By Dr. Mercola
There’s no need to enter into ‘hibernation mode’ when the weather turns cooler. Fall is the perfect time of year to begin or ramp up your fitness program, and this way, by the time the holidays hit, you won’t be easily sidelined (or fattened up) by all of the festivities.
Getting into your groove now also ensures that when the deep winter chill comes, you’ll be in the right place mentally and physically to continue staying active until spring.
25 Top Fall Fitness Tips
1. Set Goals
Set short simple goals, such as exercising for 20 minutes as soon as you wake up on Mondays. This makes achieving them realistic and allows you to progress to longer-term goals.
2. Make a Motivation Board
Grab a bulletin board, or go digital using Pinterest, and attach a list of your goals, progress photos, inspirational sayings, updates with your accomplishments and more. Place your motivation somewhere prominent – like your bathroom mirror or your office at work -- so you’ll see it regularly.
3. Adopt the 3 “C’s”
Commitment, Convenience and Consistency: Adopt these three strategies into your lifestyle to help you stay active and eat right for good.
4. Make It Fun
Mix up your workout by trying out new activities like hip-hop dancing, yoga, kickboxing and Pilates.
5. Plan Ahead
Plan your workouts for the week ahead of time, and also plan your meals so you’re not scrambling for something to eat at the last minute (which often leads to unhealthy choices).
6. Stock Up on Healthy Food
Keep your kitchen well stocked with unprocessed, whole foods that are quick and easy to munch on. Cut-up veggies, lean meats, olive oil, coconut oil and nuts are all great options.
7. Schedule Your Workouts
Schedule your workout sessions into your calendar like you would an important meeting, and don’t miss them. You can also fit activity in throughout your day by walking, standing, climbing stairs and stretching (as opposed to sitting) whenever you get the chance. You just have to place a HIGH PRIORITY on it and schedule your day around the exercise, not the other way around.
8. Grab a Friend
Partnering up with a friend who has similar fitness goals will boost your motivation and your accountability. Plus, it’s more fun to exercise with a partner.
9. Get Outdoors
Get out of the gym and head out to your local park, sidewalk or forest preserve. Take in the changing leaves and scenery while you fit in a great workout.
10. Change It Up
Add variety to your favorite activities, such as swapping your step aerobics class for kickboxing or yoga for a day of strength training.
11. Moderation Is Key
It’s OK to indulge once in a while with your diet, just be sure to keep your goals in mind each day. If you do veer off course, don’t beat yourself up over it. Simply make better choices at your next meal or try the 80:20 rule (eating right 80 percent of the time and being more lenient for the other 20).
12. No Gym? No Problem
Many of the best exercises can be done anywhere using just your bodyweight in lieu of equipment. Consider jumping jacks, push ups, squats, crunches and mountain climbers, which you can do in your home, office or hotel room. Workout DVDs and apps for your phone are also widely available.
13. Gear Up
Update your old baggy sweats with some new yoga pants, running shorts or shoes. Looking good makes you feel good and will motivate you to exercise more, and harder.
14. Snack Right
Rather than letting unhealthy snacks sabotage your diet, keep healthy snacks like apples, almonds, whey protein powder, hummus and carrots handy. Focus on what you should be eating, instead of what you shouldn’t.
15. Try Fruit for Dessert
If you’re in the mood for something sweet, a piece of whole fruit provides vitamins, minerals and antioxidants without an overload of sugar. A piece of dark chocolate is another healthy treat option.
16. Stay Hydrated
Pure water is essential for healthy metabolism and detoxification, and for warding off dehydration. Try adding sliced cucumbers, lemons and limes to your water for added benefits, like help with indigestion, heartburn, headaches, and preventing water weight gain.
17. Get Proper Sleep
Lack of sleep is strongly linked to weight gain, low energy and fatigue. Without adequate sleep, you’ll have a harder time sticking to your diet and your exercise plan. Get 33 sleep tips here.
