While getting in a workout will offer tremendous benefits on its own, we have the power to maximize our workouts and find even greater success over time. By having the right mindset, technique, commitment and openness to new experiences, we can transform our workouts and get more out of each session.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on achieving long-lasting results during their workouts, due to a sustainable interest in the activity and motivation to get stronger, fitter and healthier with each step. Instead of forcing yourself to do exercises that you don't enjoy, it's best to find different styles that work for you and your lifestyle, and then work hard to intensify those sessions and give it your all. It's also a great feat to watch yourself improve during sessions, and whether it's from changes in physical appearance, shifts in mood and body confidence, enhanced energy and sleep patterns, or all of the above, it's worth taking note of how incredible the benefits of exercise can be relative to our minds, bodies and emotional states. Plus, finding success and making progress always feel awesome, so by using these thirteen ways to get the most out of your workouts, you'll see tangible improvements and inner and outer strength with each session.
1. Eat Protein After Exercising
Exercise alone will not get you health and body results that you are hoping for, but when paired with the right nutrients, your body will be better able to both sustain intense workouts and repair after so that you can strengthen muscles and do it all over again the next day. "Nutrition is key to getting the most out of your workouts, and helping you reach your goals. For lean muscle building, repair and recovery, it’s important to get enough protein," says India Paulino, IFBB Pro Bikini Competitor and Team BSN athlete, over email with Bustle, who recommends SYNTHA-6 EDGE. Have a protein shake or a snack, such as nut butter and a banana, egg whites with veggies and toast, or turkey jerky with an orange.
2. Define Your Purpose
Defining your purpose when it comes to your workout regimen and goals is the best way to improve with time. "Be clear about your goals," says personal trainer and owner of Body Coach Personal Training in NYC, Chris Aronsen, over email with Bustle. He adds, “'A ship with no rudder just floats from shore to shore with no direction,'” meaning that unless you create a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goal, you'll just be floating by in your workouts, unable to see the end awaiting you.
3. Work With A Personal Trainer
While working with a personal trainer might be an investment in your health, it offers tons of benefits, as it can keep you on track with your goals, guide you as to proper form and recovery habits, and teach you new movements to beat the dreaded plateau. "Working with a fitness professional to push, guide and motivate you to accomplish your goals," says Aronsen, is a great way to find success, hold yourself accountable, and know that you are doing exercises correctly in order to prevent injuries.
4. Keep Track Of Your Progress
"You have to be keeping track of what you're doing - how much weight are you lifting, how many repetitions are you doing, how long are you running for, how quickly are you doing it, how long can you hold that plank," says personal trainer and owner of South Loop Strength & Conditioning, Todd Nief, over email with Bustle. Log your stats in a journal in order to see how well you are doing over time, and where there is room for improvement.
5. Lift Heavier When You Can
After a few weight lifting sessions, you might notice yourself getting stronger, and the likelihood that you can go up and work with heavier weights increases. "If you want to keep improving your workouts, you need to keep increasing your intensity. Don't just settle for average - before you know it, your best will be even better," says Alonzo Wilson, owner of Tone House in NYC, over email with Bustle. "There are a few main variables that you can progress when lifting weights: the amount of weight you're lifting, the number of reps you're doing per set, the total number of sets you're doing and the resting time between sets," says Nief. Manipulate these areas based on your personal progression.
6. Do Interval Training
Experts say that speedy, interval training burns more calories and works various areas of the body better than moderately intense and lengthy sessions. "In conditioning workouts, you can progress the following: the speed at which you're moving, the amount of reps or distance covered, the rest between intervals (if you're doing interval work) and the total number of intervals, says Nief. Find some circuits online or ask a trainer for advice.
7. Eat Right Before A Workout
It's not only important to fuel yourself with protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats after a tough session, but it's also critical to eat well before working out. While some people can exercise on an empty stomach or do intermittent fasting (which is totally okay if that works for you!), many people (myself included!) must eat a snack before lacing up those sneakers. Aim for something between 100-200 calories and include complex carbohydrates, a little bit of protein and healthy fats. I usually eat a slice of bread or two rice cakes with nut butter.
8. Think Positively
Going into each session with an openness to trying your best and having a great time, even if you have done this routine a countless number of times, will help you stick with a program and achieve greater results. "Go into each session with an open mind. Even if you've done an exercise a million times, you have to approach each day and each workout as brand new," advises Colleen Shaughnessy, owner of fitness and wellness concierge LulaFit, over email with Bustle. Go in thinking, "I'm gonna reach a personal best."
9. Give Yourself Enough Time
Giving yourself enough time to see results is so important, as giving up too early can hinder any potential for progress. Be mindful that roughly three weeks is needed in order to create a habit. "Make what you are doing a habit. Once it's a habit, you will do it automatically," advises Aronsen. Pretty soon it'll just seem natural to head to the gym, and your body and mind won't fight you with as much resistance or thought.
10. Find A Buddy
Having a buddy can be both fun and helpful for achieving your goals. Studies show that people who worked out with partners were more successful at sticking with their programs, learning how to improve, and enjoy the sessions over time. By recruiting a workout buddy to keep you accountable, observe your tendencies and form and enhance motivation, energy and openness, you'll be better able to make the most of your workouts.
11. Do Your Least Favorite Part First
Apart from the benefits of physical activity, the endorphin benefits can carry over into your every day wellbeing and can influence how you go about other lifestyle aspects, such as diet, sleep, stress management and esteem. End a workout on a high note by leaving your favorite exercise for last and starting with the ones that are less fun or perhaps most challenging, but are beneficial for a full-body workout. "Start with the exercise that you like least. I used to hate running, so I would start with that before I lifted any weights," says Wilson.
12. Vary Between Low and High Intensity
Doing only low or high intensity workouts will provide exercise benefits in a specific area, but it will not necessarily work the whole body in the ways you desire. For instance, high-intensity is great for saving time and blasting fat, but it might just be too much cardio all the time (it's best to pair with strength training moves to do both!). Low intensity won't elevate the heart as much, but could be great for sculpting (think barre class). "The best way to maximize your workout is to understand how to vary your workout with periods of high intensity, then low intensity; high volume of work, then low volume of work," says NYC based personal trainer Ray Gallagher, over email with Bustle.
13. Get Enough Sleep & Water
According to experts, not getting enough sleep can disrupt our hormones and cause us to feel tired, hungry, prone to cravings, and weak. Plus, when we wake up, our muscles are stiff due to lack of hydration and movement during the night. Upon waking, drink lots of water, and stay hydrated throughout the rest of the day, and especially during workouts, to help rehydrate the body post sweat.
No matter what your exercise goals are, it's important to define your purpose and have a positive attitude, to crush it at every session. Finding time to get enough sleep, water and nutrients, as well as carving out set appointments on your schedule each week, will help you create a habit that will allow you to progress towards achieving your goals.
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