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6 simple ways to get the most out of your workout

Any exercise is better than none, but no one wants to waste their time in the gym. Learn how to get the most out of your workout here.

  • Not everyone wants the same thing out of a workout session. We each have our distinct goals.
  • We should keep in mind that pain doesn't always mean gain.
  • You are much more likely to succeed in your exercise goals if you hold yourself accountable by writing down your intentions and plans.

Whether you're a person who can't wait for their next trip to the gym or 5K run, or someone who is still working to make working out a priority, we all want to make sure that every minute we spend exercising counts.

It's also important to recognize that not everyone wants the same thing out of a workout session. While some are looking to improve their health, others may want to build their strength or endurance to get better at a sport, while others turn to exercise or other gentler forms of movement (like yoga or tai chi) for stress relief.

We should also remember that pain is not always gain. "Yes there may be some level of difficulty as you build up your stamina and strength, but pain is never a good thing, and you can get fit without pushing yourself to the point of hurting," Bert Mandelbaum, M.D., a sports medicine specialist and co-chair of medical affairs at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles and author of The Win Within: Capturing Your Victorious Spirit, tells Thrive Global.

It's up to you to determine your priority, but regardless of what it is, you should be getting the most out of your workout. Here are some tips from experts on how to do exactly that:

Have a consistent workout plan…

One way to maximize the benefits of your workout is to stick to a consistent plan. Rather than cramming a week's worth of exercising into the weekend, Mandelbaum recommends trying to regularly schedule 30 minutes of movement each day. The half-hour doesn't even need to be all at the same time: you can try breaking it up into two 15-minute segments, he says. And yes, out-of-the-gym activities like walking the dog, raking leaves, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator all count as exercise.

… But vary the exercises

So yes, you're going to want to stick with a consistent workout schedule, but it's a good idea to change up the exercises you're doing, Mandelbaum explains. Not only does this keep things more interesting, but repetitive motion over time can really wear down and stress the muscles and joints, and make them more prone to injury, he says. To avoid this, instead of doing the same exercise three or four days in a row, Mandelbaum suggests switching it up and alternating with something different for one or two of the days to engage different sets of muscles.

Try an exercise ball

Chances are you already have one of those big exercise balls (also called Swiss balls) in a closet at home or sitting somewhere in your office — now is the time to put it to use. For starters, it's a great addition to your regular workout, allowing you to stretch and move your spine in a controlled manner, Neel Anand, M.D., professor of orthopaedic surgery and director of spine trauma at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles, tells Thrive. You can use the exercise ball for everything from crunches, squats, planking, and other forms of stretching, according to the Mayo Clinic (here's some inspiration and visuals to get you started).

"Moving the vertebrae in this way can help nourish discs in the spine by increasing blood flow and lubrication to them," she says. "Additionally, using an exercise ball in conjunction with core strengthening exercises will work the abdominal muscles and help to stabilize the spine." They are also great for "active sitting," engaging muscles while you're working at a desk or watching TV.

Don't forget about recovery

Your exercise session isn't over when you step off the treadmill — cooling down and having a recovery period is also an important part of maximizing your workout. Stretching after a cooldown will loosen any tight muscles and increase flexibility, which will help for the next workout, Mandelbaum explains. You may also want to try using a foam roller after exercising, John Soberal, DPT, a doctor of physical therapy at Providence Saint John's Health Center's Performance Therapy in Santa Monica, CA, tells Thrive. He explains that it may help to "iron out" fascia — the connective tissue that envelops muscles that tend to cause mobility restrictions.

Plan meals around your workout

We're not suggesting reorganizing your whole life around going to the gym, but some thoughtful meal planning can help ensure your workout is as effective as possible. For example, if you plan to exercise in the morning, don't eat dinner too close to when you're going to bed, Hannah Dove, DPT, a doctor of physical therapy at Providence Saint John's Health Center's Performance Therapy in Santa Monica, CA, tells Thrive. "Eating an extremely late dinner will make it harder for your body to digest on time and then you might feel sluggish when you wake up in the morning," she says.

But, do take the time to prepare or set out your breakfast for the next morning, Dove recommends. That way you won't waste time or energy deciding what to make. Then, the next morning, wake up and eat a light breakfast — like a banana and some peanut butter, or a hard-boiled egg and toast — to help give your body good fuel to use during the workout. "In order to perform well, your body needs the right fuel at the right times, so make it easier on your body instead of working against it," she adds.

Use your unplugged time to plan your workout

We're big proponents of unplugging from devices to ease your body into sleep mode— ideally at least 30 minutes before bed. Dove suggests extending that to one or two hours, if possible, and using that time without electronics to plan your workout for the next day. "Picking what exercises and the order the night before will take all the guesswork and stress out of it the next day," she notes. "Set your plan the night before, and then all you have to worry about the next day is executing your plan." Your plan doesn't have to be complicated: it can be as simple as queueing up your favorite exercise video or audio workout, deciding whether to take a class at the gym or go straight to the elliptical, or taking the time to visualize yourself going through the moves and getting in a great, productive workout.

And while you're unplugged from your devices in the evening, Dove also recommends taking the time to write out your goals for the following day. These can be specific to your workout, or general health and fitness goals with ideas of how you plan on achieving them. "You are much more likely to succeed if you hold yourself accountable by writing down your intentions and plans," she explains.

Reprinted with permission of Thrive Global. Read the original article.

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Is this proof of a dramatic shift?

Strange Maps
  • Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
  • Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
  • A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses

Dramatic and misleading

Image: Reddit / SICResearch

The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.

Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.

The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.

Let's zoom in:

  • It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
  • By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
  • Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
  • In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
  • Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
  • By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.

"Frightening map"

Image source: Reddit / SICResearch

This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?

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  • "The idiocracy grows."
  • "(It's) like a spreading disease."
  • "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
For others, the maps are less about the rise of Fox News, and more about CNN's self-inflicted downward spiral:
  • "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
  • "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
  • "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
  • "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."

Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:

  • "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
  • "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
  • "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
  • "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."

"Old people learning to Google"

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)

But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:

  • "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
  • "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
  • "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
  • "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."

A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.

The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.

One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.

Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.

It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.

CNN, Fox and MSNBC

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison

For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):

  • Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
  • MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
  • CNN: 706,000 (-9%)

And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.

The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
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