Your workout doesn’t start when you walk into the gym—it begins when you wake up in the morning and continues throughout the day. Preparations go beyond just packing your gym bag. They start with eating the right things at the right times to increase your body’s productivity at the gym. In addition to your usual nutritional goals, you should observe these tips to power you through your workout.
1. High-intensity workouts
If you’re just starting out with exercise, it’s best to take it slow. If you’re running or cycling, for example, build up your endurance for at least a month before you get into anything more intense. That means going at a rate where you can easily talk without being out of breath. However, once you have that base of endurance, step up the intensity to step up the effectiveness of the workout.
2. Track your progress
Whether you are exercising for weight loss, muscle gain or endurance, tracking your progress can make a big difference in motivation. Why? Some days you simply will not be in the mood to exercise – but if you look at physical evidence such as photos or statistics, you will be more likely to push through on hard days.
3. Never rush through warm-up and cool-down sessions
You might want to push straight to your desired speed while out running, or you think it’s okay to sneak into your workout class after warm-up or leave without doing the cool-down session. Don’t! It’s important to warm up and cool down properly to prepare your muscles for the workout ahead, and to speed up recovery and avoid injury.
4. Mix it up
Don’t stick to the same workout routine for too long, or your body will adjust to the stress level and you won’t be getting an effective workout. For strength training, change your routine every few weeks. For cardio, it’s best to cross train rather than, say, to run every time.
5. Sneak in workouts during the day
No time for a gym workout? Even the smallest bouts of exercise can benefit your health, studies have shown. Climb the stairs, park your car further away from your office building or the shops (as long as it’s safe) and go for a walk during your lunch-break to get your heart rate up.
Be sure to hydrate throughout the day. It takes a couple of hours for your body to absorb the water, so you can’t just drink right before exercise. Make it a habit to drink water regularly throughout the day.
8. Eat carbs
No, we are not saying you should devour unrefined carbs to your heart’s content. But a pre-workout snack can make a difference in your performance. Carbs are a main source of energy and limiting them might not be a good idea if you exercise. Choose wholegrain carbs with a protein, such as wholegrain toast and unrefined peanut butter.
9. You can’t outrun a bad diet
Don’t think that you’ll be able to make up for a bad diet through exercise. Vital nutrients are important for your body to deliver its optimal performance – it’s not always just a case of calories in, calories out. You’ll need to change your diet to reap the full benefit of exercise.
10. Be realistic and patient
Don’t expect drastic, visible results after a week, two weeks, or even a month of a new exercise routine. You need to be consistent and patient. Don’t become despondent. If you aren’t yielding results after a couple of months, it’s time to go back to the drawing board, or to assess your diet.