Making the Most out of your Workout
Ever feel like you've finally started to keep up with your fitness routine, but despite your commitment, you're still not seeing the results you want? When that happens, it might be best to get back to the basics. There are also some easy, no-frills ways to make your workouts as efficient as possible, and helping you to maximize your results. Use these tips and you'll start to see your hard work pay off.
Warm-up and cool down
Warming up and cooling down will help improve your performance and accelerate the recovery process. To help prepare your muscles for exertion warming up should consist of 5-10 minutes of light cardio (a brisk walk, some time on the elliptical, or a short stint on the treadmill) followed by 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching exercises (shoulder circles, arm swings, side bends, leg swings, and body weight lunges). To decrease your body temperature and help your muscles relax, cooling down should consist of 5-10 minutes of light cardio followed by 5-10 minutes of static stretching. Each stretch should be held for a minimum of 15 seconds.
According to the American Council on Exercise, 60 minutes of exercise can cause you to lose more than a quart of water. It takes a couple of hours for your body to absorb the water, so you can’t just drink right before exercise. It is recommended that you drink 16-ounces of water 2-3 hours before exercising, and another 8-ounces half an hour before exercise. While working out, drink 7-10 ounces every 20 minutes.
Fuel your workout
To maximize your results, ingest a combination of carbohydrates and fast absorbing protein before your workout. Although the low-carb craze might say otherwise, carbs are our body’s preferred fuel source. When you do intense workouts, you will need carbs, or you won’t have enough energy to complete it. Protein is essential for rebuilding your muscles after both strength and cardio workouts. Research has shown that taking whey protein prior to training will yield better results and increase resting energy expenditure by an average of 6-6.5 percent for up to 48 hours post workout.
Tune in to tune out
Tune out all other distractions and focus on what needs to be done as soon as you set foot in the gym. For many people, staying focused and motivated to work their hardest is as simple as listening to their favorite music. If music isn't your thing, find out what works to keep you focused on the workout at hand. Go in with a plan for what you want to tackle that day, set realistic goals, and track your progress for added inspiration.
Use proper form
Learning proper form is crucial for getting the most out of your workout. Good form will ensure that you target the correct muscles, decrease unnecessary stress placed on your muscles and joints, and dramatically decrease your chance of injury.
Don’t just go through the motions
To increase muscle activity when lifting, concentrate on engaging the muscle(s) you are working instead of just moving the weight from point A to point B. Be sure that for every rep of every set during your workout you’re thinking about the muscle(s) being trained, instead of wondering if you remembered to put the laundry in the dryer.
Multi-task your workouts
Performing multiple exercises in a circuit will give you a good cardio workout while you do your strength training. Instead of doing a set, resting, and then doing your second set, it’s more effective to move on to multiple exercises in a circuit, so that you don’t rest between exercises but do rest each muscle group. It is suggested that you perform three exercises consecutively resting 30-60 seconds between each circuit.
Call in the Pros
If you are just getting started, have hit a plateau, or need a good kick in the butt, getting a personal trainer is a smart idea. Personal trainers serve as your coach, educator, accountability partner, and cheering squad. They help you perfect your form, develop a plan that is personalized to your needs, help you push your limits, and maximize your workout to ensure you are getting the best workout in the least amount of time.
Switch things up
Doing the same workout over and over again without changing things up is the fastest way to plateau. This doesn’t mean you have to completely scrap your current workout. Updating your workout can come in many forms – lifting more weight, performing more sets, swapping just 2 or 3 of your exercises for new ones, using machines instead of free weights (or visa-versa), or even using a different grip are enough to give your workout new life.
Watch the clock
Working out while you have the most energy will provide the best results. If you're a morning person, workout first thing in the morning; if you perk up mid-day, plan your workouts in the afternoon or evening.
Plan for rest
Don't underestimate the importance of rest days—those who don't rest sufficiently won't make any progress, and may even find themselves growing weaker. Rest days are necessary for your body to properly recuperate so when you enter the gym, you don’t regress.
Last, but not least, remember that there will be ups and downs, setbacks and victories, even if you follow all of these tips to a T. Be patient, and don't give up, consistency will lead to results.