Are you an exercise cheater? I know I am.

Given the chance, I always opt for the easier-exercise way out – whether intentionally or not. I just tend to want to get it over with quickly.

When I do sit-ups or some other exercise, I’ll often just count – but not necessarily one for each rep. When doing sit-ups, I may actually only perform 10 but yet I’ve counted 15. When I lift weights, I may not do the extension fully, or completely, yet still count them.

I’m also a big cheater when walking and biking. I love being outside and often will just start to enjoy the walk or bike ride and look at the trees, and the sky and birds, and before I know it, I’m either strolling or biking very slowly. This is fine to do sometimes, but I can’t really call it a ‘workout’.

Here are tips I try and do to stay motivated and get a good workout. Hopefully, you’ll find some useful tips to help amp up your own workout.

Modified Intervals

Modifying my intervals is the best method for catching myself slacking and pumping up my workout. It’s a less intensive version of high intensity interval training.

When I’m walking I’ll pick different milestones, e.g., the green mailbox, and walk quickly and purposefully, pumping my arms until I reach that green mailbox.

Once there I’ll continue my normal pace until the next milestone. I’ll do these small intervals throughout my walk to remind me I’m not there to merely enjoy the scenery, although it is quite pleasant. The same thing is true for running on a treadmill or biking. This is a surefire way to burn extra calories.

Increase Weights or Reps

I often wear a weighted vest when I walk as it gives my walks an extra little boost. The extra weight of 5-10 pounds is especially noticeable when I wear it hiking. Some people often carry small hand weights as well. Just be sure they’re not too heavy or you can hurt your joints.

Group Classes/DVDs/Streaming

A group exercise class is a great motivator for me. Being in a class with other people really helps me to perform my best – there’s an audience after all. It’s a great motivator by watching both the instructor and other class members. It’s great to know I’m not in it alone.

I find exercise DVDs or online classes to be the next best thing. I need to have someone counting for me (hah) and doing the reps with me. It helps to keep me honest.

My group bike rides greatly help intensify my workout. First, they’re often longer than I normally ride on my own, but because I’m with a group having fun, I don’t even notice it.

There are always a few fast riders to help motivate me to try and catch up with them. Group rides are also a great way to make new friends.

Exercise in Front of a Mirror

This method helped me when I was doing physical therapy exercises for my broken arm. When I performed the exercises in front of my therapist, he would often point out where I need to exert more effort and control the movement.

At home, I found I did a better workout if I could see myself lifting the weights and pretend my therapist was there watching me. I would hear his voice in my head going over the tips he had given me as I aimed for full extensions and control.

Don’t Forget Concentric and Eccentric Motion

The concentric (or positive) contraction shortens your muscle, while the eccentric (or negative contraction) lengthens your muscle. For example, if you’re doing arm curls, you want to put as much effort into the descent of the weight as the ascent.

You don’t want to allow gravity and the weight to just pull your arm back down. You want to slowly drop the weight down and slowly lift it up controlling the motion.

Focus, Focus, Focus

If I’m planning my shopping trip or checking my phone, I’m not focusing on my workout, thus cheating myself of good exercise. To get my best workout, I need to be in the moment and focus on what I’m doing. This helps me get a more intense workout and reduces the chance of injury.

If you’re lifting weights and not focusing, it’s quite easy to injure yourself by even the smallest twist or turn. This is the time you took for yourself – make it your best workout.

Mix It Up

It definitely helps me to vary my workout routines and sometimes even add something new to the mix. I love to bike ride and have now switched to riding a recumbent trike which is perfect for me. Riding my trike has become my favorite cardio routine.

I’ve also added swimming since moving to FL, and I use my home TRX system for weight training during the week. The TRX system is convenient and easy to use and provides an excellent overall body workout.

Variety in your workout not only keeps it interesting and fun, but it’s beneficial to work different parts of your body. Trying new types of exercise is also a great way to meet new people, whether at the gym or on the trails.

Music

Sometimes it helps me to increase my motivation by playing my favorite upbeat tunes. The music should enhance your workout, however, and not be a detractor. When walking, fast tunes help me walk faster, or I’ll even use the song as part of my interval training, e.g., I’ll walk fast until this song is over.

Accountability and Monitoring

One motivational tip I’ve started to incorporate again is accountability and monitoring. I’ve started wearing a heart rate monitor to help me know when I need to pump up the intensity or slow down a bit.

Heart rate monitors come with instructions to help determine your normal range and how intensely you can work out. Some exercise classes even base their whole program on being in a certain range or color.

Monitoring your heart rate can make a big difference in your workout routine, especially if you’re an exercise slacker like me. I’ve started wearing my heart rate monitor again for walking and cycling to help me keep up a good pace.

There are also a lot of devices out there to further monitor your steps, your speed on the bike, walking or running and your mileage, etc. There are countless apps that link to this data as well.

For my cycling, I like to monitor my speed and cadence and heart rate. All serve as reminders to keep the intensity or slow down in the heat.

Sometimes even a simple timer can help by reminding me how long I need to work out. Many people also use scales for accountability. I haven’t been able to face that, but it can be a good control method.

What methods have you found to perform your best in your workouts? How do you keep motivated so you don’t fall in an exercise rut? Please share your tips in the comments below.

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