Autumn is a wonderful time to reflect upon a year nearly spent and to make plans for your future successes. Many athletes and fitness enthusiasts view the changing season as an ideal time for assessing, re-evaluating and in some cases, overhauling their workout routines. Whether it’s rethinking a less than stellar nutritional plan, adding more cardio to shed pounds and build stamina, or packing on some lean muscle, here are some tips to help you change up your fitness game plan.

More than likely, most people need to change their diet before thinking about any adjustments to their cardio-vascular training or weight- lifting programs. It’s what you eat that determines how much muscle you gain, how much fat you lose, and how strong your stamina is all day long. Studies indicate that people who eat 5-6 smaller, well-planned meals throughout the day, say every two to three hours, are going to have more energy, store less fat, and build lean muscle. Each feeding, you should aim for a 3-2-1 ratio of low glycemic index carbohydrates (fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains), lean protein sources (fish, chicken, beef), and mono or polyunsaturated fats (yogurt, low-fat dairy). Processed meats, deep fried fast foods, trans fats found in many baked goods and vending machine treats, and sodas, both regular and diet should be eliminated entirely.

Regular aerobic exercise will prolong and improve the quality of your life and help you to feel and look better. Cardio-vascular activity is the best for improving the capacity of the lungs and heart to utilize oxygen as they grow stronger, more resilient. The International Sports Sciences Association recommends aerobic exercise three to five times a week for 20 to 60 minutes each session to maximize fitness gains and fat loss. Take advantage of cooler, less humid autumn weather to engage in outdoor activities like walking, hiking, biking, kayaking and fitness classes.

Always include regular weight training in your fitness plan. Strength training workouts are key to maximizing fat loss, improving posture and muscle tone and building bone density and flexibility. Make sure to work out each muscle group at least once a week using exercises that are challenging, but safe. Work out 4 to 5 times per week for twenty to forty minutes, tops. You should change up your weight training routine and cardio activity every three months or so to maximize your gains and prevent boredom.

When embarking upon a new fitness routine remember common sense details that’ll make a big difference in the end. First, set healthy, realistic goals for yourself (losing a pound a week, signing up for and completing the Smart Ride) and congratulate yourself when you achieve them. Second, limit partying and drinking which deplete your energy and fill you with empty calories. Third, start some healthy activities (going to bed earlier, yoga, guided meditation) that are sure to supplement your diet and exercise program!

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