Whether we realize it or not, we only get one hundred sixty-eight hours to do whatever we need to do each week.
Not only is this number finite, the time is irreplaceable. That means you only have one opportunity to live today’s date and to do whatever you want to do – on this date. So, setting aside some of your time and associated energy each week to train and exercise is an investment not only in your health and well being, but also in your life so you’ll want to make sure it truly counts, right? Learning how to get the most out of every training session can not only help you to see and feel results faster, you’ll also perform better in your every day life as well.
Here are some tips to help you get more out of your efforts:
1. Increase your intensity. If you’re a new exerciser, have certain medical concerns or are rehabing an injury, it’s okay to take it slow and easy to give your body a chance to adjust to exercise stressors. That usually means staying at a moderate level where you can easily carry on a conversation while you’re moving and working well below your maximum effort.
If you’re otherwise healthy, though, can move for 30 consecutive minutes at a moderate intensity and aren’t seeing any more results, it’s probably time to mix up your program! One way to do this is by raising the intensity. That means finding ways to do more – move faster or harder, lift more weight, increase your resistance, change the order of your exercises, do different exercises, there are a host of ways to in effect tell your body to change by changing the stimuli and/or work load.
How do you know if you’ve increased your intensity? You’re probably breathing harder, sweating more and feeling more fatigued. On a scale of 0 to 10 (with zero being sitting on the couch and ten being running up several flights of stairs at full steam), strive for a level of exertion where overall you feel your average effort is 7 to 9 on the scale, depending on your health and fitness level, about 2-3 times per week. DISCLAIMER: Be sure to consult with your doctor, before changing your program, particularly if you have medical issues and are taking certain medications.
2. Don’t train longer than an hour. Unless you’re a competitive athlete or training for an endurance sport like a running a marathon or cycling a century, there’s generally no need for the average person to exercise longer than an hour at a time. Research has shown that extended workouts can actually increase the risk of injury due to fatigue, plus there’s little added benefit for most people. Instead, strive to get a bigger bang for your buck in a shorter period of time by increasing the overall intensity, as mentioned before or doing interval training.
3. Hydrate. You’ve heard this one time and time again, so while it’s not new it’s still extremely important. Drink water! Your body is more than 60% water. That’s a fact that isn’t going to change. Your metabolic system requires water to function optimally and to function efficiently. Additionally, every time you exercise, your body is taken out of it’s desired equilibrium and placed in state of temporary chaos. This is great for encouraging a training response – stronger/firmer muscles, a more powerful cardiovascular system, increased fat metabolism, etc, but you also need to help your body prepare, perform and recover properly before, during and after you work it. Generally, the amount of water you need depends on your particular situation, like your health, activity level, climate, etc. For reference, the Institute of Medicine recommends an Adequate Intake (AI) of roughly 13 cups (3 liters) for men and 9 cups (2.2 liters) for women.
4. Eat complex carbs and protein at every meal. So important for maintaining dietary balance! While gastrointestinal issues may make this a challenge and even undesirable for a few people, this is generally the best way to make sure that your body has what it needs at the right time. There are three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fat. For the most part, most people don’t have trouble getting enough fat, but eating the right type and amount of protein and carbs can be more of an issue.
Healthy protein choices can include wild-caught fish, free-range poultry, grass fed beef and dairy, legumes, nuts, seeds, and quinoa (yes, this is technically a grain but it’s also unique in that it’s also very high in protein). Complex carb choices include fruit, vegetables, sweet potatoes and whole grains like quinoa (again), buckwheat, millet, barley, brown rice and rye. Also, keep in mind that the optimal time for protein and carb intake after training is within 30 minutes and 2 hours, respectively. To keep it easy just eat them together within and hour of training so you know you’ve given your body what it needs.
5. Lift heavier weights. Now, here’s a word of caution, though. You should never, ever sacrifice form and safety for more weight or advanced moves. If you’re new to exercise or have poor form, back off on the weight until you’ve correctly mastered your exercise performance. If, however, you’re experienced and injury-free, have been doing the same exercises, the same number of reps, in the same order for months or years… if this describes you, it may be time for a change. Progress gradually and decrease the number of reps as necessary, but work on stepping it up. If you’re unsure of anything, ask a fitness professional for help.
6. Avoid long, boring cardio sessions. Plod, plod, plod. Ugh! Generally, there’s no reason to plod along on the treadmill at the same speed, the same elevation, the same pace for extended periods of time… unless maybe you’re doing rehab work or you’re an older adult or you have balance/gait issues and need the handrails for safety. Okay, you might also use the treadmill as part of a periodic (and progressive) endurance program – big maybe on the last one. The point is, avoid the hamster-on-the-wheel type of training. Days, weeks and months of the same old thing with little fluctuation is not going to give you the long-term benefit you desire. And, keep in mind that exercising on the treadmill is basically jumping up and down in place while the belt moves underneath you, so it’s not like moving yourself against the ground so the training effect is not the same as walking or running outside, for instance.
Instead, add variety to your training by doing hills outside, climbing stairs, adding plyometrics and, if the treadmill just is your thing – varying the speed and/or elevation during your workouts. As mentioned before, you can also mix it up by pairing your resistance training with your cardio for heart pumping circuits and interval training. Again, be sure to adjust the weights and reps accordingly.
Have a question about your training?
Just ask! We love answering questions. Contact us!