It doesn’t matter if you are a complete newbie or gym veteran, there’s a good chance your exercise routine could be more effective and efficient.
It’s true that getting to the gym is often the biggest hurdle for many of us, and deserves a huge well done, but it’s so important that you spend your time wisely while you are there.
We are all guilty of sneaking away from the gym deep in the knowledge that it wasn’t as productive as it could have been. Nobody wants to have made a wasted trip, so we’ve compiled some great tips and recommendations, to make sure your gym experience is as rewarding as possible.
Preparation is so important when it comes to maximising and reaping the benefits of your workout. Most people are guilty of finishing at the office and rushing to the gym to cram in a quick session, or find themselves cutting corners and thinking it won’t make a massive difference in the long run.
Make careful decisions when it comes to fuelling your body before any exercise session. Nourishing your body with the right substances means you will see the best results from your workout. Find what works for you but bananas, oats, vegetables or lean meats like grilled chicken and turkey work well. They are full of protein and will give you lots of energy and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Don’t forget the importance of water and staying hydrated. Sometimes the more advanced we become at the gym, the easier it is to slip up and forget the basics. As a general rule, at least eight ounces of water within 30 minutes of starting your workout should sufficiently rehydrate you.
Have a plan of action
Make sure you arrive at the gym with an exercise plan. This means you will not waste time wandering around the gym deciding what to do next and you’ll be less daunted if you’re not 100% confident. It gives focus and structure to your workout, leaving little room for messing around or spending time aimlessly. Have a schedule in mind or a list of exercises you want to complete.
Say goodbye to mobile phones
It’s crazy how many gym-goers are focused on their phones during a work-out. It’s a massive distraction. Research has shown it hinders our performance and stops us from reaching high-intensity levels.
So, put your phone on aeroplane or do not disturb mode before stepping foot in your gym. It might just be a two second peek at your group chat on WhatsApp but it wreaks havoc with your focus. There’s nothing worse than being in the zone and pushing yourself hard, and then having a quick Instagram scroll and not be able to get back on track.
Get your head in the game
Having a focused mind set and being able to concentrate means you will feel so much more satisfied after your work out. You should think of the gym as a sanctuary, free from the stresses of daily life and the outside world. It’s a place where you can forget about your problems and give all your attention to the work out.
A gym buddy works for lots of people as it can be motivating and supportive having someone pushing you and to keep you on track. It’s a shoulder to lean on and someone being there to help. One huge mistake people often make is letting their partner be a distraction. Chatting, giggling or talking about the weekend plans does not make for a productive workout.
Don’t compare yourself to others
This is one of the biggest detriments to any workout and is often cited as a reason for people falling out of love with their exercise routines. Focus on your own personal goals and celebrate what you’re good at. Never look at someone else’s body or achievements and compare. It’s futile and damaging to your mental health. Try to be the best possible version of yourself and forget the rest.
Expert tip - Nectaria Pospori, founder of feel-good exercise programme Groovy Glutes, said: “Quit trying to keep up with the ‘cool crowd’. Your fitness goals are very personal and individual so own them. Be flexible with them too!”
What follows a workout is often overlooked but it’s an essential part of any exercise routine. It’s so important that we don’t jump off the treadmill, throw down our weights and leg it to the carpark without properly focusing on how to cool down our bodies.
You should never abruptly stop exercising, but rather ease yourself off gently. It’s about dedicating time to bring your workout to an end. Yoga, gentle swimming, light jogging or just walking are great for this. Stretching is just as important too and can be worked into this cooling down period – it will reduce the tension in your muscles and lactic acid build up as well as release endorphins and get the blood flowing through the muscles at a regulated place.
Top tip – having protein and carbs after a workout is great for resorting glycogen stores and enhancing recovery. It also decreases the breakdown of muscle protein. From omelettes, chicken with roasted vegetables, salmon and sweet potato, to tuna steaks or peanut nutter pancakes – there are loads of ways to include these nutrients into your diet after a workout.
Catch enough zzzzzs
Sleep, sleep, sleep. There’s a proven correlation between how well-rested we are and our ability to exercise. According to a study on running endurance carried out by Men’s Health, just one night of sleep deprivation saw participants able to run 3% less than normal.
What’s more, the dreamless non-REM sleep phase encourages cells to generate new protein and mobilises free fatty acids to provide you with energy. This helps to repair any muscles you broke down during your workout.
Look after yourself
Make sure you are getting enough rest. Relaxation and days away from the gym are just as important and play a vital role in keeping your body and mind charged and ready to work hard.
It’s also vital you remember to rehydrate after you finish. This is the most obvious post-workout tip but it’s easy to fall straight asleep after a tiring workout and forget to refuel with water - think of all the water your body loses through sweating!
Many people fall out of love with the gym and start to view going as a chore. Change up your routine, take a break or even treat yourself to a new piece of sportswear. There are so many options for reinvigorating how you feel towards exercise and getting that motivation back on track.
If you found these tips and recommendations useful, come along to SFN Expo at the Glasgow SEC from 21-22 September where the biggest names in the fitness industry will be sharing their knowledge and secrets to help you inspire you on your fitness journey.