Have you ever felt like exercise is an uphill battle? You try and try, but you still feel like you’re just not seeing the toned muscles you hoped for? Well, if you’re looking for a way to give your workout the boost it needs, here are 6 ways you can improve your exercise time:
1: Write It Down
Sometimes its a matter of knowing what you do and how you do it. Do you often show up at the gym only to return the next day trying to remember which exercises you had done the day before? Next time, grab a small notebook or even your phone and jot down your routine. Write down which types of exercises you do, for how long, and at what weight. So if today you did an arm workout, what exercises did you do? Did you do curls, then how many (this is known as reps)? And how many times did you repeat those reps (the repeating is known as sets)? And what weight did you use? You might be surprised what you find. Maybe when you work on your arms you only do the same exercises over and over, missing other areas of your arm. Or you might find that you never increase your weight. Writing your workout down can be very revealing and help you to keep track of your improvements.
2: Find a Buddy
The buddy system is a great way to increase your workout level. For one thing, having someone to exercise with can distract you from staring at the clock and wondering how much longer you have to wait until you can call it a day. Laughing through a dance class makes the time fly much faster. And the other great thing about working out with a friend is that it can provide a much needed challenge that you don’t find when working out alone. Someone else can push you to lift more, run further, jump higher, and go further than you would have done my yourself. It also provides accountability. If someone is expecting you to be at the gym at 5am, it’s a lot harder to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep.
3: Eat a Snack
If losing weight is your main motivation for working out, there can be some unhealthy temptations that arise. One of those is not eating before working out. Although it seems logical that you want to burn calories and therefore you need to cut back on the snacks, not eating anything pre-workout isn’t going to help you burn more calories. It can actually be detrimental! The body needs the extra energy from a snack to help power you through a workout. Have you ever been in the middle of workout class and just felt completely exhausted? That may be because you don’t have enough healthy fuel to keep you going. You need that energy to finish strong and see the results that come from giving your workout your all. Now, that doesn’t mean hit up the fast food lane before hitting the gym. Instead, chose healthy options like peanut butter, bananas, or yogurt.
4: Slow It Down
It’s easy to rush through a workout. You think ‘I just need to lift this weight 5 more times and then I can enjoy a delicious burrito as a reward’. But rushing through your workout is only cheating yourself out of the real reward of building strength. Really think about what’s happening as you lift a weight. Think about the muscles being used. Imagine them being strengthened as each one engages. To challenge yourself, next time think of lifting to a count. For example, if you are performing a curl, as you lift towards you count slowly to 5 and as you lower the weight back down count slowly to 5. This will force you to really rely on your muscles rather than using momentum. Also, slowing things down forces you to breath. It is very easy to hold your breath when working out. But air is vital for your muscles and if you don’t breath you also run the risk of passing out!
5: Increase the Weight
Isn’t it always the case that when we pick up a pair of weights or sit down at a workout machine, we tend to chose the weight that feels comfortable, a.k.a. easy? Well, your muscles aren’t going to be challenged if you always choose the easiest route. Yes, that 3lb weight feels great and that might be the perfect place to start, but don’t stop there! When that weight starts to feel too easy, pick up a heavier weight. Keep increasing weight so that you challenge your muscles. The same goes for exercises. Change things up so that your body doesn’t plateau. If you aren’t sure you can make it through your whole workout with a heavier set of weights, then try the drop set method. Start with the heavier weight, let’s say 5lb, and try to make it to the end of your reps. Then for the next set, drop the weight, like to a 3lb. And if you do another set, if the weight is still feeling heavy, drop it down again. The point is to keep pushing yourself harder, while not giving up on the amount of reps and sets you need to finish your exercise. Only drop the weight if you can’t do the exercise properly or if it is causing you pain, don’t use drop setting as a crutch.
6: Roll It Out
Have you heard of a foam roller? If not, consider trying one out at your gym or investing in a cheap one for your home. A foam roller is a great addition to your post-workout routine or to use on your free day. It is a firm, foam tube that is either smooth or textured. You can roll different parts of your body over it to release tension, tightness, knots, and help speed recovery of your muscles. Think of it as a much needed, deep tissue massage after your workout. Yes, it can feel a bit uncomfortable at moments, but that’s just the roller working on the areas that need it most. It’s an important part of post-workout recovery that helps perpare you for your next workout. Remember, what you do with your body after your workout as just as important as what you do during it. When you finish a workout, enjoy a healthy snack to replenish, drink plenty of water, and help your body recover by using a foam roller.