18. Workout to Music
Music helps keep you motivated while you exercise, as listening to music while exercising can increase your endurance by 15 percent. Ideally, choose upbeat music; in one study when the music's tempo slowed, the subjects' exertion level reduced as well. And when the tempo was increased, their performance followed suit.
19. Track Your Progress
Write down your daily workout details (how long you exercised, how much you lifted) so you can track your progress. There are many useful apps, such as Fitness Builder, if you’d rather do this digitally.
20. Ditch Your Scale
Pay attention to how your clothes fit and how your body feels rather than the number on the scale. If you must monitor your fitness more closely, body fat calipers are one of the most trusted and most accurate ways to measure body fat.
21. Take Time for Recovery
Overdoing exercise is counterproductive and can actually damage your muscle tissue and cause injuries. Give yourself adequate recovery time between workouts and be sure to alternate muscle groups or body parts in your exercise sessions.
22. Grab a Little R&R
If you’ve fallen into a workout rut, take a few days to recharge and regroup. Sometimes, taking a break from your routine can do wonders to renew your motivation.
23. Reward Yourself
When you reach a fitness goal, reward yourself with a massage, an evening out or a new piece of clothing. After all, you worked hard; you deserve it!
24. Don’t Give Up
The greatest goals are achieved one step at a time. Keep persevering one day at a time and you will eventually reach your dreams.
25. It’s All Up to You
You have to make the decision to get fit. When you commit to it, you’re making a contract with yourself. Be the change you want to see in your life!
Try HIIT, My Workout of Choice Since 2010
For the past couple of years, I've encouraged the use of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as a key strategy for improving your health, boosting weight and fat loss, promoting human growth hormone (HGH) production, and improving strength and stamina. I've been doing it myself since April 2010 after meeting fitness expert Phil Campbell (author of Ready, Set, Go!), so I can also vouch for its effectiveness from personal experience.
If you haven’t yet tried it, it’s a wonderful exercise option when you don’t have a lot of time, as it takes only 20 minutes for a full workout. The HIIT approach I personally prefer and recommend is the Peak Fitness method where one warms up and then performs 30 seconds of maximum effort followed by 90 seconds of recuperation. I will modify the number of repetitions from 8 to 6 when I need to as it is sometimes just too strenuous for me to do all 8. So by listening to my body and cutting it back to 6 reps, I can tolerate the workout and go full out.
I then finish my Peak Fitness workout with Power Plate stretches, 10 pull ups, 10 dips and 20 inverted push ups, and call it a day.
How to Add HIIT to Your Fall Workout Routine
When you're first starting out, depending on your level of fitness, you may only be able to do two or three repetitions of Peak Fitness. That’s okay! As you get fitter, just keep adding repetitions until you’re doing eight. And if six is what your body is telling you, then stop there.
If you have a history of heart disease or any medical concern, please get clearance from your health care professional to start this. Most people of average fitness will be able to do it though; it is only a matter of how much time it will take you to build up to the full 8 reps, depending on your level of intensity. For a demonstration using an elliptical machine, please see the video above. Here are the core principles:
- Warm up for three minutes
- Exercise as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. You should be gasping for breath and feel like you couldn't possibly go on another few seconds. It is better to use lower resistance and higher repetitions to increase your heart rate
- Recover for 90 seconds, still moving, but at slower pace and decreased resistance
- Repeat the high-intensity exercise and recovery 7 more times. (When you're first starting out, depending on your level of fitness, you may only be able to do two or three repetitions of the high-intensity intervals. As you get fitter, just keep adding repetitions until you're doing eight during your 20-minute session)
- Cool down for a few minutes afterward by cutting down your intensity by 50-80 percent
In most cases, HIIT workouts should only be done two or three times a week. But that doesn’t mean you should take all the other days off. Switching up your workouts will ensure your muscles continue to be challenged and prevent plateaus in your fitness growth. You want to avoid overtaxing any one area of your body, too, and having a varied workout program helps you to do this naturally. I recommend incorporating strength training, core exercises, stretching and non-exercise activity into your program on days when you’re not doing HIIT.