Effective Workout Tips.
Wake up with a cup of coffee before your morning workout. The caffeine in a pre-workout cup of joe helps stimulate your central nervous system, so you’ll have a little extra oomph in your indoor cycling or boot camp class. Plus, in addition to a performance boost, research shows that it can actually make exercise feel more enjoyable, so you’re more likely to push harder.
Walk into the gym with a plan. Having a plan of action before you step foot in the gym can help you avoid wandering aimlessly around while you decide what to do next. This indecisiveness not only adds time to your workout, it also makes it less efficient, since you’re letting your heart rate drop. "A clear plan is your secret weapon," Jared Kaplan, founder of Studio 26, previously told SELF. Know what exercises you’re going to do, where you’re going to do them, and in what order.
It’s also a good idea to have a plan B, just in case the machine or floor space you were planning on using is taken. Move on to other parts of your workout and come back, or be armed with a backup exercise in mind that utilizes different equipment.
Get motivated with a solid workout playlist.Get pumped up on your way to the gym and during your workout with songs that make you feel strong, powerful, and like you can do anything. If you've been using the same earbuds since who knows when, upgrade your sound quality and comfort with one of these four best workout headphones rigorously sweat-tested by SELF staffers as part of our annual Healthy Living Awards.
Put your phone on airplane mode. Resist the urge to chime in on your group text or check that Snapchat message. Your workout is the time you get to invest in yourself, so turn your phone on airplane mode to avoid unnecessary distraction. Even better? If you don’t need your phone for your music or any workout apps, leave it in the locker room. The workout 'grams can wait.
Start your workout with some dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretches are a core component of pretty much any warm-up. With dynamic stretching, you’ll be moving through different stretches, rather than holding the stretch in place. This gradually raises your body temperature and heart rate and starts to warm up your muscles, priming your body for activity. A dynamic warm-up also helps improve your range of motion, so you can get deeper into each exercise and reap the full strengthening benefits of each move. The exact stretches you should perform in your warm-up depend on the type of workout you'll be doing: Try this 5-minute warm-up before you run, or this dynamic warm-up to do before a strength-training session.
Master foam rolling, and do it often. Foam rolling is another excellent way to improve your range of motion, so you can get more out of every squat, lunge, and push-up. Foam rolling helps relieve tightness by releasing knots your fascia, the thin sheath of tissue that surrounds your muscles. This tightness gets in the way of your ability to do exercises with a full range of motion, which may limit the benefits of the exercise. Foam rolling before a workout (and when you have spare time) is a good habit to get into to make every gym session more effective. When you roll, make sure to go slowly and pay special attention to any spots that feel particularly tight, like your hips or calves.
Embrace strength training. If you’ve steered clear of the weight room in the past, now’s the time to get familiar with strength training. Having strong muscles can help prevent injury and help you move better in day-to-day life, whether you’re lifting a moving box or climbing stairs. Strength training also improves your bone density, which is important to prevent fractures and osteoporosis. It also prevents against age-related muscle loss—the natural decrease in muscle mass that happens as you age—which keeps your metabolism humming. And although you probably associate cardiovascular exercise with heart-health benefits, research shows that strength training also helps keep your heart healthy by lowering your blood pressure and improving cholesterol levels. Read more about the many benefits of strength training for women here.
Maximize your gym time by minimizing rest between exercises.Strapped for time in the gym? Cut down your rest intervals. By taking minimal rest, you’re automatically upping the intensity of your workout and keeping your heart rate elevated throughout your weightlifting or interval training session. This cardio challenge trains your body (and mind) to work efficiently and persevere through fatigue, Rob Sulaver, C.S.C.S., founder of Bandana Training, explained to SELF. When you do cardiovascular training regularly, your body gets better at delivering fresh oxygen to your muscles, so you’ll actually get better at pushing through your workouts even when you’re tired.
Amp up exercises by adding weights. While you can get a heart-pumping workout using only bodyweight exercises, adding in weights gives your muscles an extra challenge. If you feel like you’ve mastered moves like basic squats and lunges, try holding a set of dumbbells or a medicine ball to make these types of bodyweight moves more challenging and effective.
In the daggy fitness world I inhabit, there are no Fitbits and very little philosophy. No one talks about their love of the workout like they are drugged acolytes nor do they worship the instructor. No one has a #fitspiration Instagram account, either, to record their progress from #newmum back to #hotmum.
If you’re driven by data, invest in a heart-rate monitor. Wearing a heart-rate monitor can give you an idea of your intensity level by measuring how fast your heart is beating. This can help you make sure you’re not overdoing it on the intensity every day (since not every day should be tough), and show you where you can push a little harder. Here’s how to figure out your heart rate zones using data from a monitor, and use this information to train more efficiently. (It's worth noting that a heart-rate monitor worn around your wrist is generally less accurate than the type that uses a chest strap.) Many new heart rate monitors also track your resting heart rate throughout the day. This can give you insights into how well your body has recovered from a workout—a significant dip or spike in your average resting heart rate could mean that something's up. Learn more about your resting heart rate and what it can (and can't) tell you about your fitness
Commit to getting your z’s. Sleep is hugely important for many reasons, your fitness game included. "Exercise is a physical stress applied to the body, and muscles get stronger in the period after the workout when the body is repairing the damage," Pete McCall, M.S., C.S.C.S., host of the All About Fitness podcast, explained to SELF. Allowing your body to recover properly makes it easier to crush a workout the next day. Plus, when you’re sleep deprived, you won’t have as much energy to work your hardest, and you also increase your risk for injury. Here are a few methods for better sleep to consider trying. If you feel like you get enough sleep but you're still tired all the time, see your doc—it may be a sign of a health condition.