Your workout is actually the easiest part of a fitness routine. Whether you walk, jog, lift weights, or do Zumba, an hour is only four percent of your day, and you can’t make that more important than the 23 other hours.
Things like good nutrition and quality sleep matter too, and smart pre and post-workout rituals can ensure you’re recovering properly, fueling your efforts, and crushing it in every single workout.
Here are eight things that should definitely be a part of your fitness routine if you want to maximize your results.
1. Get enough sleep.
The most imperative thing in any fitness program starts the minute you go to sleep. Being well-rested not only energizes you through every work-out, but it also keeps your hunger hormones in check, so you’re not undoing your efforts by overeating the rest of the day.
You should try to a lot yourself seven solid hours of sleep. If you can't do seven, try for at least six and a half. A good sleep is also super important after a workout, that’s when muscles really get to recover.
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
You already know that drinking your water is crucial to overall health, but it plays an especially important role in a fitness routine. When you’re sweating it out, you need to make sure your body is properly hydrated since you’re losing water. Plus, being hydrated will make sure your energy levels are where they need to be. Just like a car can not run without oil, a body can not run without water. You should be sipping it before, during, and after a workout.
Although exact water needs vary from person to person, I would recommend aiming for half of your bodyweight in ounces per day (so, if you weight 150 pounds, try to get in 75 ounces). If your urine is dark, it probably means you’re not hydrated enough.
3. Grab a small snack.
If you’re really not feeling a pre-workout snack, there’s no need to force food down ahead of time, but don’t ignore your body if you feel like you need some fuel. If there’s no food in, there’s no energy out. My suggestion is a piece of your favorite toast with a bit of almond butter to get you going. You shouldn't be starving, but you don’t want to be feeling full either.
4. Consider wearing red for an extra boost of power.
Strange, but true. Red is a very empowering color, it increases confidence and has been shown to increase performance a bit. If you’re ever tired or just want to dominate your workout, red is the best choice. Blue and green are more calming, so it depends on what your workout. Orange and yellow are also heightening colors.
5. Work in a dynamic warm-up.
Skipping your warm-up is a definite no-no, even if your workout is only 10 minutes long. The warm-up is meant to give your body the opportunity to raise your body temperature, increase range of motion, and prepare yourself for what you’re about to do. It also helps decrease your chance of injury when you ease into your workout, rather than jumping straight from a resting state to your workout.
Increasing your range of motion can help you make the most of your workout, because you’ll be able to recruit more muscles during an exercise (for example, getting deeper into a spot means putting more muscles to work). This is done through a dynamic warm-up, which essentially means moving through stretches that aren’t held in place.
After your workout
6. Stretch it out.
A cool-down brings your body back to a resting position, the way you walked into MYB is the way you want to leave. To increase your range of motion, decrease soreness, and help speed up your recovery process, you need to implement isometric stretching. This is the opposite of the stretches you do in a warm up. After a workout, you should hold your stretches for at least 15 seconds each. Muscles are best stretched when they’re warm, you definitely don’t want to go straight from your workout to a seated position, like at a desk or in a car.
7. Refuel with post-workout nutrition.
A pre-workout snack is more optional than a post-workout one. Giving your body the fuel it needs to recover after a tough workout is essential. There’s something called the anabolic window, which lasts about 30 to 45 minutes after the workout. During this time, your body looks for carbohydrates and protein to help replenish glycogen stores and rebuild muscle, so getting your body the nutrition it needs to recover in a timely manner is important.
Not eating after a workout can leave you feeling ravenous later on and chances are you’re not going to reach for a salad. To make it easy on yourself, pack a post-workout snack in your bag, such as a protein bar, raw nuts & trail mix, or fresh fruit such as an apple, banana, or an orange.
8. Take a cool shower.
Taking a cool shower helps decrease the inflammation after a workout and speeds up the healing process. By decreasing inflammation, you decrease your chances of soreness. That’s what athletes do, and it’s how they’re able to perform day-in and day-out, because they’re focused on recovery. You don’t have to jump in an ice bath like the pros, but you should turn the shower temperature down lower than you usually do. This makes it less likely that soreness will get in the way of your workout the next day.
By making sure your body’s been warmed up, worked out, and cooled down properly, you can maximize the results you’re working towards. Fitness really is a lifestyle, and one that doesn’t begin and end with your actual workout.