Five Fitness Hacks to Make the Most of Your Workout

Two local trainers offer their secrets for getting—and staying—in shape.


Think carbs are evil, interval training is a must and daily exercise creates super-fit bodies? Wrong, wrong and wrong. Fake fitness news is one reason why it’s so hard to get in shape. (Wine, tacos and Real Housewives marathons are other reasons.) Getting the right information is the first step to getting healthy, say Dwayne Wimmer, owner of Bryn Mawr’s Vertex Fitness, and Dan Kubo, personal training manager of Life Time Fitness in Ardmore. Here they share their insider tips and bust some myths.

What to Eat Before You Exercise

Food provides important fuel for workouts, but trainers can disagree on what’s best. Complex carbohydrates are Wimmer’s secret pre-workout weapon. “If you eat a bunch of protein, your body has to work to break that down,” he says. “Blood glucose is your first line of energy, and that comes from complex carbs.”

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Oatmeal is Wimmer’s go-to. Eating it two hours and 30 minutes before exercising provides the fuel for a great workout. “Oatmeal is not simple sugar, so it takes time to get into the blood stream, and that means it lasts longer,” Wimmer says.

Kubo thinks pre-workout protein is important. “That and some form of carbs,” he says. “Portion size matters. Don’t eat a full meal that’s tough to digest. Greek yogurt—with almonds and berries—or a smoothie is perfect.”

What to Eat After You Exercise

Recovery foods are essential—and protein is at the top of both trainers’ lists. “Eating 25-50 grams of protein 15 minutes to an hour after a workout aids in recovery,” Wimmer says. “A bar, smoothies, whatever. The body doesn’t know the difference.”

Follow that protein with a well-balanced meal. Kubo suggests chicken, fish, steak or plant-based protein and carbs. “Carbs should be 30 percent of a daily diet and no lower,” he says. “That little bit of pasta or piece of bread you want? Go ahead and eat it.”

The Perfect Sit-Up

Don’t do sit-ups with straight legs, Kubo cautions. Bend them, plant your feet on the ground and put your hands behind your head or across the chest. Pick a fixed point on the ceiling, and lift toward it. “It’s not chin to collar bone,” Kubo says. “Raise yourself with your abs, not with your legs.”

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Wimmer has a different technique. Bent or straight legs don’t matter, as long as the abs contract to pull the muscles to the hips. Don’t lift the torso. “Roll up and shorten the distance from below the sternum to the pubic bone,” says Wimmer. “Think of it like an accordion between the rib cage and hips.”

The Truth About HIIT

High-intensity interval training consists of maxed out cardio done in short bursts lasting several minutes, followed by equally long periods of exercise done at about 50 percent capacity. Intervals should alternate for 20-60 minutes. HIIT has benefits, Kubo says, but it shouldn’t be anyone’s only form of exercise. “Real cardiovascular work and weight loss are done with longer periods of lower intensity work,” he says.

Wimmer is all about intensity. “Most people do the same workout over and over at the same intensity—and, eventually, that doesn’t work anymore,” he says. “You need an overload to stimulate change. Walking a mile every day at the same pace on the same course is good, but it won’t change your body. Increase the speed or the intensity. Go further, faster or longer.”

How Many Times a Week to Exercise

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five times a week. Wimmer says three days a week is sufficient, but the most important factor is how hard you work. “You need to put stimulus on the body and let it recover,” he says. “Someone who’s stronger needs more recovery because they’re putting bigger stimulus on the body. You should be able to progress in slight amounts. If you can’t, you’re probably not recovered enough.”

Kubo advises exercising four-five days a week for 30-60 minutes. To him, cross-training is the most important factor. “Weight-bearing exercise, running, swimming, yoga—mix it up so your body gets what it needs,” he says.

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The bottom line for both trainers: With the right food and types of exercise, plus a big dose of discipline, everyone’s fitness goals are attainable. 

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