You may already have a good exercise routine but would like to know how to effectively use your energy to achieve the best results. You only need to make minor adjustments to your workout for your results to improve.
To achieve the best results, it is important for you to–not only have a good exercise routine–but also take care of yourself before and after the workout. You can make your workout as effective as possible with planning and focus.
Include the following steps in your workout and it is possible to feel the positive impacts in a few days.
Before Your Workout
- Start your exercise routine with light warmups: Everyone understands that stretching before your workout is important for an effective routine. Integrating dynamic stretches is proved to be more beneficial.
According to an Austin State University study, people who warmed up with simple exercises such as light leg extensions and squats were able to squat 8.36% more, than if they carried out typical stretches. These light warmups make the body more stable and prepared for the workout. Those who practiced this method were said to have a 22.7% more stable body.
The light warmups must mimic the movements of your workout, so there will be an increase of blood flow and an improvement of motion range. This will occur as it assists your muscles’ and tendons’ elastic properties, creating greater movement in the workout.
- Keep your workout achievable. An exercise routine of around 30-45 minutes not only allows you to feel motivated to continue working out on a day to day basis but also means your body is performing at a high intensity during the entire workout. If you limit your breaks in between exercises it keeps your heart rate elevated and your body in an active state, so you are burning more calories.
- Eat and drink mindfully before your workout: The debate on whether you should eat and drink before your workout has always come up. Is it important to eat before your workout? Won’t you feel too full to exercise? Recent studies have found that eating and drinking wisely can be beneficial to your workout.
In terms of drinking, water is definitely a must to keep hydration levels up. Katie Mack, an NSCA-certified personal trainer, also recommends a cup of coffee pre-workout. She says that the caffeine in the coffee will help to stimulate your nervous system to enhance performance.
In the case of eating, carbohydrates and lean proteins are highly recommended for pre-workout meals. Mack recommends eating a low-fat meal in the hour before your workout. Some food you may like to eat are proteins such as chicken, fish, or Greek yoghurt, paired with a carbohydrate like sweet potato, rice or beans. These carbohydrates play a major role in your endurance, significantly increasing performance.
- Get enough sleep: It is necessary to have a quality and quantity of sleep. Having a good rest, the night before your workout, impacts the effectiveness of the exercise. Sleep enhances athletic performance and can improve concentration and productivity.
Monica Jones, NASM-certified personal trainer and performance enhancement specialist, says, “Sleep is one of the strongest determining factors for a successful health routine. At our core, sleep affects the release and balance of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin (often referred to as the ‘happy hormones’). While these processes are handled at the cellular level, brain and bodily function strongly affect our ability to perform physical activity.”
Jones explains that your mood impacts whether you engage in the exercise or not. She says, “The amount of energy you have and proper brain function decreases the chance of injury and increases your capability to handle heavy loads or quick movement patterns. With proper amounts of quality sleep, things like our focus, grip, strength, and stamina improve, allowing us to achieve more activity and more progress consistently.”
Aiming to have seven to nine hours of sleep every night is ideal.
During Your Workout
- Drink plenty of water: It is surprising to know that losing a few percentages of water in the body can influence the difficulty of the workout. Your exercise performance and ability to recover is reduced because of the lack of hydration in your body, according to a review from University of North Carolina. Vice president of nutrition and research at EXOS, Amanda Carlson-Philips states, “We find that many people are dehydrated when they show up to the gym.” It is recommended for you to drink two to three litres of water daily.
On a workout day, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you drink roughly:
- 2 to 3 cups of water during the two to three hours before your workout
- ½ to 1 cup of water every fifteen to twenty minutes during your workout (the amounts can be adjusted due to your body size and weather)
- 2 to 3 cups of water after your workout
- Mixing strength and cardio exercises: To see greater improvement in your body, you need to do more than just cardio. Performing a strength set and following a cardio interval, you are maximising your bodies potential, improving both your metabolism and muscularity. Jacob Wilson, certified strength and condition specialist and associate editor of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. “Your metabolism will actually go down, making weight loss more difficult. Resistance training, however, builds muscle to increase your metabolic rate.”
