Getting and staying in shape can be difficult for a lot of people. There is a lot of information out there telling you the "perfect" diet, schedule, and exercises for a healthy body. But the truth is that taking care of yourself and listening to your body is more important than a miracle cure, and any workout can be effective with the right strategies.
Preparing your Workouts
1Set your goals. Physically write them out so you can refer to them when your motivation is faltering or if you just need a little boost. Why do you want to work out? What is your end goal?
- Those looking to gain muscle will focus on strength training and weight lifting.
- Those looking to lose weight should focus on aerobic (running, biking, etc.) exercises with light weight lifting.
2Set a specific overall workout plan for yourself. Two-week based planning is best in most cases. This allows you to adjust based on your actual progress, and also allows for deep recovery when you plateau. Professional athletes have much longer plans that should be worked out with their coaches. Some things to remember as you plan are:
- Don't weight lift with the same muscle group 2 days in a row.
- Plan at least 1 rest day in your schedule every week.
- Plan the time you will be working out -- you need to make it habit or you won't commit to your workout plan.
3Eat something small before you workout. You need to make sure you body has some energy before you start to get the most out of your workout. You will find that you will have better results and can last longer on the treadmill or in that cycling class if you have a little food in the stomach. Aim to eat a small meal 1 hour before working out. Some good, balanced ideas include:
- Fruit smoothie with protein powder.
- Peanut butter and jelly.
- Whole wheat pasta with a little sauce and grilled chicken.
- Yogurt and granola with fresh fruit.
4Drink throughout the day. It is easiest to stay hydrated if you are constantly drinking, and good hydration is necessary to make the most of your workouts. You should drink 7-8 glasses of water every day, and more if it is hot.
- Carry a water bottle with your everywhere to remind you.
- Drink one full glass of water right when you wake up to rehydrate you after sleeping.
5Stretch. If you don't already stretch before and after workouts, start now. And if you do, try adding a few more minutes of stretching in the middle of your day or before you go to sleep. Stretching relieves stress and tension and helps get you to relax.
- Try dynamic stretching to add interest to your warm-up. Dynamic stretching is a mixture of light jogging, jumps, and stretches that actively get your body moving.
Making the Most of the Workout
1Find exercises that you actually enjoy doing. If you hate the treadmill with a passion, find something else. Try cycling, elliptical, tennis, dance, aerobics, water aerobics, long walks, or anything else you can think of. It doesn't have to feel like exercise for it to work.
2Find a workout buddy to keep each other motivated. Having someone else to work out with makes you less likely to skip a workout and make the most of your time at the gym or on the track. When one of you is feeling like quitting, it is up to the other to raise the energy. Helping to motivate a friend will also keep you honest, as it is much harder to skip a few sets or exercises when someone is watching.
3Minimize rest periods to 1-2 minutes. The more you stand around, the more you muscles cool down. It also wastes valuable time at the gym and makes your workouts less effective. Discipline yourself to make the most of your time working out, as your muscles will grow faster if they are stimulated consistently. Just because it is easier to do 10 more push-ups after waiting 5 minutes doesn't mean it is good for your. In fact, this will get in the way of effective muscle building.
4Drink at least 1 water bottle an hour. You need to be constantly hydrating to make sure your muscles are firing on all cylinders. It doesn't matter what the weather is like -- you always need to drink while exercising to get the most out of exercises.
- Double the amount of water you drink on hot days, as you sweat our water more quickly and can get dehydrated.
- If you feel thirsty, you're already dehydrated. Drink enough to stay ahead of thirst.
5Focus on technique, not looking impressive. Pay attention to what your body is telling you. This maximizes the physical workout and provides a much deeper ability to concentrate on gains. The basics of good form are consistent no matter what exercise you are doing.
- Have good posture -- keep your spine straight and avoid awkward feeling angles.
- Make all motions fluid and smooth -- "jerking" around may feel tougher, but it will lead to injury.
- Have a spotter, or watcher, with you for any large weight lifting to help your form.
- Ask a trainer or friend to give you any advice or tips on your form.
6Push each exercise to the point where it is almost impossible. You want to push your body to make the most gains. If you're lifting, the last 2-3 reps should be hard, especially on your last set. If you're running, you need to be out of breath in the last 2-3 minutes to make the greatest improvement. Note when things get tough and push yourself to set the bar higher each time you work out.
- This does not mean you should feel pain. The exercise should be hard; it shouldn't hurt.
7Cool down lightly after the workout. Make sure that you take some time to cool your muscles down. This prevents injury and makes it easier to get back to the gym the next day.
- Go for a light jog.
- Light 5-10 reps at a very light weight.
Recovering after a Workout
1Eat a protein-filled meal within 30 minutes of working out. . If you are interested in gaining muscle mass and size, eat a source of protein (chicken, beef, eggs, fish, peanut butter) and carbs (rice, bread, potatoes, pasta) to keep your body well supplied with nutrients for growth. Eat every 2-2 1/2 hours a day.
- Complex carbs found in whole-wheat breads and pastas are much better for you post-workout than simple carbs like white bread and rice.
- If you're going for a more aerobic exercises, like running, the same principles apply. However, you will need less protein.
2Rest your body. You need to give you body time to recover from the workout. Exercises rip muscle fibers, but you body regenerates them with additional fibers over time. This is how you get stronger. However, if you interrupt this healing process you risk injury and stunt muscle growth.
- If you need to workout, do light, easy cardio, like a jog or short bike ride.
- Do not work out the same muscles two days in a row.
3Keep a fitness journal. This will help you to track where you've been, where you are going, and how you are progressing. Soon, you'll be able to see that you can run, bike, walk faster than you did before and at higher intensity levels. It is always a huge motivator when you can see improvement.
- How many reps did you do?
- How many miles did you run?
- How long did it take you to finish your workout?
4Realize that you will naturally plateau from time to time. You will not be able to constantly make gains and expect them to keep going. Most people experience rapid growth followed by a period of minimal growth, so don't get discouraged. To get out of the rut, increase you workout time, mileage, or weight and try and push yourself to another level.
- Remember that, to get the most out of your workouts, you need to challenge your body.
How do you burn the most calories while exercising?User ContributorHigh intensity interval training seems to be the most effective way to torch calories.
- Eat only one sweet a day.
- Don't have your goal be skinny. Instead, try to be healthy.
- If your goal is to lose a bit of weight, then changing eating habits will be a lot more effective than working out.