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Streamline Your Workout
And Other Tricks On How To Fit Fitness Into Your Life

By John Winters

Kids are great, but they can wreak havoc on a workout schedule.

Now that you're old enough to be a dad, staying fit is more important than ever. Men who hit the couch instead of the gym lose about seven pounds of muscle a decade. In other words, if you don't stay active you may soon look like that guy at work who hasn't seen his toes in 20 years.

But with work and raising a family, finding time to log those miles and rack up those reps can seem impossible. Here are some tips on how you can fit an excellent workout into your hectic lifestyle:

Remember: Less Is More.... Or At Least Enough.

It used to be that you'd have to spend hours a week at the gym to get a buff bod. The good news is studies show you can get nearly the same results with a third of the work.

"If you're training to increase your health and to optimize your fitness, you certainly can have a very focused workout that makes the most of your time," said Richard Cotton, chief exercise physiologist with First Fitness Inc. in Salt Lake City.

So say goodbye to those multiple sets of arduous pumping, and instead choose just ten exercises, and do one set of ten reps each. Devote a full minute to each set, concentrating on the major muscle groups, and in ten minutes you're pumped.

Gain With Less Pain.

Not only can you reduce your number of sets, you can cut your weekly workouts from three to two, said Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Mass. Men who workout twice a week using the above regimen get 85 percent of the benefit as men who hit the iron three times weekly, shedding fat and packing on the muscle as they do it, he said.

Stay At Home, Dad.

Skip the gym and stay home. There's plenty of home fitness equipment out there, and some of it can even involve the whole family. The Trazer allows you to strap on a special electronic eye and become a human joystick, bobbing and weaving as you try to hit flying balls on a video monitor. The Trazer provides a full-body workout for up to three people at once, and will soon be available in a home model ( Not ready for a virtual workout? Get an elliptical trainer, the hottest machine in fitness these days. Like a cross between a stair climber and a Nordic track, elliptical trainers work the arms and legs, while providing an aerobic workout. It does everything but mind the kids while you exercise. Or, you can go low tech, and spend a few dollars to turn your basement into a home gym. Get a jump rope and a heavy bag, both of which will give you an aerobic and strength conditioning workout. Add a set of barbells for about $50 and you'll quickly turn into the neighborhood Rocky without ever leaving the house.

Park It Here.

Anyone who's ever chased a child around knows they can be the best fitness machines of all. Take advantage of this by heading to a local park, recommended David Goodwin, owner of Phoenix Academy, a fitness and development program for children in Avon, Mass.

"Have fun with your child and get a good workout at the same time," he said.

Use the monkey bars to do pull-ups, dips and reverse stomach crunches. A simple game of hide and seek or catch can be aerobic if done correctly. So can a piggyback ride around the football field, which will power up those back, shoulder and leg muscles.

Get Off The Sidelines.

Volunteer as a coach for one of your youngster's teams. Be sure to join in for those suicide sprints, and hit the dirt and show the kids what a real set of push-ups looks like.

Or become a referee, and burn hundreds of calories a game.

Break It Up.

Still no time for exercise? Remember all you need is 30 minutes most days of the week, and research shows that you can break this up into three ten-minute sessions throughout the day and still benefit. You can even fit in 15 of these short sessions throughout the week, said Glenn Gaesser, professor of exercise physiology at the University of Virginia. You'll still see improvements in your fitness, with plenty of time left to spend with the family.

John Winters lives in Massachussetts and writes frequently about fitness and sports.

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