Meet Your Fitness Goals Faster By Embracing These 12 Tips

#9 is more important than you'd think.

Want to make your workouts smarter and see results faster? Check out these 12 tips that will bring it all together.

1. Maintain proper form at all times, which means using the right amount of weight. If it is too hard to do an exercise properly, it's probably too heavy. Most injuries stem from bad form.

2. Don't exercise too late in the day. The peak time to exercise is early afternoon, when the blood vessels are dilated the most and the body will get the most benefit. However, pushing exercise too close to bedtime will decrease sleep quality which isn't good for muscles or mental clarity.

3. Stay properly hydrated. Dehydrated muscles don't function to their full potential, which could impact the quality of the workout. Additionally, the body needs enough water to perspire properly, maintaining balance in the body.

4. Keep realistic goals. Sure, it'd be fantastic if everyone could do a couple workouts and immediately feel accomplished, but that isn't how it works, unfortunately. Keep a diary for goals and progress, and remember that trying to get too much too soon can lead to injury or quitting from being discouraged. Slow and steady is all it takes.

5. Listen to music. Cranking up some tunes not only helps build focus to the workout at hand, those who listen to music usually get more reps per set than those who don't.

6. Weights first, cardio second. Doing cardio first will not only fatigue muscles and make it more difficult to keep proper form during weightlifting, but the hormones associated with muscle growth won't be as effective. 

7. Get enough to eat. Lifting weights is a great way to get toned and trim down, but it's important to feed the muscles that are doing all of the work. A quick and dirty way to calculate how many calories to eat are to multiply weight in pounds by 15 (moderately active) or 17 (very active). Thus, someone who weighs 150 pounds should eat 2250 or 2550 calories per day, based on respective activity levels.

8. Change things up. After a few weeks of doing the same exercises, muscles will plateau and stop responding the way they once did. Find new ways to train muscle groups every 6 weeks to keep muscles guessing and keep results coming.

9. Get a good amount of sleep. This is when the body repairs the muscles and helps them grow.

10. Don't let a few off days derail everything. Some days muscles just don't want to cooperate and can't handle as much weight or run as fast as they did last week. Sometimes, vacations or busy schedules come in the way of a fitness routine and it's easy to quit once momentum is lost. Don't throw in the towel after a couple off days. Fitness is a process and a lifestyle.

11. Be mindful of post-workout snacks. Supplements or snacks containing about 20 grams of protein are great for restoring muscles, but be mindful of anything containing too much fat or sugar, as it can derail efforts.

12. Save stretching until after the workout. It's not good to stretch cold muscles prior to the workout. They'll stretch much better (and safer!) if it's done at the end. Don't skip stretching; it'll help keep the muscles from tightening up too much and hurting as well as extending your range of motion.