Ready, set, go for it! Here are some workout, nutrition and lifestyle strategies for men and women from The Best Diet & Fitness Tips magazine, on newsstands now. The magazine is the first in a new series of USA TODAY publications called The Best.
Play mirror, mirror. Write down goals - a certain race pace or a target weight - on your bathroom mirror using a dry-erase marker. This simple act both helps confirm your commitment and serves as an easy and fun reminder to start each day with purpose.
Get a dog. Research from Michigan State University shows that man's best friend can be a powerful motivator to get us to exercise. The researchers found that study participants who owned dogs were more likely to be active than those who did not. In fact, the study found that 60% of dog owners meet federal criteria for regular, moderate or vigorous exercise, compared with around 30% of people who don't have a dog.
Head outdoors. Burn calories when you chill out. A study found that going for a 20-minute al-fresco stroll twice a week was more restorative than getting the same exercise in an indoor environment like a mall.
Heavy, light, heavy, light. To hit the entire spectrum of muscle fibers, set your workouts so that you train heavy one day, then lighter with more reps later in the week.
Train with like-minded people. Working out in a gym with an intense atmosphere, surrounded by people who are equally as passionate about achieving their goals as you are, may push you further and do more for your progress than another factor.
Stay hydrated. Start the day with at least 16 ounces of water. It's filling, and getting more will improve your recovery after workouts. Aim for one gallon per day.
Cut calories from chicken. Cooking up skinless poultry for dinner is an affordable, easy and fast way to get in quality muscle-building protein. To make it even better for you, skip the swirl of oil and use a tablespoon of water to coat your non-stick plan instead. Cover with a lid and let the chicken steam, then flavor with herbs and spices for a perfectly guilt-free meal.
Rock the oat. You know better than to skip breakfast and risk noshing on extra calories throughout the day. And while oatmeal is a great way to start your morning, you should always aim for balance in every meal. For a little protein and healthy fat, add slivered almonds, and for some fruit, throw in fresh or frozen berries or raisins.
Cultivate gratefulness. Start each day by remembering any experience that recently made you happy - the birthday card you got from an old friend, the compliment your colleague gave you or the tasty new recipe you cooked for dinner. "When negative events happen, people who regularly practice gratitude cope more positively," says psychologist Alex Wood from the U.K.'s University of Manchester. "They're less likely to run away from the problem or pretend it's not happening."
Curl up with a book. Six minutes could be all it takes to curb that frenzied feeling by 60%, say British researchers. So catch up on your overdue reading - even if you have to do it one chapter at a time.