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How to get the most out of your workout

It's time to step up your fitness game and throw some challenging elements into the mix.
/ Source: TODAY

If you’re going to work out, there's no point in phoning it in and being lazy. You took the time to get dressed and give yourself a mental pep talk, so you might as well go hard and make it worth your while!

If, for whatever reason, you’re not getting into shape as well as you’d like, and you feel that plateau creeping in, it’s time to step up your fitness game and throw some challenging elements into the mix.

It’s not as difficult as you may think to amp up your workouts. Here are a few hacks to get the most out of your sweat session!

1. Fuel your body properly.

Don’t embark on your workout on either an over-full or empty stomach. You will feel heavy and possibly sick as you move your body if you're too full and you’ll feel distracted and fatigued if you’re starving.

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Instead, have a small, easily digestible whole-food snack for energy. You also want to be sure you are properly hydrated. Eliminating any distractions in terms of your comfort will ensure you’ll get the most out of your physical and mental fitness experience.

2. Always have a plan.

Planning to just “wing it” with your at-home workouts is not a plan. Take a few minutes to mentally map out your workout. A little trick I like to use is to put index cards in my gym bag with the names of some of my favorite HIIT (high-intensity interval training) moves. I reach into my bag and pull them out one by one and perform each move. It’s a great way to keep it interesting and keep myself from over-thinking it too much!

3. Set your intention.

Before you start your workout, take a moment to quietly reflect on what you’d like to achieve during your session. Perhaps it’s to quiet your mind and think only positive thoughts or maybe you just want to sweat it out. Whatever your intention, set your goal — and make sure it’s manageable — before you begin. You’ll find it will help power you through the workout!

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4. Limit rest periods.

Long rest during your workout can lead to boredom and a lower heart rate. Limit your rest to just 30-60 seconds, so you have just enough time to catch your breath without sacrificing your elevated heart rate.

5. Don’t waste time during transitions.

Squeeze every last second out of your workout and perform some form of quick cardio between your reps. When you’re mapping out your next move and you need a moment to think, you can always default to high-knees, quick feet or jumping rope to keep your heart rate up.

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6. Get competitive with yourself.

Think about your goal when doing cardio or strength training — perhaps you want to run a certain distance during a specific time period, beating your last run time, or maybe you want to complete three reps of 20 bench presses in one minute. It’s OK to have a “secret” competition with the person next to you on the treadmill, too!

7. Don’t be afraid of muscle.

You won’t “bulk up” when using heavy dumbbells or other equipment. Using heavier weights revs up your calorie burn during your workout because heavy weights create more protein breakdown in the muscle, forcing your body to use more energy to recover the muscles. This is how lean muscle tone is produced. Of course, make sure you’re being safe and not pushing yourself too hard at first.

8. Re-fuel properly.

Remember my first tip? Good. Now remember this one: ingest calories to burn more. Don’t skip your post-workout meal or snack! Breaking down your muscles — i.e. your strength training workout — burns calories, of course. But what really torches them is repairing those muscles.

RELATED: Eat the right foods before and after a workout

Nutrition plays a role. That’s why a snack within an hour of working out will boost your calorie-burning ability. Aim for a 150-200 calorie mix of healthy carbohydrates, protein and water-rich fruits or veggies to replenish your body’s glycogen and to rehydrate.

Doing your own workouts takes a lot of planning, self-motivation and knowledge. It can sometimes seem like a chore, or even a second job! For this reason, efficiency is key and adding these simple tricks to your regimen will add up, helping you reach your greater goal of maintaining a fit, strong and healthy life.

Nikki Warren, is the co-founder of Kaia FIT, a holistic fitness and nutrition program designed for women, by women.