If exercise machines resemble torture devices in your eyes, take heart. You can get a great workout with these easy-to-use tools.
Dumbbells ($60 for set of six; SportsAuthority.com) Dumbbells make you control your motion and support the full force of the weight. As a result, you wind up working a fuller range of muscles than you would if you were using a machine—and you ensure that each side of your body is conditioned equally. (Machines let your stronger side dominate.)
Stability Ball (From $16; ResistABall.com) A real bang for your fitness buck, a stability ball engages your core muscles. That's because you have to balance the ball from left to right, which activates your abs and lower back, as well as your legs.
Resistance Band ($15; Nike.com) This ultralight, stretchy band can be stuffed into a gym bag, purse, or suitcase. The elastic resistance can be made to simulate the intensity of many machines, and like dumbbells, these bands encourage coordination and equal effort from both sides of your body.
2. Three Easy Moves:
Rather than skipping workouts on busy days, plan a few moves that hit multiple muscles. Start with one or two sets of ten reps each of the following exercises, then move up to three sets when you're ready.
Lunge with Biceps Curl
Step-Up to Shoulder Press
Click here for the print-only version of Jennifer's workout
3. Keep a Journal
The most surprising tip that Bob gave Jennifer? Keep a journal. "Long-term physical health cannot be achieved by exercise alone," he says. "It's also about managing your mental well-being and the way you eat." For example, anyone who's experienced toxic stress at work or in a relationship knows that it can erode your motivation to hit the gym or skip the burger and fries. According to Bob, regular journal entries will keep you mindful of your behavioral patterns and help you spot problems that can undermine your health.
4. Consider a Trainer, Just to Get Back on the Wagon
You might be thinking, "If I had a trainer, I'd shape up, too!" You might also be thinking you can't afford one because they all require a long-term, multiple-day-per-week commitment. Not true. Bob Greene says if you're really strapped for cash, even a one-hour session can provide you with an outline for the next six months (average costs can range from $60 to $150). If you've got a little more to spend, you might consider monthly visits. At these meetings, your trainer can evaluate you, switch up your routine, and boost your motivation. (As Jennifer said about Bob and trainer Katie Moran, "It was one thing if I let myself down but another if they considered me a slacker.") All major gyms have fitness experts on staff; you can find independent, accredited instructors through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-Lift.org), the American Council on Exercise (AceFitness.org), or the American College of Sports Medicine (ASCM.org). <
Pregnant? Get Bob Greene's month-by-month exercise plan
Ready to upgrade? Try Dr. Oz's 20-minute workout