4 Secrets to a Great Workout
Planning a good workout session might seem pretty easy and straightforward: you do a proper warm up, start slowly, move on to some more demanding exercises, maybe take a short break if you need to, a few more minutes then finish off with some stretching. Easy, right? Wrong!
Even if you have your entire workout session carefully planned, there are a few things you can do to make it even better and improve your results! Next time try these few tips to achieve an even more successful workout:
1. More is not always better
There are days when you feel tired and don’t really feel like having a long workout session. It happens and it is definitely not something to feel bad about. You cannot expect your body to always be full of energy, so accept the fact that sometimes you may not feel like moving too much. On the other hand, you may feel like you could spend a whole day at the gym, run for hours or stay on that yoga mat forever. But remember － more is not always better.
Actually, you should limit your workouts to 30-45 minutes. We know it doesn’t sound like it could possibly be enough, but the truth is, after about 45 minutes of intense exercising, your body is not getting much more benefit out of the physical activity. So you have two options － you can do an intense workout for 45 minutes, finish with some stretching and be done for the day. Or, you can lower the intensity of your exercise and go on for over an hour.
There is an actual scientific reason behind this.
You probably know what catabolism is. It is the breakdown of complex molecules into smaller units causing a release of energy, yet can also slow down muscle growth. For anyone who wants to lose weight or build muscle, it is very important to avoid entering this destructive catabolic state. It usually occurs when too much of a hormone called cortisol is released into the body. Cortisol is a natural hormone which our bodies produce when exposed to too much physical or mental stress. There is nothing to worry about - it is the normal way the body functions. It only becomes problematic when there is too much cortisol in our bodies.
How can it happen? Simply by exercising too much!
When you push your body too hard and force yourself to work out at high-intensity levels for too long, your body will start releasing extra cortisol which can be very harmful.
Excess cortisol can weaken your joints or even lead to osteoporosis, as well as cause an increase in fat in the abdominal region. It will also slow down or stop the potential growth of your muscles and convert protein into glucose (Exercise.com, n.d.).
So don’t overtrain yourself!
You don’t always have to do the same length exercise. You can go slower and longer if you don’t feel too energetic, or try a challenging 45-minute session and give it your absolute best if you think you need to burn off some excess energy. Just see how you feel. You might want to get yourself a good smartwatch to monitor your heart rate "Activity Tracker" and know when to stop.
2. Drink enough water
This may seem pretty silly to you. Everyone knows that you need to drink enough fluids after a workout in order not to get dehydrated. But not everyone knows that drinking a bottle of water after intense exercising is not enough. Not even if you drink two liters at once!
In order to keep your body properly hydrated, you need to drink regularly throughout the day. It is not enough to drink a lot after your workout session than just a few glasses during the rest of the day. It actually takes our bodies for a few hours to absorb the water. So if you don’t want to get completely dehydrated after the workout, make sure you drink often throughout the day to keep the right level of water in your body.
According to The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, a healthy, adult woman should drink at least 2.7 liters of water daily and an adult, healthy man should drink 3.7 liters a day. This includes the water we get with food which is about 20 percent of our daily water intake.
You should also remember that the amount of water your body needs also depends on your health, age, lifestyle or even the weather. So if you usually exercise a lot and live in a hot or humid climate (or are simply enjoying a nice, hot summer) you should drink more water throughout the day than the average person. It might be a good idea to find yourself a nice water bottle so you don’t forget to drink regularly and can easily measure how much water you drink each day.
3. Allow yourself to take a break
You are allowed to take breaks － both those short ones and even the big ones, like missing a workout altogether. We don’t mean you should stop working out forever just because you don’t feel like it. Not at all!
What we mean is that you should change your mindset. A lot of people think of working out on an “all or nothing” basis. So they aim to exercise regularly according to their schedule and don’t allow themselves to miss a session for any reason. It is very good to be motivated, but being so strict with yourself can actually lead to not exercising at all!
How come? you ask. Easy － when you don’t let yourself take a break you will only stay motivated like this for a few weeks until something makes you stop. For example, an unexpected meeting at work, the ‘flu or a holiday. Then, when you miss your workout, especially if it happens more than once in a row, you start thinking that you can't do it at all, lose your motivation and give up completely.
It is better if you allow yourself to take breaks. If you have had an unexpectedly long day at work, don’t push yourself and go to the gym at 1 am just because you tell yourself you have to. Instead, take a relaxing bath and get a good night’s sleep － you will feel much more refreshed the next day and your workout will be much more productive and enjoyable this way!
Think about it like any other thing in your life. For example, if you are too tired to read a book before you go to sleep does it mean you will never read this book ever again? No! You will pick it up when you next have time.
So remember, if you miss your workout once in a while the world will not end. There is always another day.
The same rule applies to those short breaks you are so afraid to take during your workout session. We know it is a great feeling to make a plan for your workout and stick to it, but sometimes your body just doesn’t want to follow your carefully designed schedule. And it is usually a great idea to listen to it and give it a break. Many professional trainers say that most injuries happen when we don’t listen to our bodies and push ourselves too much. Your body knows what it needs to allow it to make decisions once in a while.
Besides, even if you promised yourself you would do those 20 push-ups but don’t feel like you can, isn’t it better to do 10, take a short break and then do another 10, rather than not do them at all? Sometimes we can achieve better results if we are kind to ourselves and don’t push too hard.
4. Set realistic goals for yourself
We just talked about being kind to yourself, right? This very important lesson is similar in a way － you should always set realistic goals for yourself. No matter if you run, go to the gym, do yoga or cycle. You should never set overambitious goals for yourself.
Don’t misunderstand us. Challenging yourself is good, being ambitious is great, doing your best to achieve your goals is amazing. But setting unrealistic goals for yourself is disastrous.
There are a lot of people who come to the gym or a class full of energy, ready to make some great things happen. But sometimes they want too much, too fast. And they come up with all kinds of unrealistic expectations for themselves and their bodies. They want to go from 0-100 push-ups in a month, run 10K even though they have never jogged before or lift the heaviest weights before they even learn how to properly pick them up.
The best strategy is to take it to step by step. It is the safest, most productive and honestly most positive strategy you can adopt.
Sure, you can have your big end goal in mind, but don’t forget those 100 steps you need to take and all the stages you have to go through before you get there.
This approach will also help you stay motivated. When you see yourself gradually improving and achieving these mini-steps, you will stay positive and want to come back for more. If you go for the big goal right away and fail (which is very likely without proper preparation) you will be disappointed and may quickly give up. If you are worried you are not able to plan your strategy yourself, try booking a few sessions with a personal trainer "click here", who will be able to plan everything with you.
So, remember to allow yourself some time, set realistic goals, workout regularly and most importantly, stay positive. Working out should be fun!