Of course, half the time, getting to the gym is the main battle for getting in a solid workout. But once you are there, don’t you want to be doing everything in your power to receive the best results possible? Here are my tried and true tips to ensure sure your visit to the gym is well worth your while!
#1 Plan it, Log it, and Track it!
As the popular saying goes, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” This is the case when it comes to planning your gym workouts. Unfortunately, I have seen many people go to the gym with no direction or plan. They will usually hop from machine to machine with no rhyme or reason, and usually with no progress with their fitness goals.
Instead, make sure you have a journal, printout or application on your smart phone with your planned workout, including weights and reps, in order to properly challenge yourself and gauge your strength and stamina gains. As well as being able to track progress, writing things down and following a plan will more likely have you finish all sets and reps on your plan. If you don’t write it down, then you may not follow-through. It’s a good idea as well to be prepared with a backup training movement if a certain machine or area of the gym is busy.
In terms of food, the same thing applies. Writing down what you are eating and when can help you stay on track, achieve your goals, figure out if a food is causing digestive distress what the culprits may be etc. I usually plan my food in the morning based on what is available in my kitchen and my preferences for the day, and write out my food plan. If it is written down, planned and packed, then I will follow through and avoid mindless eating and/or under-eating. My trusty 6pack Fitness Meal Management bag is the ideal tool to make sure that my food is ready, packed, preserved and by my side.
#2 Pre and Post (sometimes intra) Workout Nutrition
This is the most important food consumption time in terms of carbohydrates and protein. Depending on your specific goals and starting point, your “workout window” is important to not only to how you preform during your training, but also how you recover afterwards. Don’t skimp on these meals thinking less is more; it is certainly when your body will most utilize extra calories and glycogen to replenish and restore. Nutritionally think about this part of your day as “muscle building” and the rest of your day as “body fat” loss.
I like to consume carbohydrate sources such as fruit, yams, coconut flour, rice cakes and root vegetables in these meals, and keep my good fats low as to not slow down the quick absorption of the carbohydrate source to replenish. Protein in this instance is best when in liquid form as well. Getting the muscle replenished in a quick manner is best. Proetin shakes with frozen fruit are my go to, especially in the summer months. You can pre-blend and have waiting for you in your fridge when you get home, or for convenience, have your shaker cup filled with your favorite ABOUTTIME Protein powder, just add water and shake!!
Check out the eaisest, yummiest shake recipe below! Outside of that workout window, I like to use vegetables and healthy fats along with my protein to keep my body fueled.
#3 challenge yourself
Too many times I see people at the gym almost “swinging” their weights around, getting out their repetitions with ease and an almost careless attitude. I have no problem with this if the gym is part of their social routine. However, if you are looking to make changes in your strength and/or physique, then you need to dig deep, lift outside of your comfort zone and possibly grunt (like I do) to make some changes in your body.
If you are going to the weight rack every session and picking up the same 20lb dumbbells and doing the same 15 reps, you may need to sit down and rethink your routine. Try slowly to increase your lifts and varying your repetition range. It should feel uncomfortable and difficult to hit all reps. As the popular saying goes, “Nothing worthwhile is easy.”
I’m not just throwing in a big word to scare you off. Periodization is just a fancy word for a training timeline. You training should be planned out months, or a year in advance and be congruent with your personal goals. By this, I am not referring to every set and exercise being performed Monday-Friday, however, you should have more or less a general idea. For example, you can write a timeline with the months of the year for example:
- January to March – Building phase (lower repetition range, heavy lifting, limited cardio, more rest etc.)
- April to June – Cutting phase (introducing more cardiovascular work or conditioning circuits, super-setting, cluster work, less rest etc.).
Your food intake should also match training goals; slowly increasing carbohydrates in a building phase, and slowly decreasing them in a shredding phase etc.
You don’t have to run out and try all of the newest fads in fitness from pole dancing to ballet yoga, but varying up your routine whether it is the order in which you do your exercise, adding skipping in between sets or shortening your rest periods will keep your body guessing, thus creating more results. It will also keep you from being bored and resenting your time at the gym.
#6 Don’t be afraid of the squat rack
This is definitely coming from a personal experience. I remember starting out on my “journey to Iron”, and doing the typical thing I see a lot of women do when starting out; not lifting enough weight, doing too much steady state cardio, and of course, staying as far away as possible from the squat rack
After a year, I finally conjured up enough courage to try the Smith machine. Eventually, I stepped outside of my comfort zone, asked someone to spot me, and fell in love with the bar. Once you use the squat rack, you never look back. I don’t know what the intimidation is around the Olympic Rack, I think it may be the fact that it is usually loaded with a lot of plates, and there is a someone in there that looks like they are about to get a hernia. If you haven’t ventured to this piece of equipment yet, or have similar fears to mine, try asking someone for help and conquer your fear. Remember that the squat rack will allow you to train your entire body with adequate weight to see the gains you desire.
#7 Weights over cardio
A lot of clients ask me if they are limited in their time at the gym, how they should break up their routine, and how much time should they dedicate to cardiovascular training. I recommend weights over cardio in this instance, and time permitting, a short high intensity interval training for their cardio. Doing your weights first, then cardio is the optimal order. The resistance training will not only help change the shape of your body, but will also keep your body burning more calories post workout- the Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) keeps your body working while trying to return your body to the pre-exercise state.
#8 Maximum effort over prolonged workouts
This is tied in with tip number 7 and more specifically towards cardiovascular training. Training for hours on end on a machine, will not only prevent you from reaching your body sculpting goal, but will most likely set you back. Our bodies are very smart machines, and will adapt to stimuli quickly. After a few weeks (even sooner for some), of longer cardio sessions, your body will stop creating changes, and you will have to increase your amount of time or resistance. I have seen many people turn into cardio slaves, wasting away hours of their day with the purpose of weight loss. Learn to train smarter, not longer. Higher intensities and less time such as HIIT, TABATA, and conditioning circuits with weights have proven to be more beneficial and successful in terms of weight loss, body transformation and lowering body fat percentage.
#9 Taking toll on other aspects of your life
There is a lot more to changing your body then just the external. Some people may not be getting the optimal time out of their gym workouts if things like stress, lack of sleep and injuries are occurring. Make sure you find time in your routine for things like yoga, foam rolling, massage, sleep, rest, mediation and good old conversation with friends and family. Turn off the computer, television and other devices, and find some YOU time.
This is last on my list. Although important for some, I find that many people nowadays are overusing supplements in lieu of nurturing their bodies via food. There are many companies and products on the market right now, and many which will help you get to your goal. I would suggest talking to a naturopath or sports specific nutritionist when approaching this subject. If you feel you are already taking a lot, try omitting them for a month, and slowly add them in one by one to see how you react, if at all.
Peanut Butter, Banana And Jam Shake
- 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
- 1 tablespoon sugar free strawberry jam
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 scoop About Time Peanut Butter Whey Protein (Or About Time Vegan Vanilla)
*** If using the vegan version, add 1 tablespoon of all natural peanut butter or powdered peanut butter
Place all ingredients in blender and blend! Enjoy!