We’ve all heard the adage, “failing to plan is planning to fail,” and nowhere is this more true than when it comes to fitness. Let’s face it: most of us don’t want to commit hours upon hours each week to our workout regimens — and that’s perfectly okay.
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What we can do is learn how to make the most of whatever time we do have to maximize our results. After all, what’s the point of putting in the time if we’re not seeing any progress? The trick is to stay focused, consistent, and concise to guarantee the best gains with minimal effort.
Want to get the most out of your routine? Follow these simple workout tips.
1. Stick To A Schedule
Decide which days and what time of day is best for you to work out – first thing in the morning? On your lunch hour? After work? – and do what you need to do to prepare. This could mean having your gym stuff prepped and ready to go before your alarm goes off in the morning. Whatever you need to do ahead of time to keep yourself on track, do it. Plan your workouts the way you would a meeting – put them in your schedule and don’t cancel them for anything but emergencies. It can be tempting to let your workouts fall by the wayside, but keep in mind that everything in your life – your job, your family, and your overall wellbeing – will benefit from you taking the time to keep yourself healthy.
2. Have A Plan
Don’t just show up at the gym and then decide what sort of workout you’re going to do that day on the spot. Instead, make a plan – not just for when, but also for how you are going to work out that day, which movements you’re going to do and in which order. It’s okay if things get switched around – by all means, swap your outdoor run for an indoor weight training session if it’s pouring outside – but have a general blueprint for how your day (and week and month) is going to go before it comes. That means you’ll want to generally know a) how many days of strength training, cardio, classes or personal training sessions you’re aiming to get in each week, and b) exactly which exercise, how much weight and how many reps you will complete for each movement during each session.
A personal trainer or pre-made gym classes can take the guesswork out of this for you, but if you’re going at it on your own, try some of our favourite HIIT workouts, cardio workouts, upper body workouts for mass, leg and butt circuits (for leg day), or sprint workouts for weight loss. The possibilities are virtually endless.
3. Truly Commit
Coming up with a theoretical workout routine and schedule is easy. It’s much, much harder to actually commit to it and pull through. But what’s the point of a plan if you don’t bother showing up? One of the best ways to keep your fitness commitments is to try a 30-day fitness challenge (like our 30-day abs challenge or our 30-day abs and squats challenge). Keep it up for a month to form new habits and have them stick.
4. Ask For Help
If you don’t know how a certain machine at the gym works, ask a trainer instead of trying to figure it out on your own. Plan a few training sessions to have someone help you with a fitness plan. Many times, people stick to the same routines and machines over and over because they don’t know anything else. Don’t fall into a rut simply because you’re comfortable with your routine the way it is or you’re not sure how to change it up. If you need help mixing up your routine and learning something new, don’t be shy. Learning proper technique will also help you to prevent injuries and maximize your movements, and a personal trainer can help you ensure that you have perfect form.
5. Shorten Your Workouts
You could go to the gym for hours at a time or run 10 miles every day, and if you’re training for a particular athletic event or a marathon, you may have a good reason to do so. For most people, however, a longer workout means a lower intensity and lots of wasted time. A better bet: Keep your workouts to 30 to 40 minutes and push yourself hard during that time.
6. Try Interval Training
For increased fitness and fast results, interval training is the way to go. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) for shorter periods of time can be more effective than a long, slow, steady and comfortable workout. Aim to make your rest intervals twice as long as your work intervals – try running for 30 seconds, walking for a minute, and repeating – or try your hand at Tabata training if you’re feeling particularly spritely.
Not sure where to begin? Try this 7-minute, fat-burning interval training workout to get started, or this 20-minute, total-body workout if you’re up for a real challenge.
7. Track Your Progress
If you’re someone who struggles to stick to a fitness routine, tracking your progress is an excellent way to stay motivated. Set a tangible goal – a particular deadlift weight, a specific number of push-ups or pull-ups you can complete in a row, or the most kilometres/miles you can run in 15 minutes – and track how much you improve week over week, month over month. To actually see your progress in terms of real, visible results can make a huge difference when it comes to feeling like you’re accomplishing something, and that all your hard work is paying off.
8. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
This advice is particularly important if you’re lifting weights, since muscles are 75 per cent water. Keeping yourself hydrated will not only improve your lifting performance, it will decrease your chances of experiencing fatigue, headaches, digestion problems or constipation during your workout. Aim to drink a gallon of water every day, and one to two litres the hour before you start and the hour after you finish working out.
Additionally, if you’re boosting your workouts with a jolt of caffeine or a pre-workout supplement, you’ll want to make sure you’re hydrating even more than you normally would to counteract their diuretic effects.
9. Embrace Variety
Doing the exact same thing every time you go to the gym is mind-numbingly boring, and yet so many people fall into this rut. No wonder you’ve fallen off the fitness bandwagon; when you once looked forward to going to the gym, it’s now become a tortuous chore. Even worse, you’re no longer seeing results. Our bodies get used to performing the same movements over and over again, so you’ll need to switch things up every so often to bust out of the dreaded plateau. Make sure your routine alternates between strength-training or weight-training days and cardio, and consider trying out at least one interesting or unique class once a month that’s totally different than what you’re used to. Maybe it’s hot yoga, Zumba or kick-boxing; maybe it’s that once-a-week personal training session that really ups the ante. Either way, it never hurts to try something new. Bonus: Bring a friend and make it a social activity that you two can do together.
10. Stretch And Cool Down
We at Fitness Republic are big proponents of the stretch-and-cool-down portion of any workout. It only takes five minutes out of your day, yet many of us simply get up and walk out of the gym immediately after a workout without a proper cool down. First, stretching at the end of your workout is always a good idea: muscles are warm and pliable after they’ve been worked out, so it’s the safest and easy time to stretch, which we all know can help prevent injury and soreness. Additionally, after your workout also happens to be the ideal time to decompress, unwind and engage in some other pleasant cool-down activities, whether it’s 20 minutes in the steam room, a short meditation session, or a delicious protein-packed snack.
Focus on making your workouts tough, fun, exciting and rewarding — you’ll find that not only do you stick to your routine, but you’ll maximize your results and actually enjoy the process along the way. And isn’t that what great fitness is all about?
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