Well the truth is, it doesn't have to be complicated, and experts say there are many things we do when working out that tend to put the brakes on our results.
One of the biggest blunders, according to Equinox's Amy Dixon, is not varying your program.
"Try and pick something different every day," Dixon said. "Go to the treadmill one day, do the elliptical trainer another day, take a cycling class, go work out with the weights."
A survey by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association found 80 percent of women don't lift weights at all. Big mistake, as combining aerobics with resistance training is the best combination to build or keep lean muscle mass and burn calories efficiently.
While a lot of attention is paid to those who over-consume sports drinks and energy bars, it's also a bad idea to work out without adequate hydration.
You might not need eight glasses a day, but since every cell is composed of water, doing without it makes exercise inefficient, which will slow metabolism by about 3 percent. Hit the fountain before, during, and post workout.
While doing your favorite workout, don't sacrifice form for speed. This holds true for strength training as well.
Being able to complete full range of motion increases calories burned, oxygen use and can keep you from getting hurt.
On the other hand, if your program is so routine you can read a book, that's a problem.
"If you're reading a magazine or reading a book, you're really, truly not in a moment," said expert Steve Jordan.
Jordan says you'll burn some calories, but it is harder to make the fitness gains you're looking for.
"Rather than putting it on auto pilot, maybe a hill profile, you do the hill profile. If you find it hard for you to stay engaged, you be more proactive."
Jordan recommends asking yourself questions. Is your heart rate at the right level? Are your breathing patterns normal? What's work and what's not working?
"No one is really going to know that unless you're paying attention," he said.
While the experts want us to put more effort into our exercise regime, there are certain times when it's OK to take a timeout.
When is it OK to skip out on exercise?
- When you get a minor cold, you don't have to quit, but reducing intensity is a good idea, as your body is using a lot of its resources to fight the bug.
- If you are very congested and feeling achy, it's quitting time. The workout will most likely keep you down for a longer period of time, especially when symptoms are in the chest or below the throat.
- If you're experiencing cramping, exercise can actually improve the problem. Activity increases blood flow to the pelvis, which in turn can ease pain.
- If you've got an injury, playing through pain can be a huge mistake, as sharp, intense pain is your body's way of telling you something. Either switch exercises, slow down, or stop altogether to save yourself further injury.
- Finally, if you are really fatigued, either from sleep loss or overwork, experts say take a pass on fitness, but do double duty on your next sweat session.
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