28 Ways to Jump-Start Your Shape-Up Routine

You exercise and watch what you eat, but your weight still creeps upward. Here, small changes that can make a huge difference in your weight-loss plan.

By Bari Nan Cohen
woman stretch exercise picture

Try Circuit Training

"My secret psych-up for circuit training is that I feel like I can do anything for 30 seconds or a minute, so I push myself much harder when I work out in a circuit," Kaehler says. Since you’re constantly changing activities, you tend not to slow down, the way you would if you were on the treadmill for 30 minutes. "When you’re doing a circuit, you burn about seven calories a minute," Westcott says. "That’s about 200 per half hour."

Circuits are easy to create at home: Just alternate a cardio move with a few strength exercises, as in the following example:

  • Jump rope (or do jumping jacks) for 30 seconds to one minute, then grab some weights and…
  • Do as many biceps curls as you can in one minute, then…
  • Do as many lunges (alternate legs) or squats as you can in one minute, then grab some weights and…
  • Do as many overhead triceps extensions (work arms one at a time) as you can in one minute, then…
  • Jump rope for 30 seconds to one minute, then rest 30 seconds. Repeat this circuit two or three times.

Clock Your Efforts

There’s nothing like using a stopwatch to assess your intensity. Make one of your weekly workouts a timed one. If you’re a runner, find a hill and run repeats: Run up, timing yourself, and then jog back down. Repeat eight to 10 times, trying to continue running up the hill in the same amount of time. If you’re a walker, map out a mile and time how long it takes you to walk it. Now push it: If you walk a 20-minute mile, shoot for 17 to 18 minutes; if you pump out a 15-minute mile, try for 12 or 13.

"These push-the-pace workouts really improve your underlying endurance," Smith says. When you find that they get too easy, try to do them at a faster pace.

Love What You Do

"Pick an activity you enjoy, whether it’s soccer, golf, rock climbing, or cycling, and you have a built-in motivation to do more of it because you’ll want to improve your skills for your sport," Brooks says. "If you’re excited about something, you’re motivated to become proficient at it and to do it more frequently, which will translate into results."

Discover Centering Activities

Sometimes it’s not about the calorie burn but about rebalancing your chemistry. When stress hits, adrenaline mobilizes your fat cells to discharge their energy stores into your bloodstream. Cortisol then grabs the excess and stashes it in your abdomen. "Learning to manage our stress response so we’re not draining our systems, which can disturb metabolism and lead to weight gain, is a key factor here," Smith says. Choose the activity that you find most meditative, whether it’s yoga, hiking outdoors, or stretching. Do it regularly.

Nutrition

"You actually need fewer calories now than you did in your 30s," Peeke says, "in part because your metabolic rate slows due to the aging process." Try these nutritional strategies to help you reclaim your waistline.

Don’t Cut Calories, Redistribute Them

"Eat every three to four hours, and you’ll find your cravings are under control, and when dinnertime hits, you’re not foaming at the mouth," Peeke says. This pattern gives you the best chance for the lowest body fat, the optimum muscle mass, and the highest level of satiety.

If you’re waking up at six a.m. or so, you’ll probably want to eat five times during the day. Wake at eight? Cut out one snack. The following is Peeke’s eat-smart schedule:

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