Take This Jump-Rope Challenge. The best cardio workout is the jump-rope double-turn maneuver. It’s intense: You’ll burn about 26 calories per minute! Do a basic jump for five minutes, then jump twice as high and turn the rope twice as fast so it passes under your feet twice before you land. This takes timing, patience and power. But you’ll get in great shape just by working at it.
Give Yourself a Break. You don’t have to be a fitness saint to get results. Follow the 80/20 plan: Eighty percent of the year, you’ll exercise regularly and eat well. Know that you’ll slip 20 percent of the time due to holidays and work deadlines. When you accept that fitness isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition, you’re more likely to stick with it for life.
Get a Jump on Weight Loss. Add plyometric box jumps to your workout to improve your cardiovascular stamina and leg strength — you’ll really sculpt your hamstrings, quads and glutes. Find a sturdy box that’;s at least one foot high. Starting from a standing position, explosively jump to the middle of the box, then jump back down. Repeat 20 times.
Don’t Skimp on Carbs. Your body needs them to fuel a workout, so reach for fruit or high-fiber crackers an hour beforehand. If you’e exercising for 90 minutes or longer, include some protein so that the carbs break down more slowly, giving you longer-lasting energy. Your best bets: low-fat cheese and crackers, trail mix or half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Maximize Your Crunches. Don’t relax your abs as you lower your chest away from your knees during a crunch — you get only half the ab-toning benefit! To get the firmest abs possible, you need to sustain the contraction on the way down.
Intensify Your Push-Up. Squat-thrust push-ups get you in great shape because they work your upper body, core and lower body and improve agility, strength and endurance all at once. From a standing position, bend down, put your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart, and jump your feet back into plank position. If you’re strong, cross your ankles; otherwise, jump your feet wide apart. Do a push-up, then jump your feet together or uncross your ankles. Jump your feet back to your hands and stand up. Do eight reps total, rest for one minute, and repeat.
Paddle Your Way to Flatter Abs. Go kayaking to get a taut stomach — it’s ideal because much of your rowing power comes from your core. Mimic the motion and resistance of the water at home by looping an exercise band around the bottom of a table leg or other fixed object. Sit on the floor with legs extended, knees slightly bent; grasp one end of the band in each hand. Rotate your torso to one side as you bring the elbow back slightly, then switch sides. Do three sets of one to three minutes each.
Make Over Your Running Routine. Unless you’re training for a marathon, skip long, slow, distance running — sprinting builds more muscle. Add a few 10- to 60-second sprints to your run, slowing down just long enough to catch your breath between them.
Super-Sculpt Your Butt. Get great glutes by targeting the muscles and connective tissues buried deep in your body. To hit them, do high-intensity squats, such as jump squats. Then, blast off butt flab with cross-country skiing, bleacher running and stair climbing.