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Same Workout, Better Results (if You Do These Things First)

Healthy Living
January 23, 2013

Photo: Thinkstock
Photo: Thinkstock

By Corrie Pikul

Fill Your Bottle With Water, Not Bacteria

Remember to fill your water bottle from your tap at home. Secret swab tests at gyms across the country have discovered bacteria thriving on water fountains that could cause lung, skin and eye infections. One test by a cleaning company even determined that the gym's drinking fountains were germier than the toilets.

Extra time: 2 minutes

Use Your Phone As A Motivator (And A Moneymaker)

Make a digital entrance. Apps that help you track how much and how often you exercise, like RunKeeper, Fitocracy, MyFitnessPal and Nike+, can be a kick in the pants to work out longer, harder and with more enthusiasm. Thank the Hawthorne effect -- the tendency to act differently when you believe your actions are being observed (even if the only observer is you). As a feel-good bonus, apps like Plus 3 Network and Earndit also allow you to accrue points that translate into charitable donations or gift cards and discounts -- just for checking in. One Earndit member donated enough points to buy polio vaccines for 17 children in India. (The Earndit community has inoculated more than 2,000 children against polio )

Extra time: 1 minute

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Sit Down To Loosen Up

Bypass the cardio machines and the fitness studios and hit the mat. Use one of the foam rollers (they look like pool noodles) on the areas of your body where you notice tightness, including your calves, quads, hips and lower back. The technical term for this type of tissue massage is "myofascial release," and trainers used to save it for the very end of the workout, says Jessica Matthews, an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. However, Matthews says she's seen research about how rolling out your muscles before you use them helps you feel looser and more flexible, and that can make you less prone to injury.

Extra time: 5 minutes

Warm Up Like A Monster

You've heard that stretching before a workout won't improve your performance, but that doesn't mean you should skip your warm-up. Instead of old-fashioned toe touches and standing quad stretches, Matthews recommends dynamic moves that will increase your core body temperature, broaden your range of motion and psych up your muscles. Do a few moves that mimic the activity you're about to engage in (for example, Michael Phelps-style arm swings before swimming). Matthews also likes these all-purpose warm-ups that can be done before any type of workout: Frankenstein strides, bird dogs and snow angels.

Extra time: 5 minutes

Don't Miss A Beat

Fiddling with the Stairmaster's settings is probably already part of your routine, but you should also take a minute to address the control panel on your phone or iPod. Matthews says that she's seen people become so engrossed in searching for the perfect pump-up music that they've lost control of the machine (watch out!)...and their workout. If you already have your earbuds in place, your playlist queued up and your podcasts downloaded before the conveyor belt starts moving, you'll maximize every minute you spend on the machine.

Extra time: 2 minutes

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