We go to the gym and do our workout. Sometimes we feel it, and sometimes not. But are we really doing quality sessions? These six tips will help you get the most out of your workout.
Rest and Fuel Up
Ain’t nobody got time for mediocre workouts! What’s the point? You’re much better off spending that extra hour (or two) catching up on sleep or eating a proper breakfast. If you’re super-tired before your workout has even begun, it’s a good sign that it’s time to take a rest day. Because you’ll be dreading exercise, you might risk getting injured.
The gym isn’t going anywhere—take a day off. Your body will be grateful. The same goes for proper fueling of your training sessions. If you’re not used to training on an empty stomach, or your mind can’t seem to focus on anything but food, it might be your body’s way of telling you it needs sustenance. Listen to and follow those cues. Chances are you’ll have more energy, better endurance, and a much more positive attitude toward your workout session overall.
Proper Warm-Up and Cooldown
We’re all guilty of getting to the gym in a hurry to smash our workout in record time, and then be off to our next appointment. Wait, what about warming up? What about some stretching and recovery afterward? Everyone’s schedule is different, and, granted, we all have days when time is really tight, and we just need to fit in our workout somehow. On those days, warm-up and cooldown might not be at the top of your priority list.
However, there are still ways you can do a short warm-up and cooldown, even if it means shortening your main workout by 5 or 10 minutes. With the cold season upon us, warming up before your workout is crucial to avoid injury, increase your range of motion, and improve your mobility.
Cooldown and stretching improves your recovery, reduces soreness, and literally cools down your body temperature and regulates your heart rate. Jumping hot out of the gym into the cold winter air isn’t good for your body.
Before you plan your workout schedule for the week, make it a priority to take some time before and after your session, so you get the most out of your workout in the short and long run.
Find Your Jam
Whatever your genre preference, music can fuel your workout and motivate you to keep going, even when you feel like you’re running out of juice. If you’re struggling to focus and find yourself taking much longer pauses between training sets, browse some fitness tracks. Find a beat to lift your spirits and give you a boost of energy. And, hey, don’t judge—even if someone’s workout jam is opera.
Yes, mind-to-muscle connection is a real thing. When you practice it properly, you realize how much it can improve your workouts. You’ll progress faster and start to see changes in your strength and physical appearance quicker than you think. So, how does it actually work?
When you train a certain muscle, focus on that muscle, and pay attention to what you feel. Is your muscle extending? Is it compressing? Is it straining to lift a certain amount of weight? Do you feel any pain?
We all occasionally space out during a workout and just “go through the motions.” You might start thinking about your next rep or set, or wonder how much time you have left. Your mind might wander to where you have to go next, or wondering what the person next to you is trying to do with that machine. When this happens, you lose focus on what you’re doing, and, sometimes, you’re probably doing it with really improper form.
When you focus on your technique and how your muscles really feel, you’re training that mind-to-muscle connection and improving your workout quality.
Breathe In, Breathe Out
Most of the time, we’re so focused on the exercises themselves, we don’t pay attention to our breath. Inhaling brings oxygen into your blood, releases energy, and keeps things running smoothly.
There’s no way you can use your muscles’ full potential if your breathing’s really shallow, or you’re constantly holding your breath or out of breath. Learning how and when to inhale and exhale improves your strength, prevents injury, helps with balance, and improves recovery.
Every workout uses breath in a different way, so learning the proper technique for your specific training session is crucial to get the most out of it. Ask a trainer or teacher to show you how to do it and change your workout game completely.
The simplest tip of all, and, yet, the most powerful, is to just be present while you work out. Try to stop thinking about anything except your breath, body, and movement.
Keep your phone elsewhere while you work out. If you see a new email in your inbox or a missed text, you’ll get immersed in something that has nothing to do with your workout. If you use it to listen to music, create a playlist beforehand, so you don’t have to change tracks manually.
Because you set aside time to do your workout, you want to use it wisely and get the most out of it. This is why it’s necessary to focus on the quality of your breath and what you’re trying to achieve, whether it’s a weight you’re trying to lift or exercises you’re trying to learn.
Our daily schedules are really busy, and every minute is claimed. The time you carve out to spend at the gym matters just as much the time you spend at work or watching Netflix. That’s why it’s important to get the most out of it!