Florida, a feat that no one—male or female—has repeated.

“If I stand on a beach with 99 guys and we race to a buoy a quarter mile away, most of them will beat me,” Nyad says. “But if we swim 100 miles, bet on me. When the sport doesn’t rely on brute strength and speed, men and women are equal.”

The Slow Burn

You might think of your metabolism as fast or slow, but the truth is that however quickly it’s humming along, it can power you through endurance events in a uniquely advantageous—female—way. Studies show that, compared to men, women use a greater percentage of fat and a smaller percentage of carbohydrates for fuel. The difference doesn’t mean much during a 5K, but it’s a big deal in marathon-plus distances. “If you’re using fewer carbs, you deplete those energy stores more slowly,” says Michaela Devries-Aboud, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and author of a review of studies on sex differences in metabolism during exercise. “During a long race, this would prolong the time you have before you need to eat or you hit the wall.”

And then there’s our hormone levels. While high levels of testosterone help guys go full throttle, that’s not an asset when it comes to pacing, says Howe. In a recent study of 92,000 runners, on average men ran the second half of a marathon 15.6 percent slower than the first, while women eased up only an average of 11.7 percent.

“Men often start way too hard, and many of them end up dropping out or crawling to the finish,” says Howe. “Women are more conservative.” Guys are three times as likely to decelerate by 30 percent or more during the last 13.1 miles. “Men begin at a speed that can lead to superb performance but also increases their chances of crashing,” says Robert Deaner, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, and the study’s lead author. So next time you’re feeling zonked, remember this: Odds are that you have a finish line kick left in you.

The Wonder Woman Mind-Set

The ability to dig deep and mentally pivot to a plan B (or C…or D) is another important factor in how successful an athlete can be. And doing that requires effort well in advance of the start line. “Before a trail race, I research local weather, study maps and talk to finishers from the previous year’s event,” says KC Kennedy, an endurance athlete who represented Marmot at the Empire State Building Run-Up in February. “I also plan everything for race day, from what I’ll eat to what I wear.”

Then there’s the stuff you can’t prepare for. “Endurance events are a unique mental challenge,” says Steve Portenga, Ph.D., a sports psychologist in Denver who coaches triathletes. “You have to reflect honestly when you encounter a challenge to figure out a solution.” The bigger your vocab for discussing emotions, says Portenga, the better you’ll be at staying calm as you encounter big and small bumps along the way. “If all you can think is ‘angry or happy,’ when a challenge comes up, you’ll end up very anxious, which makes it harder to solve,” he says. “That’s true for men and women.”

One of life’s most epic physical and mental challenges can be childbirth—followed by the marathon that is motherhood. But rather than sapping strength, many female athletes say that becoming a mom transformed them into even better competitors. “After I had my son, I felt so much stronger—like I could handle more volume and distance,” says Kara Goucher, a 37-year-old runner who finished third among women in her debut marathon in New York City in 2008 and who holds the American women’s record in the half-marathon distance.

Some women believe that pregnancy, especially the labor and delivery parts, increased their pain threshold, like Leslie Howlett, a 32-year-old triathlete and ultrarunner in Salt Lake City. “During labor, I focused on positive thoughts and affirmations, and I now do the same thing when I train or race,” she says. “Having babies also gave me a strong belief in myself: Labor was incredibly hard, but I was prepared, stayed connected to my body, and I did it—I carry that feeling with me when I’m racing.”

Some of us are better than others at tapping into that internal well of positivity, but it’s a skill we all can practice and improve. Nyad—who’s endured paralyzing jellyfish stings, hallucinations and extreme fatigue during her epic swims—attributes her mental strength to old-fashioned willpower: “If people want to do something, they will,” says Nyad. “The human will is extraordinary.” (If you’re in search of a new mantra, give “What would Nyad do?” a try.)

The sense of accomplishment you get from making it to any finish line can have a halo effect on the rest of your life. “The confidence I get from racing carries over into everything else I do,” says Bosio. “When I’m having a tough nursing shift at the hospital where I work, I tell myself, ‘You can run 100 miles, you can get through 12 hours of this.’” Whether your “this” is prepping for the umpteenth meeting of the day or tackling a tough CrossFit class—or both!—remember: You’ve got what it takes to go the distance—and then some.

