If you’re a runner.
The basic: Hitting the streets for a steady 3-mile jog a few times a week is certainly good for your body and mind, but it’s not doing you any favors in the speed or endurance department.
The boost:Hills. “Adding hill workouts is one of the best ways to improve quickly,” says personal trainer and running coach Karen Shopoff-Rooff. “Hills challenge the large muscle groups in the legs, which in turn increases your heart rate and burns more calories.”
How to: “Find a moderate-grade hill you can run up in approximately one minute. After an 8- to 10-minute warm-up, run up the hill and jog slowly back down. Repeat five times. Add one repeat each week until you can do 10. Always cool down for 8-10 minutes afterward.”
If you’re a walker.
The basic: Walking is a fantastic low-impact fitness option that boasts several health benefits, but trudging the same 30-minute loop around your neighborhood might not be cutting it.
The boost:Step-ups. Adding a step interval using a curb will raise your heart rate without adding significant impact to your joints, Shopoff-Rooff says.
How to: “Stop every five minutes, and step up onto and off of a curb for one minute,” instructs Shopoff-Rooff. “Then walk another five minutes and repeat the step-ups, this time leading with your opposite foot. Repeat throughout your walk.”
If you’re an elliptical junkie.The basic: If 30 minutes on the elliptical is your go-to cardio, kudos, but you might be underestimating your effort. “It is very easy to cheat on the elliptical,” says Jennifer Purdie, a personal trainer and triathlete in San Diego, Calif. “Many people choose ‘manual’ and keep it on an easy level the entire 30 minutes.” If this sounds like you, it’s time for a twist.
The boost: Vary your resistance. “Mixing up your resistance will make your legs and heart work harder, building muscle and increasing your fitness ability,” Purdie says.
How to: “Forgo the ‘manual’ workout for one of the machine’s interval or hill settings at a higher level, and do this at least once a week,” Purdie says. “The machine will vary the resistance for you, giving you strong, svelte legs.”
If you’re a cyclist.
The basic: “If you ridethe same route over and over again, your body will adjust and you won’t get the same physical benefits over time,” Purdie says.
The boost: Hill repeats. “Hill repeats will change up your heart rate, which in turn makes you a stronger cyclist,” Purdie says. “You will get stronger, more defined legs, and be able to crank out faster speeds.”
How to: “Find a good hill that at least is 1-2 miles long. Keep your cadence steady up the hill and try to force yourself to stay in the saddle. Repeat throughout your ride, and incorporate hill workouts once a week.”
If you’re a swimmer.
The basic: Free styling or breast stroking down the lanes for 1,000 meters may sound like the ultimate fitness option: Your entire body benefits and there is little chance of injury. To take your pool time to the next level, though, try Purdie’s stroke-enhancing secret.
The boost: Practice with paddles. “Paddles provide resistance in the water and will assist you with your pull, making you a stronger swimmer who can go faster with less effort,” Purdie says.
How to: Try this drill:
Warm up: 250 meters
4 x 50 arm drills (Superman, one arm drag)
4 x 50 using paddles, rest in between. Go slowly.
150 meter sprint
Cool down: 250 meters