Quick Tips to Make Your Workouts More Effective
Whatever reason one has for working out, we all want our time spent exercising to be worth it. Whether or not you feel your workout is actually working is different for everyone because it depends on your goal. Please remember that any movement you are doing is beneficial for your overall health, but you do get out of it what you put in.
The harder you work the more benefits you will see. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend more time in the gym or exercise for hours every day to get the best workout. However, it does mean you can make some simple changes to ensure your time exercising is more efficient and more effective.
If you feel like you aren’t getting the results you want, or aren’t sure how you can put more effort in, here are some tips to make the most out of your workouts.
Strength Training – If you haven’t already, add some strength training to your routine. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn, even when you aren’t working out. If weight loss is one of your goals, this can be really helpful. Also, keeping your muscles strong will help prevent injuries and aches and pains. A common complaint is knee pain which can be caused by weak quadriceps (the muscle along the front of the leg) or weak hip muscles. (Read my post about exercising with knee pain for more information.)
If you are just starting out with strength training, use a weight that is heavy enough to feel like you want to stop at the twelfth repetition. If the last two or three reps of your set are really challenging you have selected the right weight. If they aren’t, bump up the weight.
To ensure your strength training is even more effective, give your muscles a day to recover after strength training. For example, if you lifted weights with your biceps on Monday, don’t again on Tuesday. Give them a rest until at least Wednesday.
Mix It Up – Are you doing the same workout every time you hit the gym? Are you reading or texting while coasting along on the elliptical? Not every exercise session has to be all out, but make sure you are challenging your body and pushing yourself. Over time our bodies adapt to the same moves with the same intensity and you will stop seeing results. Changing it up can be simply altering the number of repetitions you do, or it can be trying an entire new way to exercise like a class you have never done before. LivRite offers a variety of fun classes so you can easily try many different fun ways to workout.
Try HIIT – HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training, is a proven way to burn more calories in a shorter workout and even up to 24 hours after your workout ends. Tabata intervals are especially efficient. This interval method alternates twenty seconds of work with ten seconds of rest for eight rounds (a total of four minutes). You do have to go all out in those twenty of seconds of work in order to get the most bang for your buck with a Tabata interval. A Tabata could be cardio moves (like jumping jacks or sprints) or strength moves (like squats or push ups) or a combination of both cardio and strength. Since HIIT is intense, it should only be done two or three times a week on non-consecutive days. It can easily be alternated with other workouts throughout your week.
Intervals of any kind can help increase the intensity of your workout. For example, if you regularly walk on the treadmill, try adding in a minute or two at a higher speed or at a higher incline. Alternate between the more intense and your regular pace.
Listen To Music – Music improves physical performance. One study stated “…music has been shown to enhance affect, reduce ratings of perceived exertion, improve energy efficiency and lead to increased work output.” One of the authors of that particular study, Dr. Costas Karageorghis, says one can think of music as “a type of legal performance-enhancing drug.” My unofficial study of myself has shown that I run faster when I’m listening to upbeat music. Though I love to run and listen to a podcast, I have noticed my times are slower than if I am listening to music. The positive effects of music can also be seen in classes such as Zumba or Hip Hop Aerobics. Dancing can be so fun, you don’t notice how hard your body is working.
Work with a Personal Trainer- There are many reasons to meet with a trainer and many ways they can help make your workout more efficient and effective. One is that they will make sure you are doing each exercise correctly which will ensure you are getting everything out of it that you can. Also, a trainer will create a plan specific for you based on your goals. When reaching a plateau a trainer’s changing plan keep you progressing. Another reason to work with a personal trainer, they can push you harder than you would if you were working out on your own.
Your actual time spent exercising is important. But how you spend your time between each workout can make or break your goals.
Get Some Sleep – If you have ever exercised with little to no sleep you already know this, that working out on no sleep leads to poorer athletic performance. A study also found that being sleep-deprived leads to the mind to tell you that you can’t go on when the body would otherwise be physically capable of continuing. The study found that without adequate sleep muscles grow tired even before their glycogen (energy stored in the muscles) stores had run out.
A good night’s sleep is essential for optimal performance. Not to mention that sleep is when your body repairs its’ self from your workout and any other physical stress from the day. Your next workout will suffer without that recovery time.
The National Sleep Foundation states that 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep each night is scientifically proven to be best for most adults. Get to bed earlier if you need more sleep. I know this is easier said than done, but sleep is really that important to make the effort! Start by heading to bed 10 minutes earlier and slowly add a few minutes to that and train your body to get to sleep at an earlier time each night. Turn off your phone and tv at least an hour before bed and cut back on your caffeine intake.
Stay Hydrated – Every cell in your body needs water to function properly. Some common symptoms of dehydration are low energy, headache and dry mouth. Even being mildly dehydrated can negatively affect your energy for your workout. Your heart has to work harder to pump your blood if you have less fluid in your body. Also you are more likely to overheat when you are dehydrated.
Severe dehydration is less common, but possible. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and can lead to heat stroke, kidney failure and seizures if not treated properly.
Bottom line, if you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated so you need to drink some water. Regular water is usually sufficient for most of us. If you are exercising for more than 90 minutes or it is extremely hot and humid, you may need an electrolyte replacement along with your water.
Remember to drink water before and after exercising and carry a water bottle with you throughout the day.
Fuel Your Body Well – You can’t out exercise a bad diet. What you eat and drink will affect your energy during your workout and will help your recovery after. It is best to eat a small meal or snack one to three hours prior to exercising. If you don’t eat, you might feel sluggish or lightheaded when you exercise. If you eat too much you may experience stomach upset. This may take some experimentation to determine what works best for you. A large meal should be no more than three hours prior to your workout. After your workout a meal or snack should include a good carbohydrate (skip anything with white flour or processed carbs) to replenish muscle fuel stores, protein to promote muscle repair and fluids to rehydrate. For example, plain Greek yogurt with fruit and water would be a great post workout snack.
What you are eating and drinking also will contribute to weight loss. If you consume more calories than you burn in a day, you will not lose weight. It is important to know how many calories you are consuming (and making sure you are getting all the nutrients you need) and approximately how many calories you are burning each day if you would like to lose weight. Most people underestimate how much they are taking in and overestimate how much they are burning. Tracking your intake with an app like My Fitness Pal for a few days can be eye opening and helpful if you aren’t sure the amount of calories you are eating and drinking each day.
Bottom line, any exercise you will do on a consistent basis is the best exercise for you. Even if you don’t feel like you need to improve your workout’s effectiveness, or don’t have a specific goal in mind, see if one or more of these tips could help keep you disciplined with your workout routine and maybe you might see a change you didn’t expect!