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March 29, 20160 commentsRead More
Here’s The Best Way To Work Out To Target Belly Fat

Here’s The Best Way To Work Out To Target Belly Fat


Belly fat is stubborn. For many people, this is the area they carry their excess weight, and is exactly where they want to lose it when they set weight-loss goals. But of course, it’s also really tough to lose.

There are two types of fat that congregate around your tummy: subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is what you can see on the surface, but visceral fat is what accumulates around your organs. Even if you’re at a normal weight, studies show that the visceral fat that builds up around the tummy can carry some serious health risks. Specifically, it’s been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even premature death and some types of cancer.

Spot-training doesn’t work.

You can do planks until you collapse, and it’s still not going to magically melt away belly fat. Sure, ab exercises can tone those muscles underneath. But working the muscles in one area doesn’t also tell your body, “Lose fat here.” That’s called spot-losing fat, and it’s just sadly just a fitness pipe dream.

“In order to tone and trim a certain body part, for example the waistline, overall body fat must be lost through healthy diet and cardiovascular, full-body work,” Whitney Findorff, LA-based personal trainer and Orangetheory Fitness coach, tells SELF. “Running through 500 reps of side crunches may strengthen the oblique muscle, but it will not decrease the fat stored on the waistline.”

So, what does?

The good news is that both types of abdominal fat can be reduced through exercise, and keeping up with a regular routine can prevent it from coming back. Cardio is great for overall fat loss, but when it comes to belly fat specifically, the best method is combining cardio with strength training—according to both research and fitness experts.

“Muscle is required to burn fat,” Findorff says. Muscle requires more energy for your body to maintain, so it helps your body burn more calories even after you put down the dumbbells. “Combining strength training and cardio can result in an overall decrease in body fat and increase in lean muscle mass.”

This may be why many experts believe high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a good exercise method if you want to lose belly fat. “HIIT includes short bouts of very intense exercise followed directly with active recovery, repeated several times, usually for up to 20-30 minutes,” explains Jacqueline Crockford, exercise physiologist and education specialist at ACE. Combining strength-training moves with intervals that get your heart rate pumping provides a full workout that fuses both cardio and strength into one intense, compact session—making it your best bet for torching calories and decreasing belly fat. “Several studies have shown that HIIT is effective in reducing overall abdominal fat and can help in the mitigation of symptoms of metabolic syndrome,” Crockford explains.

Findorff also says HIIT is the way to go, but suggests 45-60 minutes instead of just a quickie to see results. Celebrity trainer David Kirsch also notes that he’s found a longer duration is necessary for burning that stubborn fat. “I’d rather see intervals and spikes in heart rate for a longer sustained period of time, which I find to be most effective,” he says. “You can’t check the box that once you get your heart rate up, you’re done—you need to maintain that for a longer period for it to matter.” He suggests interval training that mixes high- and low-intensity moves, and engaging the whole body each time—it’s more effective than isolating individual muscle groups on certain days.

The bottom line: mix cardio and strength in the way that works for you.

There’s no research that tells us exactly how long and how often you need to exercise to burn belly fat—everyone’s body is different and may require more or less. But combining strength and cardio in a full-body interval workout that gets your heart rate pumping is your best bet for reaching your weight-loss goals.

And don’t forget: you can work out diligently, but if you’re fueling your body with unhealthy foods, you’re not going to see results. Proper nutrition is an essential part of any weight-loss routine, especially when it comes to losing abdominal fat.

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These 5 Strength Moves Will Make You A Better Runner

These 5 Strength Moves Will Make You A Better Runner

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This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of SELF.

Whether you’re training for a race or to go longer at the gym, do this routine three times a week. It targets big muscle groups, making it easier for you to recruit them. Work up to three sets of each move. 

1. Stir The Pot

Kneel on a mat with forearms on a stability ball. Keep knees on mat, core solid, and knees, hips and shoulders aligned as you rotate elbows to move the ball in a circle. Continue for 10 seconds. Pause, then switch directions and repeat.

2. Bridge

Lie on one side with elbow under shoulder, hip on floor, one foot in front of the other. Lift hips to make a straight line from shoulders to feet. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Switch sides; repeat.

3. Single-Leg Dead Lift

Stand with feet hip-width apart. Hinge forward at hips, lifting one leg behind you and reaching forward until arms, torso and leg are parallel to floor. Return to start for 1 rep. Do 12 reps. Switch sides; repeat.

