Ways to Stay Motivated to Work Out

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Sometimes we all need an extra push. I am lucky to have the most disciplined training (and life) partner who never takes "No," or "I'm tired," or "I have too much work," for an answer, forcing me to show up every.single.time. Over the years we've lived and worked out together, we have developed a simple system where I pack my gym back at night while I prepare clothes, lunch and everything else for the next day. I work in the city and he works from home, so he brings my gear when we meet at the gym in the evenings. This saves me the trouble of lugging another bag on the subway and the temptation of reentering our cozy apartment. An added benefit -- since we can start our workout earlier, this routine gives us more time together at the end of the night. 

We both travel often for work and try to coordinate schedules so we go with each other. Unfortunately, that does not always line up the way we'd like and when I am home alone, I find it much easier to get out of my fitness routine. I am sharing some of my favorite ways to keep pushing yourself towards your fitness goals, even when the going feels tougher than usual.

Move everyday, even if it's only for 15 minutes. On days you can't fit in a full sweat session, get your heart pumping throughout the day with a quick set of jumping jacks before your morning shower, a brisk walk at lunch, or end the day with abdominal exercises and stretching before bedtime. After 15 minutes, push yourself to keep going another five minutes ... or 15. 

Mix up your workout routine. A few years ago, an illness forced me to scale back my workouts from heavy mileage and weights to beginner yoga classes, and the athlete within quickly grew bored. I started dreading, and then skipping classes, thinking of the hourlong sessions as an obligation, not a healing practice for my body and mind. Working with medical professionals, I slowly and carefully varied my schedule to stay safe yet feel challenged -- and my excitement for fitness returned.

Invest in a fitness tracker. We're supposed to walk at least 10,000 steps each day but those of us with desk jobs often barely hit half that number, instead spending most of the day literally on our butts. The Apple Watch was one of my Christmas gifts and I still get excited when I am notified I've hit one -- or all -- of my daily goals. This reminder is a gentle push when your mind is focused elsewhere. 

Get a good night's rest. The more you exercise, the more sleep your body needs to rest -- pretty logical, right? Despite that, most adults are perpetually behind on sleep. Burning the candle at both ends sometimes feels like a necessity, but to get the most out of a 7am class, we need to allow ourselves sufficient time to recover and recharge. 

If all else fails, bribe yourself. Set a plan for the week and reward yourself when you achieve miniature goals, like adding more veggies to your daily diet or going to the gym three days in a row. Do not treat yourself with dessert or a "cheat" meal, instead indulge with a pedicure or massage. One of my personal favorite gifts for myself is workout gear. It's never easier to get pumped up for barre class then when you have a new outfit to show off all your hard work.

The Importance of Stretching

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Time-crunched gym rats are often tempted to jump right on the treadmill when you get to the gym to start sweating immediately, but the most important thing you can do for your body is to warm up with proper stretching. Cold, idle muscles can tear when shocked with abrupt exercise, but gently working the muscles can prevent injury and help your body reach its full potential during your workout. Remember, stretch both sides of your body equally and don’t push until it hurts, instead find the spot where you feel tension and hold for at least 30 seconds, more time for problem areas. Here are some of the best benefits you’ll see when you incorporate stretching into your fitness routine:

Improved Flexibility

As you age, muscles shorten, and you lose flexibility – anyone else have distant memories of effortlessly tumbling through your backyard as a child? To stay active, its essential we work to maintain mobility with loose, flexible muscles. Improving your range of motion also decreases your risk for injuries and gives you better balance – another way to avoid falling and hurting yourself during a workout (or throughout your day).

Reduced Stress

Seemingly unavoidable, stress plays an active role in our healthy and everyday lives. Although relaxing, stretching exercises the muscles and releases endorphins – our best ally in the fight against stress. Stretching also reduces tension headaches and can relieve fatigue and insomnia.

