Make like Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington and dedicate each mile you run (or walk or bike, whatevs) to an inspiring person in your life. You’ll never bonk midworkout again.
The Real-Life Example: “I’ll think of someone who reminds me that I can do more, like my mom, and I’ll push so much harder during that mile. When I get home, I’ll call or text all the people I thought of—and it turns into a productive workout and a lovefest.” —Marissa Stephenson, SELF fitness editor
When you feel too stressed to sweat, remember: Exercise improves your ability to remain chill and happy in chaotic situations. It mellows your brain’s neurons, so when life gets crazy, your heart doesn’t race and your mood doesn’t tank.
The Real-Life Example: “I remind myself, Workouts aren’t something you want to do. They’re what you need to do to stay happy.” —Julie Ordonez, Corona, California
Repeat a mantra when the going gets tough. It trains your brain to home in on the positive, not the pain.
The Real-Life Example: “Saying ‘Finish what you start’ always helps me keep going.” —Marjorie Korn, SELF reporter-researcher
You’re mere seconds away from constant encouragement: Sign up for SELF’s newsletters and you’ll receive workouts, recipes and more sent to your phone or inbox.
The Real-Life Example: “Without SELF’s daily emails, I’m not sure I could’ve lost the last 15 pounds.” —Laura Earle, Jasper, Alberta
No one fires us up to move like duo Katrina Hodgson and Karena Dawn of ToneItUp.com. They’re smart and bubbly, they make exercise feel easy…aaand you kinda wanna be their bestie. Jump on K+K’s fanwagon:
Standing on these squishy pods ($43 for six; Spri.com) turns any strength move into an abs firmer, because it forces your core muscles to engage in order to keep you balanced.
The Real-Life Example: “Using these worked wonders for my body. My boyfriend even said so!” —Sophie Martin, Boston
The Nike Training Club app (free at Nike.com) delivers custom workouts and more than 100 body drills. We got hooked after watching Glee’s Lea Michele tout it—with a totally toned body.
The Real-Life Example: “I downloaded this and never looked back. Now I’m 15 pounds lighter, and stronger, too.” —Victoria Budosh, Annapolis, Maryland
This set ($49; Walmart.com) from our Tae Bo boo, Billy Blanks, earns you a boxing body without the ring and comes with the necessary resistance bands, too.
The Real-Life Example: “I saw changes in my arms within two weeks.” —Carin Gorrell, SELF nutrition director
If you’re a double D or bigger, stop what you’re doing—well, read this first—and nab an Enell Sports Bra. There’s no better way to ban bounce and keep your girls separate and snug (but not smushed). And because it clasps in the front, you won’t battle to get it on and off.
The Real-Life Example: “This bra is awesome. It supported me through training for two half marathons this year.” —Amanda Woerner, SELF assistant editor
For sexy lines, clench the muscles you’re about to work: You’ll increase your activation by 26 percent.
The Real-Life Example: “To really focus, it helps me to repeat the muscle name in my head.” —Jaclyn Emerick, SELF editorial assistant
“For slimmer thighs, zero in on moves that work multiple muscle groups. My go-to lower-body tighteners are yoga poses Chair, Crescent, and Warrior.”
“When you are making excuses, stand up and do a minute of jumping jacks. Say, ‘I have zero excuses!’ Find a goal, use positive reinforcement, and get to it.”
“The keys to chiseling your arms in a sexy way are lighter weights—no more than 3 pounds—and high reps. My clients (like the gorgeous Gwyneth Paltrow) do 100!”
Our Holy Grail for holy cow cal-blasting: trainer Phil Campbell’s Sprint 8 plan. Pick any activity for 16 minutes of interval training; alternate 30 seconds at max intensity with 90 seconds at an easy pace.
The Real-Life Example: “It torches calories, mobilizes fat and revs my metabolism.” —Meaghan B. Murphy, SELF deputy editor
The no-fail way to get excited about exercise again: Train for a triathlon. Checking off your weekly triad of workouts will help you bust through any rut, and, hey, you might even score a medal.
The Real-Life Example: “Having a ready-made schedule keeps me motivated, getting outside and having fun.” —Lauren Theodore, SELF senior director of public relations
Sounds counterintuitive, yet it totally works: Add a 45-minute slow day to your weekly cardio regimen and you’ll be zippier every other day. Low-intensity workouts build endurance and refuel tired muscles.
The Real-Life Example: “My recovery runs help speed work. The next day, I’ll be truly all-out.” —Jennifer Bikel, SELF associate photo editor
Start in a raised push-up position, hands beneath shoulders, feet hip-width apart and head, butt, and ankles in a straight line. Hold for 1 minute.
The Real-Life Example: “What could be better than a do-anywhere move that gives you amazing abs and arms? After acing plank, I can do 30 push-ups—up from 12. I’m a stud!” —Paula Derrow, SELF articles director
Start in a lunge, knee over ankle. Jump, switch legs in air, and land in a lunge with opposite foot forward. Quickly switch sides and repeat for 1 rep; do 12 reps.
The Real-Life Example: “I got awesome results doing jump lunges.” —Lindsey Benoit, New York City
On all fours, grab left toes with left hand and extend leg to side. Then, still holding toes, bend leg to rest left ankle on right thigh, and sink into sitting position. Rise onto right knee; repeat. Do 8 reps on each side.
The Real-Life Example: “This move transformed my lower body and makes me feel powerful.” —Alexandra Wren, Spring Valley, New York
Lie facedown on a stability ball, a weight in each hand, arms extended at shoulder level, feet against wall so body is parallel to floor; hold for 3 counts. Bring arms out to sides; hold, then rotate arms behind you, palms down; hold. Return to start; do 12 reps.
The Real-Life Example: “I swear by this move. It’s quick and easy, and it works. My arms look so toned!” —Annemarie Kautz, Croswell, Michigan