Add fun and variety to enhance your workouts

Posted March 29, 2018 2:29 p.m. EDT

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- At last week's Los Angeles Marathon, a California attorney named Loren Zitomersky ran the entire 26.2 miles ... backward.

His reason? To raise money and awareness about epilepsy -- a neurological disorder that claimed the life of his brother, Brian, at age 7. He plans to cover the Boston Marathon's legendary course the same way on April 16.

In addition to the logistical challenge -- Zitomersky needed a "spotter" to alert him when he neared other runners -- running backward is physically and mentally more taxing than conventional forward running.

With backward -- or, as some aficionados term it, "reverse" or "retro" -- running, the body uses more muscles groups and studies have shown burns 20 to 30 percent more calories.

It also forces the runner to stay mentally engaged at all times.

As Zitomersky told "Inside Edition," "It absolutely destroys my body (and) it's tough on the mind, because unlike running forward, you can't sort of zone out. You have to be really self-aware."

Ordinary runners need not follow Zitomersky's (backpedaling) lead to spice up their own training sessions, though.

If you're struggling to stay motivated through workouts that have grown stale, don't fret -- it happens to everyone.

"In high school, when I was competitively running -- and winning -- cross country and track races, I had a reputation as someone who hated running," explains Melissa Perlman, who was the assistant cross country and track coach at Spanish River High in Boca Raton, Florida, for six years.

Even as a collegiate runner at Brown University, Perlman never "enjoyed the process" and often had to "drag myself outside to do solo runs."

However, after years of self-reflection, Perlman says she's now come to "love running" -- and has several creative tips for all exercise enthusiasts to re-ignite their motivation to sweat.

1. Make social media part of your workouts.

"I post a lot on my (at)MelRunsFast Instagram page," Perlman explains. "I like sharing with my friends what I'm up to, where I am running, and sometimes how far or fast I've gone. I take pictures of the sights or I take selfies of me and my running partners. It keeps it fun and it gets others involved."

2. Give your training session a "theme."

"On International Women's Day, I wore Wonder Woman socks and during a Christmas run, I wore a headband with bells," recalls Perlman.

3. Treat yourself to cool-looking gear.

New shoes, shorts, tops, accessories -- who doesn't enjoy looking sharp while running or working out?

Or, as NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders famously said back in the day, "If you look good, you feel good; if you feel good, you play good; if you play good, they pay good."

4. Vary your environment.

If you're a runner, take different routes or maybe drive to the beach for a change of pace.

For strength-training, join a gym that has multiple locations. Or ask for temporary trial memberships at gyms you've never visited before.

And try to always vary your workout. Routines lead to ruts.

5. Create goals.

The old saying "that which gets measured gets improved" applies here. So, have some specific, measurable short- and long-term goals.

To create accountability, Perlman suggests you "make your goals public. Tell your friends and family. Post them on your Facebook page. And work with a personal trainer. This will solidify your commitment and help you reach your goals faster."

6. Embrace the group dynamic.

If you're social and enjoy meeting new people, exercise -- no matter the activity -- is a great way to do it. Or, if you're the type who needs extra motivation to get moving, the energy of the group could be just the push you need. Either way, group fitness classes have never been more fun or popular, so consider giving them a try.

As Perlman says, "I've learned that the two most important ingredients in staying motivated to train are to make the activity fun and social. When you have those components, you can achieve anything."

Steve Dorfman writes for The Palm Beach Post. Email: sdorfman(at)

Story Filed By Cox Newspapers

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