4. Goblet Squat

Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes out, holding a dumbbell (start with 10 pounds) tight at chest. Keep chest up and back straight as you bend at hips, keeping knees over ankles, until thighs are parallel to floor. Return to start for 1 rep. Do 8 reps.

5. Split Squat

Stand with back to a bench or chair, feet hip-width apart. Balance right foot on bench behind you. Keep left knee over ankle as you lower until left thigh is parallel to floor. Return to start for 1 rep. Do 8 reps. Switch sides; repeat.

Source: A.J. Gregg, Hoka One One Strength and Conditioning Coach

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March 28, 20160 commentsRead More
4 Exercises That Will Torch SERIOUS Calories

4 Exercises That Will Torch SERIOUS Calories

Wundervisuals / Getty Images

Cardio workouts don’t have to be torturous, and they definitely don’t need to be done on a treadmill. While logging a long, endurance cardio routine is great, some days you just want to bust out a few moves and call it a day. These four exercises below get the job done—and they get it done quickly. The moves aren’t easy, but they’re so worth.

Just don’t forget to start with a proper dynamic warm-up—and you may want to spend some time foam rolling after you finish. Now let’s do this thing…

1. Band Jumps — 20 seconds, rest, then repeat

Grab a small looped resistance band. Stand tall and place band around ankles. Begin jumping moving feet in and out in various directions to create resistance. Continue for 20 seconds, rest, then repeat.

2. Reverse Lunge Pass Under — 30 seconds, rest, then repeat

Stand holding medicine ball (start with six to eight pounds and go heavier when you can) in at chest. Take a big step back with right foot, bending both knees until thighs are parallel to the ground. Lower medicine ball and pass it under left leg starting at the center of the body and moving toward the outside of left leg. Return to standing and immediately repeat on opposite leg, alternating sides with each rep. Do as many reps as you can in 30 seconds, rest, then repeat.

3. Windmill — do two sets of 10 reps on each side

Stand holding one weight in right hand with right arm extended overhead, left arm resting in front of body with palm facing out. Feet are hip-width apart with left foot slightly turned out. Push hips to right and begin to slowly slide left arm down left leg while right arm remains stable, keep gaze at weight at all times. Lower as far as possible then return to standing. Beginners can try this move without using weights. Do two sets of 10 reps on each side.

4. Power Deck Squat — do two sets of 10 reps

Hold medicine ball (start with six to eight pounds and go heavier when you can) in front of chest. Lower butt toward floor near heels, then roll back, tucking knees to chest. Rock forward and push heels to ground to come to standing. Do two sets of 10 reps.

BOOM—you’re done!

These go-to moves are from Crystal Stein, American College of Sports Medicine Health and Fitness Specialist and a Tier 3+ trainer at Equinox in NYC. (If you want even more of her crazy-effective exercises, be sure to check out SELF’s 50 Shades Of Glutes.)

Credits: Kim Hartwell at Wilhelmina Fitness; Hair by Leah Bennett for NEXT Artists using Oribe; Makeup by Leah Bennett for NEXT Artists using Nars.

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Here’s How To Burn More Fat On The Treadmill

Here’s How To Burn More Fat On The Treadmill

Bluecinema / Getty / Graphic by Dana Davenport and Jocelyn Runice

Unsatisfied by the treadmill? Whether it’s your go to at the gym or you absolutely hate it, there’s no denying that hopping on that divisive piece of machinery is an easy way for both beginners and pros to squeeze in a workout. Unfortunately, if you’re just running at the same pace for an hour, you probably won’t be getting very much out of your routine.

Instead, optimize your workout with interval training, or a mix of different speeds and inclines. These techniques and more will ensure you never waste your time on the belt again. Check them all out. 

Speed it up.

If burning fat is your game, spending 40 minutes at the same tempo is both completely unnecessary and unhelpful. “When you run at the same pace, once you get off that treadmill you recover quickly, and whatever work you put in, that’s all you’re going to get,” says New York Sports Club trainer Shayne Staley. She explains that practicing interval training will help you get the most out of your treadmill experience because, “it’s like revving up your engine several times, so when you get off the machine you’re still so hot that you’re burning calories for several hours after.”

For the most efficient interval workout, Staley recommends beginning with an easy jog for three to five minutes. Then increase the speed to a sprint for 30 seconds, and recover for a minute. Do this eight times. “That whole workout is under 20 minutes, and will keep you focused,” says Staley.

Related: 6 Treadmill Mistakes You Need To Stop Making

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