BENNINGTON — Now that we're making headway through the lack of a winter mother nature has granted us with, it's time to start signing up for summer runs. But, before you run into shin splints on the warmest day of the week (today), start off slow and steady in the gym. Whether you have your own basement gym, a work gym or a community location, there's always a way to spruce up your workout routine.

1. SINGLE OR DOUBLE?

When looking to better your health, the first two steps include a clean diet and workout routine. However, some find it easier to embark on such a journey with another person. Couples, friends, siblings and coworkers all lose weight together because it establishes a sense of accountability. This is the same idea with following only health and fitness blogs and posting progress pictures on it. Once your lifestyle goes public, you're held responsible to continue progressing. I sometimes find that working out with a partner makes me distracted and I just want to goof around, but others may find that working out with someone who's at the same skill level is more efficient when pushing each other along.


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It's also great to take weekly or daily exercise classes so that if your college roommate doesn't wake up on time, you can throw a pillow in their direction and drag them along. Partner workouts are another realm of exercises, but they can really help with increasing your heart rate because they involve passing a medicine ball back and forth or doing push ups and high-fiving each other. You can also get into mini-contests to see who completes a move the fastest or who can lift the most weight.

2. Attire

This is probably the most crucial and preventative aspect to someone who is getting ready to exercise. If you think the Nikes that you wear day in and day out are the shoes to wear to the gym, you may be wrong. Unless they have incredible support, its better to have a separate pair of shoes you wear to the gym to keep them lasting longer and also to differentiate between recreational and whatever you do during your workout. Those lifting heavy weight prefer Converse or Vans because there's less support and material between the floor and your foot, which helps avoid slipping or being on an uneven level. Shoes with more material and support are better for walking and running. Choosing the right shoe can prevent from back problems in the long wrong. Also, invest in some actual gym clothes. Sweatpants and a T-shirt works too, but if you're going for a run on your lunch break, it's not wise to keep khaki pants and polo on. After a while, gym clothes become what they are because of the sweat and stretch exhaust. There's been many times I've put on a shirt after working out in it once and can smell a faint odor all day long.

3. Location

In the summer I love to workout with my dog. The best of both worlds is watching him run around in a field or at the dog park while I use a bench for decline push ups or lunges. A gym can be made out of any location with if you're creative enough. Use gallon jugs in your kitchen, that may have more space than the living room, to do weighted squats, shoulder presses or bicep curls. Unless you're obsessed with dumbbells, it's easy to burn a few calories in tight spaces. Bodybuilding.com has a great list of plyometric moves to utilize with little to no equipment. These are great for a person with limited space because you only need as much room as your body splays for jumping jacks, planks, etc. No time to get to the gym after a long day? Put Netflix on and do a different exercise for every scene. If a scene is a minute long, do push ups for that minute, then switch to squats, and then add a cardio movie like high-knees or burpees. Exercising is a funny thing where if you think too much about it you either come up with a great workout or don't want to do it at all. The opportunities are endless and that's what should keep you the most motivated. No workout has to be the same!

4. Pre/During/Post Meals and Supplements

Some people prefer to eat before their workout because they pass out easily or just don't have the energy otherwise, but I personally can't eat within one to two hours before I exercise because I get cramps and feel fatigued. Others wake up early in the morning and do fasted cardio, which is another option. Fitness Magazine suggests consuming carbs before a workout, which is ideal for fuel and having protein and vegetables afterward to replenish broken down muscles. Have toast with peanut butter and a banana before and then chicken and veggies after, for example. During the workout, if you're an athlete you can consume BCAA's or branched chain amino acids. According to bodybuilding.com, BCAA's help synthesize other amino acids for anabolic muscle action or, whole muscle tissue. It also stimulates insulin production that helps circulate blood sugar to be used by muscle cells for energy. They can be consumed throughout the day as well as during and after a workout. If you're lacking energy, there is also something called a pre-workout drink that contains caffeine and other ingredients that can increase endurance, strength, muscle growth and burn body fat. Some are better than others and they'll typically make your lips tingle if made with stimulants. Most supplement outlets offer sample packages, so when searching for protein powder, BCAA's or pre-workout, utilize that option to shop around for the best flavor and result.

5. Music Selection

This should be a no-brainer. Whatever music that makes you move and groove should be on a workout playlist. Whatever songs you hear in the car that make you scream at the windshield should be on your workout playlist. I know some who prefer only hard rock and others that prefer soft alternative. Again, it depends on the exercise type, so try to match your tune to what you're doing. If you have extremely upbeat techno while you're running, you may get anxious or you may get distracted and forget you're even running. While listening to heavy rock or instrumental, take those angered feelings and project them into your workout by slamming the medicine ball harder or hitting a punching bag harder. The workout playlist options are endless and there are plenty of sample suggestions that people post on exercise forums and elsewhere on the internet.

—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.