Make 2012 The Fittest Year Of Your Life

healthy snacks, pistachio, apple and string cheese( — It’s time to build a great new body, and there are great ways you can achieve this, season to season. By exercising three to five times a week for at least 30 minutes (make at least two of those workouts strength training), you can have the body you want in no time.

Winter: Base-Building and Boredom-Busting
Your resolutions probably came with a regular gym membership and not-so-regular motivation. But this is when you need a schedule most. You have to build a solid foundation of strength and cardiovascular health before you can move on to more intense and more fun activities. If you haven’t exercised regularly, start with 2 days a week. Hit 6 weeks, and it’s a habit. Start here.

Stay Low
Keep your cardio intensity lower than about 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate, or a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. If you push too hard, you’ll peak early and burn out. Plus, you’ll burn fat by doing 30 minutes at 60 to 70 percent. When you train at lower intensities, you’re teaching your body to use fat rather than carbohydrates.

Be Spontaneous
Every once in a while, choose exercises the way you’d browse through a bookstore go in without a plan. You can do anything, just whatever you feel like, for 30 minutes to an hour. It’s a great way to avoid boredom, and you don’t have to wait for machines. For cardio, follow the guidelines outlined above. For strength, keep your weights low (low enough so that you can complete two to three sets of 10 mildly challenging reps), or just do one set of each exercise, mixing them as you please without thinking about what’s coming next.

Schedule Breaks
The key to long-term success in a workout is the same as it is at work: Avoid burnout. Every 4 weeks ease up during the last week. That will give your body time to absorb the work you’ve been doing. Your muscles get time to repair themselves, and you’ll be more ready for the workouts to come. Do it by scaling back the number of workouts by one session (if you normally do three or four) or two sessions (if you do more) and by easing up on the intensity.

Spring: High-Intensity Fat-Burning
Now you can start mixing and maxing, so you’ll have an easier time slipping into your Tostitos of a bathing suit. The party starts when winter is over. You’ve done your homework, so now you can kick your program into gear by increasing your intensity. But you also need to watch for overuse injuries, so cross-training is key. Here’s how to ramp up your routine.

Climb High
Try pyramid intervals to push your body to new levels of intensity. You can do them as running sprints, on a treadmill, bike, or elliptical. Warm up, then do a short burst of 15 seconds, and slow down your intensity for 30 seconds. Next, sprint for 30 seconds, then jog for 45 seconds, sprint for a minute, then jog for a minute. Then take the time sets back down again. Repeat for 15 to 30 minutes.

Speed-Up Sets
To keep your heart rate elevated while strength training and to torch extra calories, try this 30-minute quick-change. Alternate between cardio and strength training in 5-minute bouts. Use a different cardio machine each time and alternate between two different strength exercises for 5 minutes. For example, do 10 to 15 reps of a bench press and then 10 to 15 squats. Without resting, head back to the bench press for another set. After 5 minutes (usually two to three sets of each exercise), get on the elliptical machine for 5 minutes before tackling two more alternating strength exercises (like lat pulls and lunges). Continue for a total of three rounds (six strength moves, three cardio machines) or 30 minutes.

Inject plyometrics (plyos) into your routine once a week you’ll add power, speed, strength, and intensity. Start slowly by just adding one set during the first week, and then if you feel fine, add two more sets during the following weeks. After a few weeks, do them in between weight-lifting sets to amplify your strength routine and burn more calories. Recent studies have shown that squat jumps performed after squats can enhance leg strength. To do them: Squat and explode as high as you can for five reps. You can do upper-body plyos by lying on your back, tossing a light medicine ball up into the air, and catching it.

Summer: Maintenance
By now you’ve added lots of horsepower to get a great body, so it’s time to let your engine idle. This is when you make time for those long, leisurely outdoor workouts by cutting out one or two heavy sweat sessions. It’s fine to cut back on your frequency, but to maintain your fitness level you have to maintain your intensity with at least two high-intensity workouts a week.

Get a Gadget
In a season when you typically have more time to spare, get lost. That is, go out for a run or ride along a route that you’re not used to, and use a position-tracking gadget like the Garmin Forerunner 301 GPS ($325, Garmin International) to find your way back. It helps make your outdoor time more fun, because you can go anywhere, in any direction, and the device tracks your mileage. Plus, it’s a great training tool because you can download results after each session as well as track your times and speeds from week to week.

Take 10
Ten minutes may not be enough for staff meetings or back massages, but it’s all you need if you want to jog on the beach, because you can burn twice as many calories working in the sand. You’re forced to work extra hard because of added resistance and the way your foot pushes off. For a more extended workout, Holland suggests a mini-triathlon: Leave your bike at the beach and swim for 10 minutes which isn’t as hard as it seems. Next, hop onto your bike for a 10-minute ride, then go for a 10-minute run.

Max Your Muscle
Maximize your gym time by combining strength exercises to form compound movements. You’ll work more muscles at once, so you’ll burn more calories in a short time. Moves from this issue’s poster such as the lunge kick and curl and the side lunge with upright row work both your upper and lower body at once. You can also add a shoulder press to a squat (press the dumbbells up after you push up from the squat), or an alternating chest press punch: Squat and, as you rise up, punch one dumbbell in front. Squat and then press the other dumbbell forward. Aim for 10 to 12 reps.

Fall: Pre-Holiday Prep
As you go into full-scale clothes-covering season, you’ll want to step up your routine by adding at least another day of exercise, so you’re training 3 to 5 days a week again. You also might want to add some intensity before the holidays eat up all your time. Here’s how to stay on course without getting sidelined by holiday stress or shorter days.

Pump Out Those Endorphins
Shorter days and scarcer sunlight have been tied to seasonal depressive symptoms like fatigue and increased appetite. Multiple studies show that aerobic exercise helps beat and prevent depression because it causes you to release endorphins. So squeeze in at least three good cardio workouts each week to stay happy.