It often feels like a big sacrifice to take time out of your day to exercise. But there is a myriad of ways we can be sure to get it done efficiently AND effectively. Because if we are taking the time to train, we want it to be worth it! And we want results! The following tips can help you get the most out of your precious workout time.
Be prepared: BEFORE you start your workout and even go to the gym , look over the exercises you plan to do. Look up form videos and have a decent idea of how to perform each movement before you get started. Have your water bottle filled, a sweat towel, and all equipment needed for at least your first set ready to go. Make a scan of your gym space of other equipment you will need for later in the workout. If you are needing a busy bench or cable machine and that is open NOW, you are always welcome to swap exercises around on occasion to utilize what’s available when it’s open.
Set yourself up for progress: If you are tracking your weights used, record which weights you plan to use for each exercise ahead of time- instead of trying to do the math mid workout. Are you progressively working to get stronger? Are you always grabbing the same size dumbbells or barbell plates week after week, month after month? Once your form is solidified, make an effort to increase the weights you are using week to week. Many of my training clients utilize variable reps and sets in their workouts. If you are doing a 3x10 day for example, then the next time you get to a 3x10 day, try to increase your weight at least slightly in at least a couple exercises. Apps I love for weight tracking are the Strong Workout Tracker and 1RM (by Michael Galloy). With the Strong app, you can program in your different workouts you do during a week and then when you are performing the workout you can enter in the reps, sets, and weights used. It will help you track weight and volume increases over time and give you an estimated 1 rep max (1 RM)- so, if you lift 150lbs for a deadlift doing 2 sets of 15 reps, then it will calculate what your supposed 1 rep weight would be. This can be helpful when trying to increase in strength and determining a good starting weight for when you lower reps (like with 4 sets of only 6-8 reps, you will be able to lift heavier than when doing 2 sets of 12-15 reps)- using the 1RM app in addition to Strong, will also help with calculating weights for different rep ranges and for different lifts.
Remove distractions: Set your phone to airplane mode to avoid getting sidetracked by texts or checking social media between sets. That kind of distraction almost always ends up resulting in even longer rest breaks than needed and extending the length of your workout
Set a timer for rest breaks. For most training phases, 30-60 seconds is all that is needed for rest breaks (unless otherwise noted on your training plan). Set a timer when you complete your set or superset and be ready to start the next set or circuit when the timer goes off.
Use headphones or listen to music. This may not be preferable for everyone. But often times, listening to upbeat music without the surrounding sounds of your workout environment can help you get in the zone, focus, push harder, and get it done.
Pre-workout nutrition: Have a snack or meal that includes carbs and protein 1-3 hours before you workout.
During workout nutrition: HYDRATE! Unless you are an endurance athlete or someone highly active doing long, intense training sessions (more than 2 hours) or multiple daily training sessions, you don’t usually need food during a workout, if you ate prior to exercise (see point 6). But if you are feeling sluggish, carbs would be the best choice for an immediate fuel source. Fats BEFORE exercise can be a good idea, but during exercise is harder to digest and may slow you down.
Post-workout nutrition: Depending on the size of your meal before working out, you should eat within a few hours after training- and more promptly than that if you were training fasted. Include 20-30 grams of protein (for women) and 40-60g (for men). You can utilize protein shakes or whole foods or both- whichever you prefer. Include some carbs and some fats as well for taste, and restoring glycogen stores. Remember that all food consumed before/during/after a workout still count towards your daily calorie goal- so be mindful of portions as you fuel your body.
The above workout nutrition tips are just guidelines to increase the effectiveness of your workout and recovery. To simplify, just aim for a healthy well balanced meal a couple hours before exercise and another a couple hours after exercise. And then aim to hit your calorie and protein goals over the course of the day and the week. For healthy, active people (that aren’t training for a fitness competition, bodybuilding, or high intensity/long mileage endurance event) specific nutrient timing strategies aren’t usually needed