WHEN IN TRAFFIC, SQUEEZE.

Body awareness is a marvelous thing. Take your butt, for instance. If you let nature take her course, you will, over time, notice it sagging and becoming listless. Buns of steel naturally turn into buns of cinnamon. Butt it doesn’t have to be that way.

Tush muscles are made for squeezing, and the more you engage them, the longer they appear perky. Bottom line? Next time you’re in traffic waiting for the light to change, or standing at your computer, or doing the dishes, use that time to build a stronger butt and draw energy to your core.

How? Work those glutes! The maximus, the minimus and the medius. Shift your attention to the base of your spine, and squeeze your glutes as though you were pushing a golden light up your spine, all the way out the top of your head. Hold that squeeze and that energizing visualization for a count of 10. Relax and repeat, whenever you can, for the rest of your life.

NEW SLANT ON TREADMILLING

Walking or running on a strong, stable treadmill is one of the most popular ways to exercise. To get the most out of your cardio time, venture out of your comfort zone by cranking up the grade.

Walking up a 10 percent grade will burn 75 percent more calories than walking on a flat surface. Walking uphill also makes your muscles work harder and gets your pulse up more quickly. And may I remind you that aerobic workouts are proven to enhance memory.

But, dear reader, don’t torture yourself or elevate to the point of pain. Feeling breathless for too long is counterproductive, so vary the challenge. Move the grade up, and allow yourself to breathe hard for a minute or two; then ease it down when it’s time to recover.

It’s called interval training – alternating hard and easy moments in a workout – and it’s one of the hottest old trends in fitness today. A 20- to 30-minute high-intensity training session will improve your cardiovascular fitness in a way that an hour of easy ambling never will, though both have their place when it comes to boosting your overall well-being.

IN WEIGHT TRAINING, SLOWISH AND STEADY IS BEST. 

Lifting weights is a heroic way to build strength, protect joints and – if you’re patient – reshape your body. But lifting weights in a herky-jerky way, out of alignment and out of control, is a bad habit that can lead to trouble.

What’s a better way? Lift with awareness, in control, using your muscle power, not your momentum. Don’t tense your muscles to make them strong. Just the opposite: Relax, and let the energy flow. Experiment with a s-l-o-w count, four counts up, four counts down, and slow it down gradually to eight or 10 counts, up and down.

Focus, focus, focus on the inner game. You’ll be amazed how quickly your muscles will tire just by slowing the pace and adding concentration.

And don’t forget to connect to your breath! Your breath is your best friend when it comes to strength training. (And all of life, actually.) On your inhale, expand your lungs, top to bottom, and feel your heart lift. Exhale with great enthusiasm as you lift up the weight. Exhale right into the muscle, joint or body part you’re working with, visually and mentally.

It sounds abstract because it is abstract, but there’s no doubt the mind and body are energetically connected. Practice this technique of touching your body with your breath – when you lift, when you stretch – and you’ll ease tightness and increase your range of motion. You’ll also experience the mind-body connection for yourself. A true aha moment.

– Marilynn Preston – healthy lifestyle expert, well being coach and Emmy-winning producer – is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, marilynnpreston.com, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to MyEnergyExpress@aol.com.