Better Posture

Routinely stretching your back, neck and shoulders is essential to correct the damage caused by hunching over a desk or laptop all day. Our bodies adopt to the positions we spend the most time, causing our frames to take curved and slumped statures. Stretching also manages the painful tight muscles that lead to poor posture and loosens your hips, lower back and hamstrings for a strong, flexible spine.

Increased Energy

Stretching increases blood flow, naturally upping your energy levels by feeding your muscles with more glucose and oxygen so they are ready for peak performance. Bonus: Better circulation also means less soreness after a workout.

Biking Benefits for Resistant Riders

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As a lifelong competitive runner, biking has always felt more like punishment than pleasure to me with flashbacks of interval training while injured on a stationary bicycle. For much of my adult life, I’ve avoided it, preferring pretty much every other kind of aerobic exercise. When we started spending large chunks of time in Miami Beach, I was able to expand my typical NYC gym routine to include all sorts of outdoor pursuits and reluctantly, included biking to the list.

Everyone has seen the amazing transformation photos and success stories of FlyWheel and SoulCycle devotees, but for those still hesitant to try this challenging cardo workout, I’m sharing some of the benefits of biking that will get you off your feet and onto two wheels:

Sexy Stems: Want to show off sculpted thighs and chiselled calves this summer? Hop on a bike for less than an hour of high-intensity cycling to burn over 500 calories. Biking not only burns tons of calories for fat loss, it builds up leg muscles and increases tone.

Joint Health: The low-impact, repetitive motion is ideal for keeping hips, knees and ankles loose without the strain and injuries that can result from running.

Heart Health: The aerobic activity strengthens the heart muscle, making it easier for your body to circulate blood and oxygen. Regular riding can also reduce the risk of heart disease by half – the leading cause of death for American women.

Improved State of Mind: Biking releases endorphins, the happiness hormone, making you feel physically better, helping your brain deal with anxiety and depression, and improving your sleep.

Progress is Easy to Track: Stay motivated with this simple form of exercise that easily allows for trackable goals (time, distance, etc.) that create a routine you can stick to. Spin classes with music and enthusiastic instructors create a positive atmosphere that keeps you moving.

Bonus: If you use your bike to commute, you’re not only being good to your body – you’re being good to the entire planet. Bikes run on fat, not fuel, can park for free almost anywhere and reduces the number of animals killed on the road.

Affordable Fitness Fashion

No matter how shallow it sounds, it is always easier to be excited for a workout when you've got a cute new gym outfit to show off. I don't think fashionable fitness gear should cost more than your gym membership and score some of my favorite leggings and sports bras from surprising sources. 

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Forever21 

Famous for carrying low-priced, cutting edge clothing, the chain store also has its own activewear collection with the latest cuts and colors starting at less than $8 for sports bras.  

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Victoria's Secret

Better known for being sexy than sporty, the lingerie line expanded to include clothes to help you get the body of an Angel. The styles are supermodel approved and included in the semi-annual sales. 

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Target

Champion is having a huge fashion moment but this discount retailer has carried the popular line for as long as I remember in addition to collaborations with brands like JoyLab. 

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Mandee

I discovered this shop when I moved to Brooklyn and clean up each time there is a sale. Their athleisure styles keep me comfortable outside the gym, too, with cropped sweatshirts and trendy joggers.

Best Stretching Accessories

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When introducing stretching into your workout routine, one or all of my go-to flexibility tools can aid in your progress, performance and overall comfort. 

Foam rollers are great for reducing pain, relieving tension and increasing your range of movement. Using your body weight, press and roll along the cylinder to massage tight muscles. 

Yoga blocks can be used to support your knees, lower back, neck and virtually any part of your body. This helps to maximize flexibility so you will enjoy the full benefits of each pose. 

Resistance bands assist those who lack flexibility and mobility to lengthen and relax muscles before and after a workout. The length and gentle resistance are especially good for stretching shoulders and hamstrings.

Water Bottles are essential to every workout as staying hydrated is essential for preventing injuries. Muscle tightness is an early sign of dehydration and active adults should drink at least eight glasses of water each day.