Our reasons and motivations for working out are as varied as our personalities. Some of us just want to feel and look good while others may be recovering from an injury, or training for a high level competition. Regardless the reason you invest time into your health it matters and is important. The one thing everybody has in common is that you want maximum results from your efforts. Working out takes sacrifice of time and comfort and nobody has time to waste. Here are a few tips to help maximize your workouts and get the most out of your time:
Timing: The best time to workout is when you can. Getting it done is really what matters most. Quality workouts can happen in the early morning, afternoon, or evening. More importantly try to exercise around the same time each day. Your body and systems get in a daily circadian rhythm and your exercise time should be apart of that natural process. Also working out around the same time each day makes it important and apart of a schedule. Something scheduled is a little harder to brush off. Consistency is always key.
Visualization: Take a few minutes before the workout, this can be in the morning or the evening prior, to mentally walk through the workout. If you are following a program have an understanding of what is expected of you. There may be methods or exercises that are new to you. Take the time before hand to learn everything properly instead of trying to figure it out in the gym when you are on the clock. Your workout may involve something dreadful (high rep squats) so preparing mentally will give you time to face your fear.
Have a plan: Random workouts will yield random results. If you have very specific fitness goals workout to a program aimed at helping you to accomplish them. Proper programs thread together nutrition, resistance training, and cardio into one strategic blueprint for success. A certified personal trainer can design you a custom program taking into consideration your lifestyle, injuries and mobility issues, and your personal problem areas. If personal training is out of your budget look to proven trainers who have released programs online that fit your fitness goals.
Nutrition: Working out is just half of the story. Nutrition is what fuels your workouts and helps your body recover. Making the absolute most out of each workout really depends on how you eat the other 23hrs of the day. If you are not eating clean, healthy foods getting traction towards fitness milestones will be near impossible. Try to eat natural foods with a good spread of healthy fats, carbohydrates, and protein. It’s not ideal to do intense resistance training on an empty stomach or immediately after having a big meal. Both situations have been known to make one feel sick. Eating a sensible meal about two hours before a workout tends to work well. Fasted steady state cardio, upon waking, is fairly common for many individuals. Do have a quality fast digesting whey protein immediately after weight lifting followed by a quality meal one hour later.
Supplements: Nutrition and exercise consistency should always come first, but if those two elements are in place quality supplements can help with energy, strength, and recovery. Supplements are not mandatory to achieve physical success, but can give you a little edge. Many people work hard enough in and out of the gym that even a little extra help is important. Since we do all this to become healthier people be careful what you are putting into your body. Look to supplements that are third party tested or accuracy and purity, contain no artificial colors or flavors, use patented quality ingredients, and have label transparency. Don’t take random supplements because of an online ad. Some of the things out there may be harmful to your body. Do your research!
Hydration: Research has shown that being dehydrated even 1-3% can reduce strength and energy. Stay fully hydrated if you want to get the most out of your workouts. Water is an important part of our internal systems. Drinking adequate amounts of water helps with fat loss, cravings, and muscle building. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workouts.
Warm up: Taking even 5 minutes to warm up the body and get your systems ready for increased activity can be beneficial. It’s not recommended to jump right into intense exercise while the muscles are cold. Warming up can help reduce injury and increase performance. While ‘static stretching’ has not been confirmed to help reduce injury more ‘dynamic’ stretching can help prepare your body for the more intense workout to come.
Do warm up sets: When its time to start your actual resistance training do at least one warm up set of each movement to get the muscles, tendons, and ligaments ready in that particular range of motion. Use a lighter weight for 12-15 controlled reps. If a certain body part feels really tight or sore do more warm up sets. As many as it takes to lift safely. This also helps imprint the movement in your mind before lifting heavier weight when it’s sometimes harder to think.
Track workouts: If you really want to make progress with your workouts get in the habit of tracking your exercises, sets, reps, and weight used. It’s impossible to remember all this data week after week. If you want to look the same keep doing the same stuff. But if you are looking to progress be progressive with your reps and weight over time while keeping strict form. You can use your phone, an app, or old school notebook to keep track of your workouts.
Making reps count: There is a big difference between going through the motions and getting the most out of each rep. There is also the concept of ‘mind-muscle connection’ which plays into really feeling the targeted muscle throughout the movement. Learning to feel and contract a muscle sometimes takes experience as does proper exercise form. Just remember all muscles stretch and contract during exercise. If you are not doing one or the other during your set that muscle is not being worked. Go into every set with the thought of getting the absolute most work and results from your efforts.
Music: Motivating tunes have been shown to increase exercise performance. Make a playlist of your favorite songs that pump you up. Tune out the world and focus on your self improvement time.
Stay focused: The time you have to workout is limited so don’t waste it with distractions. Try to stay focused on the task at hand for the next 30-60 minutes. Do your best to not get into long conversations, watching the gym TV’s, or messing around on your phone too much. It’s very easy to burn up at least a quarter of you workout time with distractions. Is it all worth a quarter less results?
Post workout cardio: Cardio can be done fasted upon waking, after your workout, or later on in the day. While a quick warm up is good you don’t want to burn up your energy doing intense cardio before resistance training. There is a benefit to doing cardio immediately after weight lifting and having your post workout whey protein shake. Getting the heart rate up and blood flowing will help distribute the post workout nutrients throughout the body to the muscles in need of repair.
Annihilate to Motivate,
Michael Wittig, ISSA CPT
IPE Natural Pro 3x Champ