Ways To Work Out Smarter, Not Harder

Diet, run, lift, stretch...fall off the wagon, eat mac and cheese...rinse and repeat. Sound familiar? We all have good intentions when it comes to diet and exercise — we know that it makes us look, feel and sleep better — but getting into and sustaining an exercise and diet routine can feel like its own full-time job. Who the heck has time for that? When life gets busy, it can be easy to resort to old, unhealthy habits and ditch your fave indoor cycling class for a post-work collapse on the couch with some quality episodes of Orange Is The New Black.
It doesn't have to be that way, though. According to Julie Fredrickson and Dick Talens, the key to finding a true love for, and commitment to, getting healthy is all in the approach — and getting the highest return on your investment in your health. With this in mind, they founded Minimum Viable Fitness, a fitness consulting company that teaches clients how to take principles from business — specifically start-ups, like yours truly, obviously! — to stop wasting your time at the gym, and find out the best ways to get fit fast, stay that way, and actually enjoy it. It's possible, we promise!
So, forget your staid diet and fitness routine — it's time for a total workout makeover!
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Optimize, Don't Maximize

When it comes to fitness, endless jogging or bicep curls aren't necessarily the answer. "Your workout should depend on your goals and what you're trying to accomplish," explains Fredrickson. "You may feel like you have to spend an hour on the elliptical, but you really don't!"

Talens, a fitness coach, recommends optimizing your workout routine with moves that give you the most bang for your buck. "Optimizing a routine means selecting moves such as compound lifts (like squats) that work your entire body in just one movement," he explains. To figure out how to optimize your routine, determine first what your most important goal is. "If you're focusing on weight loss, you'll want to actually focus on shorter bouts of strength training, which will boost your metabolism better than hours on the elliptical," he says.
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Think About Your ROI

In business, the term return on investment, or ROI, refers to how much of a result that you will get on the money, time, and resources that you invest in your company. The same idea works in the world of fitness, according to Fredrickson. "Low-ROI workouts — such as the endless jogging on a treadmill that you make yourself do three times a week — actually deplete your willpower, as you expend lots of energy doing something that you hate, and don't end up with much of a result."

Many people think that losing weight and getting fit is as simple as moving more and eating less, but it's really not that simple. "Willpower is a finite resource," explains Talens. "Being intrinsically motivated creates a positive feedback loop, so you need to feel like everything provides more utility than cost."
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Test, Test, Test

We've all schlepped our butts to that one fitness class that makes us sweat — but totally makes us miserable in the process. The good news, according to the duo? There is a workout style out there for everyone (seriously). "Test classes, programs, and nutrition plans, and see which ones you stick with. Then, log your progress — and be honest about how much you're enjoying the workout," says Fredrickson.

Do your research by talking to a trainer, nutritionist, or physician to find out what routine could be best for your personality and lifestyle, she adds. "The test of a good routine is whether you want to stick with it day in and day out — with room for cheats here and there, of course — for months, and even years. Yes, even when your life is hectic and stressful!"

Fredrickson and Talens believe that everyone should give a new routine eight weeks to really see the results of a new workout or diet, but give it at least a month before abandoning ship.
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"A good manager knows that a product or brand has to always be evolving," says Fredrickson. "And, a good trainer approaches your workout the same way — but that doesn’t always mean changing your routine. It means making it better." If you're not constantly pushing yourself (even a little bit) any workout routine will get old, fast.

Talens says that it's the smaller, short-term goals that will make sure that your endurance and strength are constantly improving. "Do you lift weights? Then make sure that every week you are adding in another rep, or more weight," explains the trainer. "Do you prefer yoga? Make sure that each week your form is improving, or your stretches are deeper." Find out which workout you love, and then commit to slowly and steadily moving toward your goals to get better, faster, or stronger — whichever outcomes mean the most to you.
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Don't Be Afraid To Pivot

When running a business, there are moments when a manager may realize that her current model is dated, inefficient, or simply not working. When that happens, it's okay to accept defeat, move on, and pivot toward new ideas and new processes.

It's a similar situation when you realize that, for example, your indoor cycling class is providing a lot of sweat, but not much of a boost to your booty. As much as some spin devotees might turn their nose up, admitting that a trendy workout isn't for you is a smart move. "Just because your current diet or nutrition plan failed, doesn’t mean that a new one that works with your lifestyle might not transform into something successful for you," explains Fredrickson. Wave your white flag, and move on to the kind of sweat session that makes you feel empowered and energized.
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Common Knowledge Isn't Always Accurate

"Founders are used to hearing from experts every day that their idea or company won’t work," says Fredrickson. "But, if common knowledge was always the best, no one would ever take risks and launch innovative new companies!"

The same goes for many of the fitness and diet mantras that we've grown up with, or read in magazines — some tips might hold true, but some trendy new workouts might be more fad than fact.

"Question what you know, and why you know it," explains Talens. "Like breakfast, for example — we've always heard that it's 'the most important meal of the day,' but this fact isn't really backed up by reliable data." You might actually be more energized without a heavy breakfast slowing you down in the morning — and there's nothing wrong with that, if it's what works for you.
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There Is No Such Thing As A Sustainable Get-Slim-Quick Scheme

We've all seen ads for ways to "Get Rich Quick!" — and guess what, they're probably all B.S. It's the same deal for slimming down, according to Talens. "Fasts and other quick options to weight loss rarely have lasting results. Can you lose a lot of weight, Biggest Loser -style? Sure. But, most participants gain it back as soon as the fast is over."

So, the answer is: If a diet or exercise plan sounds too good to be true, it probably is. "Be skeptical, and use common sense," says Talens. "As much as it isn’t glamorous, slow, hard work that is compounded over weeks, then months, is what leads to a healthy, strong body."
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Work Toward Your Vision

The takeaway? No one workout or nutrition plan is right for everyone — so stop trying to force yourself to follow the diet or exercise plan that your friend, colleague, or favorite celebrity loves if it's not what makes you tick (and if it won't help you reach your unique fitness goals).

Be careful when setting your goal — make sure it's realistic, and don't beat yourself up if you hit bumps in the road. "Once you pick your most important fitness goal, laser-focus on it, and set smaller goals to help you get there," says Fredrickson. As you successfully achieve those small steps towards a rockin' bod — like losing two pounds, or moving from five-pound to eight-pound weights — you'll get the positive enforcement you need to truly love getting fit and strong. Rock on, girl — we know you can do it!