You have a busy life, yet have made the commitment (or will be making the commitment) to enhancing your health and fitness through exercise. Learn the top ten effective ways to maximize your time at the gym. Follow these tips to a focused, results-driven workout.
1. Know Why.
Knowing why you are exercising is paramount to having the motivation to continue. Make a list of at least 5 reasons (more is better) why exercising is important to you. Be as specific as you can.
Start each statement with "I will workout ___ days per week for _____ minutes so that I can/am...."
Keep one copy of this list in your planner and one in your gym bag. Read the list when you schedule your weekly workouts (see #2) and while you are warming up for your workout (see #5).
2. Plan when you will exercise.
We've all heard that it is important to schedule your workouts just as you would schedule any other important appointment. You have heard it so much because it works. Bottom line; schedule your workouts in your day planner each week.
3. Plan what you will do at the gym.
For the most effective workout, it is best not to decide what you will do at the gym while you are walking into the gym. Instead, decide what activity you will do prior to hitting the gym doors.
That way, you will have a focused workout before one foot hits the treadmill.
You may consider recording you workout plan in your day planner. For example:
o Monday 6 a.m. Treadmill 30 minutes and Lift
o Wednesday 5:45 p.m. Stair climber 40 minutes
o Thursday 6 a.m. Lift
o Friday 6 a.m. indoor cycling class
4. Plan to eat a snack.
Having a healthy snack prior to or after a workout serves many functions. Here are some suggestions specific to the time of day you workout.
Morning exercisers, pack a snack for after your workout.
Typically, morning exercisers are unable to tolerate a complete breakfast before their workouts. In this scenario, the post-workout snack not only provides much needed nutrients to aid the body recover for the workout, but also will prevent getting over hungry too early in the morning.
Evening exercisers, have a snack 30-60 minutes prior to your workout and on your way home from the gym.
The evening exerciser can be sidelined by hunger and opt. for dinner instead of working out. Snacking 30-60 minutes prior to your workout provides the energy required for the workout and prevents getting over hungry and potentially skipping the workout.
After their workout, most evening exercisers head home to make dinner. If this is true for you, I would encourage a small snack on your way home from the gym to prevent the extreme hunger most evening exercisers experience while making dinner (and the accompanying mindless snacking that occurs while cooking dinner).
If you do not feel the need for the snack that you packed after your workout, do not feel obligated to eat it. Get in the habit of packing it, though. Having that snack available might just be a lifesaver one evening.
Be sure to give your body and mind at least a 5 minute warm up. Warming up means hopping on a piece of cardio equipment at an easy pace and slowly progressing until you feel warmer and are breathing slightly harder for 5-10 minutes. Warming up helps prepare the body physiologically (the body takes a few minutes to understand that it will be exercising) and psychologically.
Use these precious 5-10 minutes wisely. Read your reasons for exercising and consider how the workout you are about to embark upon will ultimately get you closer to your goals.
6. Enjoy the Journey
It would be unrealistic to believe that you will absolutely love every single part of every single workout; however, there is no reason to agonize through it either.
Choose exercises that you enjoy. You should never have to do an exercise you ate. The choices of effective exercises are endless and there is bound to be one that you enjoy, or at least can tolerate.
7. Be Balanced.
In general, at the end of the week, your workout time should be balanced in the following manner:
o 30%-60% should be dedicated to strength training.
o 35%-55% should be dedicated to cardiovascular training.
o 5%-10% should be dedicated to stretching.
For someone who exercises 3 days a week for 60 minutes a day, their time could be divided like this:
o 30 minutes cardiovascular exercise
o 25 minutes strength training
o 5 minutes stretching
Also, keep in mind these tips on balancing your workout:
o Spend equal time on upper body and lower body strength training exercises.
o For every exercise you do for the front of the body, do one for the back of the body.
8. Bring Water
With even modest water loss (1%-2%) due to sweating, workouts feel more difficult and performance decreases. To replace the water lost through sweating, sip water throughout your workout.
Although, the amount of liquid lost during exercise depends on the type and intensity of the exercise and your particular sweat rate, most people lose 17 to 50 ounce of sweat during one hour of vigorous activity.
Unfortunately, humans do not have a very accurate thirst mechanism. In fact, by the time we are thirsty, we are already dehydrated. So, instead of using thirst as a cue to drink water, take sips every few minutes. A good gauge of hydration is the color of your urine. Ideally, a well-hydrated person will have pale-yellow urine. Dark yellow urine indicates dehydration.
9. Reward Yourself
Give yourself something to look forward to at the end of the workout. This could be a simple mental high five, extra time to stretch, or a few minutes in the sauna.
Reward yourself for exercising for over longer periods, too (i.e. a week or month). Consider buying yourself a new workout shirt or socks, downloading new songs, or getting a new magazine to read during cardio.
Whatever you do, recognize the accomplishment you have achieved by sticking to your workout plan.
10. Change and Progress Your Workouts
To continue to maximize results from your workout, it is paramount that you progress the intensity of your workouts and vary the exercises.
That means, recording your strength training workouts to ensure continual progression in weight and varying the exercises so that your muscle are always challenged.
To accomplish this, follow these guidelines:
o Do at least 2 different cardio machines or types of cardio each week (i.e. treadmill, kickboxing, elliptical, stair climber, step class, etc.)
o Do at least 2 different intensities of cardio each week (i.e. one workout could be a comfortable pace and the other workout could include 1 minute bouts of high intensity, followed by a 2 minute recovery repeated several times).
o Change your strength training exercises every 4 weeks.
An effective workout does not happen by accident; however, the preparation does not have to consume your life, either. Start with #1 and define your reasons for exercising. Then, continue to progress through the ten ways to an effective workout until all qualities are present in your workout. There is no need to work through them sequentially, feel free to tackle the one you are most confident about first. In no time you will be having the most effective workouts of your life.