Even if you snored your way through physics class, once you realize that all those textbook equations can be used to sculpt a phenomenal physique, science suddenly becomes sooo much more interesting.Your body is a highly technical machine, governed by the same laws of science and principles of physics that make an apple drop from a tree or a seesaw teeter up and down. With simple tweaks to your fitness routine—like how you position your hands and feet during an exercise—you can get better results in less time. The best part? You don’t have to be Sir Isaac Newton to ace this lesson. Here, two simple concepts to put into motion.

Dumbbells, resistance bands, even water—they’re all ways to apply external force to your workload, making any sweat session more challenging. Resistance also gets you results: the added stress on your body encourages muscle growth, which helps increase your metabolism and blast fat. But there are two subtle forces you may not have considered: wind and incline. It’s always more difficult to ride a bike into a headwind or make your way through a trail rather than jog on a flat treadmill. That’s because your body has to use more energy to overcome resistance and requires more calories, says Stephen Stanley, a kinesiologist at Siliconcoach (siliconcoach.com), a company that specializes in movement-analysis technology. Exercising in these conditions is a simple way to increase the intensity of an otherwise ordinary workout.

On windy days, unless you’re planning a run or ride longer than 90 minutes, head out going into the breeze. If you don’t have trails or hills nearby, or if you have an indoor run planned, set your treadmill to at least a one to two percent incline to more closely mimic the demands of outdoor running.

The physics of running works like this: When your foot hits the road (or treadmill), you apply a force to the ground, which responds with an equal and opposite force (Newton’s third law of dynamics), helping to propel you forward. As you speed up, either the length of your stride or your step rate—how frequently your foot hits the ground—naturally increases. That’s thanks to your own personal biomechanics. Working to improve your running stride can help make every run feel less taxing, which can help you increase both speed and distance while helping avoid injury. Drive yourself forward from your hips by pushing them off your back leg rather than overextending your front leg.

APPLY IT: Research has shown that elite runners have an optimum step rate of 180 or more foot strikes per minute. To improve your running, try increasing your step rate by five to 10 percent. To find your rate, count how many times your feet hit the ground while running at an easy pace for 30 seconds. Double that number for your step rate. Want to improve it? Fill your playlist with songs that have 180 beats per minute—running to the beat will help you quicken your cadence. If you love music from the ‘90s, use it to your advantage. Songs like “The Sign by Ace of Base, “Mambo #5” by Lou Bega and “Bye, Bye, Bye” by N’Sync all have 180 beats per minute—perfect for your running playlist.

Learn more scientifically proven workout hacks by grabbing a copy of the October 2013 issue of Women's Health, out on stands now! You can also subscribe to the magazine's digital edition.

Also in this issue:
The Food Lover's Diet
Workout Wonders
Get What You Want in Bed

(Photo by Karen Kho)

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