Harvard School of Public Health’s study finds that, those who spent 20 minutes a day weight training gained less abdominal fat over the course of 12 years, compared to those who spent the same amount of time performing cardio.
- Lift lighter weights for more repetitions: Resistance training is a very effective form of exercise as it builds strength and endurance, using; free weights, weight machines, medicine balls, resistance bands and even your body weight. Recent studies have shown the benefits of using light weights for more repetitions until your muscles are tired, and over time adding more weight.
- Incorporate interval training: Having a routine with high-intensity intervals and low-intensity “breaks” lead more cardiovascular and fat-loss benefits than any other workout. According to a study from Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, people who performed a 20-minute interval workout burned an average of 15 calories per minute – nearly twice as many as during long runs.
To follow a high intensity workout, you need to perform as many repetitions as possible for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and repeat for a total of four minutes. Then, you rest one minute and repeat again for a total of four rounds.
- Switch it Up: After working out for a while, most people experience a plateau, where they are not able to see changes to their body or fitness levels. This is due to your body being ‘comfortable’ with your exercise and is surpassing the fitness level of the workout. It means that you are progressing well as your body is healthier than before and can begin harder workouts!
Adding extra reps, more weight and challenging exercises to your workout routine, you will keep it fresh and stop your body from plateauing, so you can continue to build and tone your muscles. For instance, if you perform full squats as part of your exercise. You can switch to having deep and full squats.
- Use your phone as a workout tool: Smartphones can do various things to boost your workout; from tracking your heart rate to calculating the distance, you have run. You can also download “workout music” to make your exercise fun and motivating.
After Your Workout
- Stretch it out: After your workout, it is very important that you make sure your heart rate has slowed down and that your body temperatures have decreased to its normal baseline. It is recommended to walk around and then stretch your muscles. Stretching will prevent cramping and injuries whilst also assist in toning your muscles. It can also elongate your muscles and enhance your flexibility.
When doing post-workout stretches, you need to take your time to ensure the stretches are performed slowly to attain maximum relaxation. Once you finish, lie down and breathe for a few more minutes. Practicing breathing exercises will promote faster recovery and help your body move back into its normal state. Giving yourself time to recover from a high adrenaline state will release muscle tension and relax your mind, making you feel more focused and fresher!
- Use a foam roller: Though stretching and foam rolling seem similar, their primary goals are different. Foam rolling helps to alleviate tension in the muscle tissue. For example, if you have restrictions like scar tissue, fascia or trigger points, self-myofascial release can help relax the tension and soften the tissue. Foam rolling promotes this as it increases blood flow to the area you are rolling.
Foam rolling after the workout reduces delayed-onset muscle soreness. It assists in faster recovery as the increased blood flow helps bring nutrients to your muscle tissue, as well as bringing anti-inflammatory properties.
- Listen to Music: Listening to the right type of music after a workout has surprisingly good benefits. In an Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology study, they found people who listened to slow music after their workout recovered faster than those who did not. This is because listening to music has been found to boost levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are the ‘feel good’ hormones that foster recovery.
Incorporating all these steps can seem overwhelming, but you can build them into your routine little by little until you become comfortable. You will then develop healthy habits that you will automatically do as you exercise.
It has been well researched that there is a link to physical fitness levels and your mental and emotional wellbeing. The fitter you are, the better you will feel mentally and emotionally. Maximising your fitness routine can help you achieve your fitness goal more effectively and feel even better.
The effort it takes to maximise your workout may not seem worth it initially, but as you feel fitter and healthier, you will discover positive impacts to other areas of your life such as your health, career and relationships. You will find that maximising your workout will give you more time in day to do the things you enjoy and was well worth it!
Tip: It is important to keep your workouts as regular as possible, for example having designated days that fit into your schedule.
To learn more about stretching and foam rolling see: Stretching vs Foam Rolling Blog