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Switch It Up

If you're doing the same old thing every time you go to the gym, it's time to make a change. You're not necessarily wasting your time completely, but when you do the same thing over and over again your body gets used to it and doesn't burn as many calories," says Sarah Hays Coomer, a Nashville-based personal trainer and author of Lightness of Body and Mind: A Radical Approach to Weight and Wellness. "Plus, doing the same exercises repeatedly can cause certain muscle groups to get overworked while others atrophy and get weaker." That imbalance can lead to injuries, aches and chronic pain, she says, so get more from your workouts by mixing things up, whether that be through duration, type of exercise, or intensity. (Here, how exactly to switch up your go-to workout so you don't compromise your progress.)

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Quit Zoning Out

Failing to really dial in and have your mind focused during exercise is one of the biggest wastes of time, says Spraul. Not only does it increase the risk of injuries, but it also decreases the effectiveness of your workout. He recommends using positive self-talk (repeating motivating, invigorating phrases like "I'm crushing this!"), focusing on what success will feel like at the end of the workout, and actively stamping out any kind of doubt or worry that tries to creep up on you by disputing it with more positive self-talk. As you tune in during your workout, you'll be better able to feel what your body is capable of (which is a lot more than you might think), and also have an easier time really feeling your progress, says Spraul.

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Shorten Your Rests

Resting between sets should be short and sweet, as you don't want your body to cool down. Tyler Spraul, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and the head trainer at, says it's only necessary to wait until you're 100 percent ready to go again if you are really crushing your nervous system by working out at a very high intensity (think high weights with only a few reps, he says). Otherwise, most programs have recommended rest times, so follow the instructions and use a wristwatch or timer app to help you stay on track.

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Skip the Isolation Moves

We're not saying bicep curls or tricep kickbacks don't have their place in a good training plan, but training just biceps, triceps, and other smaller muscles can waste a lot of time. Doug Barsanti, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of ReInvention Fitness, recommends doing compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, pullups, and pushups instead, as they target multiple muscles at once. "Working the big muscles creates a better metabolic environment for fat loss, and working more muscles with fewer exercises saves time in the gym," he says. Another bonus: "When using compound exercises, you're also working the coordination between the small muscles that stabilize you and the big muscles that move you, which is important for developing strength and fitness you can use outside the gym."

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Bring your own...bottle. You know, to make sure you're hydrated while working up a sweat. Trekking to the water fountain, waiting in line, and then making your way back to your workout area steals precious minutes from your workout, though, so fill 'er up before you walk through those gym doors. (Psst: Check out the hydration tips every fit girl needs.) 

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