Making the initial decision to improve your fitness training regime is an easy and wise decision to make. After all, who doesn’t want to get in better shape? However, the process of actually following through is where the difficulty comes into play. Whether you’ve already been training for a while and are looking for ways to bring excitement and vigor back into your routine or you’re just starting to get into the habit of exercising, there are probably plenty of ways for you to improve your efforts. The problem is, without guidance, you could find yourself hitting plateaus or slowly creeping towards your fitness goals. With that said, here are 12 actionable tried and tested tips you can use to make sure you’re gaining maximum benefits from every workout:
1. Stay Optimally Hydrated
It doesn’t take a master’s degree in nursing or nutrition to know that hydration is essential when you’re trying to improve physical fitness. This is the type of topic nursing students cover when they go to medical school, and it is something they would advise their patients about when they eventually qualify.
Poor hydration makes it harder for your muscles to grow, reduces endurance, and increase your body’s vulnerability to illnesses that can make you take sick days and hinder your overall potential. While the amount you should drink will vary depending on your body weight, how much you’re sweating, and your activity level, a good rule of thumb is to drink around eight glasses of water per day. Aside from getting the right amount of fluids, try to cut out unhealthy drinks like soda and alcohol altogether.
2. Get 7-8 Hours of Sleep Every Night
If you’re doing intense physical training and you’re not getting a full night’s rest afterward, you’re actually doing damage to your body instead of building it up. It’s imperative for every fitness enthusiast to understand the importance of sleep in facilitating the healing and rejuvenation of muscle fibers. If you wind up losing sleep because you went to bed late or had to get up early, be sure to take a nap to offset the sleep deficit. Don’t train on days when you’re sleep deprived as it can hurt your focus and concentration levels, which leads to a heightened chance of injury.
3. Take Days Off
Did you know that over-training is the #1 cause of slow fitness progress? Training seven days per week is never a good idea for the vast majority of people. If you’re a professorial athlete who is trying to train themselves to endure a full-length sports season, you might have a six or seven-day workout regimen that has you working on different parts of the body throughout the week. However, most people will benefit more from training 3-5 days per week. If you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to give yourself at least 24-48 hours between each workout, or until you’re not sore anymore.
4. Get Your Recommended Daily Values
Not eating right is another extremely common cause of poor fitness progress. In fact, much like getting adequate sleep, eating well is absolutely essential to facilitate optimal growth and improvement. Most people try to avoid the hassle of counting calories and reading nutritional labels, but if you really want to maximize your potential then you’ll need to start doing that. Instead of opting for fad diets, it’s best to make sure you’re getting a balanced diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Many people make the mistake of reducing their fat and carbohydrate intake to dangerously low levels, which can lead to fatigue and joint problems as well as a slower metabolism.
5. Design a Meal Plan and Prepare Your Meals
Perhaps the best way to take the guesswork out of getting optimal nutrition is to design a meal plan and prep your meals ahead of time. That way, you can just head to the refrigerator and pantry for a quick bite instead of worrying about whether you’re eating too much or too little. Fortunately, there are plenty of apps and books that will help you become a master meal planner in no time. Having your food prepared beforehand is also a good way to enforce dietary discipline and avoid the temptation of justifying unhealthy snacks for the sake of convenience.
6. Have a Training Partner
There’s a reason sports teams training groups and most athletes have one or more training partners to hit the gym with – it helps you stay motivated to do your best. If you can find someone who is in similar shape and has similar goals that are even better, as you can drive each other forward in a competitive way. Plus, if you’re doing heavy lifting or other potentially dangerous training activities, it helps to have someone on standby to spot you or relieve some of the strain. Without that safeguard, it can be dangerous to push yourself to the limit when you’re alone.
7. Follow an Instructional Video
While you could just design your own workout plan, there’s really no reason to blaze an unbeaten path when there are already so many fitness programs and videos you can follow. You can even find plenty of free workout videos on YouTube if you’re on a budget. Using an instructional program as guidance not only keeps you from having to keep track of reps and routines, it also inspires you to train harder in order to match the intensity of the people in the video, whereas normally you’d probably reach your stopping point sooner without that extra motivation.
8. Set a Schedule
Much like meal planning, creating a workout schedule is the best way to reduce the burden of having to keep track of everything. Professional athletes use this trick to lighten the absurdly challenging load that comes with their routine training obligations. After about a week or two of being on the same schedule, you’ll start to notice that everything feels second nature as opposed to feeling like a dreadful requirement. It can be tempting to max out your schedule with too many workouts, so be sure to keep tip #3 (taking days off) in mind when completing this step. You may find that you need to make regular revisions to accommodate for progress, so set aside a half an hour every week to review your schedule and create a new one for the coming week.
9. Post Your Progress
Posting pictures and reports of your progress on social media is a great way to hold yourself accountable and keep a transparent record of your improvements. Plus, you’ll be doing a good deed be motivating others to follow in your footsteps because you’re showing them what’s possible with hard work and dedication. Giving up isn’t hard when you’re the only person who’s going to know about it, but it’s a bit tougher to walk away from your goals when your entire social network is following along in anticipation.
10. Walk More Than You Run or Jog
Many people make the mistake of running or jogging too much and by doing so, they’re putting unnecessary wear and tear on their joints and tendons. There’s no reason to pretend like you’re running a marathon when you’re not. You can still get an excellent workout and build your endurance by speed walking, which is a much more fluid motion that works for every muscle group in your body, especially on an incline. This isn’t to say that you should never run or jog, but it’s better to use walking as your primary method of endurance training.
11. Do Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises can help you improve endurance and stamina dramatically by giving you greater control over your air intake. Whether you’re an experienced athlete or an average joe, the main factor that probably limits your stamina is your ability to continue without running out of breath. Of course, “running out of gas” is the one limitation that really holds most people back from reaching their full physical potential.
12. Practice Yoga
A proper stretching routine can greatly reduce your chances of being injured or developing odd aches and pains. However, it’s possible to stretch the wrong way or too much, which would make you even more vulnerable to injury. To make sure you’re doing it the right way, it’s best to following along with a guided yoga routine and start with novice to intermediate stretches before moving onto advanced poses. It’s important to note that excessive stretching before a strenuous activity can heighten your chances of incurring a sports injury, so it’s best to save the lengthy stretching sessions for the evenings and mornings – give your tendons time to return to normal tension before you start running and jumping around.
Do All of the Above and You WILL See Results
In closing, it’s hard to imagine a reality where someone does everything listed above and still has problems making progress. To the contrary, it’s almost certain that anyone who implements these tips into their fitness regimen will see a profound improvement in their ability and condition within the span of a few weeks to a few months.