5 Fool-Proof Ways to Be More Effective at the Gym
You take time out of your day, that’s already jam-packed, to get to the gym and you don’t want to waste it. But with distractions, no plan, and minimal fuel, that’s exactly what will happen.
Luckily, there are a variety of simple ways for everyone to be more effective at the gym, allowing you to be strong, focused and more productive with the little time you have. Use these tips to make the most of your time at the gym. Bonus: you may even hit your fitness goals faster than you anticipated.
Write a Plan Before You Go
One of the best ways to ruin a good workout is to go to the gym without a plan, which leaves you walking around aimlessly, trying to decide what to do next. Be more effective with your time by writing a plan, the more specific the better. My workout plan usually looks like this:
Heavy weighted squats
Yoga ball - prone back lift
DB rows - palms posterior
Yoga ball pass
Lat box w/o drop in front
Superman with alt arm/leg raise
Alt chest flies
If you want to make it even more effective, write in the weight you’ll use and total rep counts.
I write this plan at home, usually right before I leave, and then email it to myself and pull it up on my phone when I arrive. If you create this in Google Docs or Google Sheets, you can access it directly from Google Drive on your phone.
If you don’t know how to write a workout or what to include, use an app like Nike Fit that does all the work for you. Choose your goals for the workout and follow along as it times the intervals and gives you the right exercises to do, complete with videos of how to do them.
Have a Pre-Workout Meal
If you don’t have enough fuel in your body, finishing a workout will be challenging—unless you’re doing fasted cardio, which is a topic all on its own. Without fuel, your body is running on empty, making output difficult, especially if you’re strength training.
Everybody has different pre-workout needs, but an easy way to remember how much you should eat is: the closer you get to the workout the less you should eat, focusing on fast-digesting carbohydrates that deliver a quick and readily available source of glucose, which your body needs for lasting energy.
If your workout is 2 to 3 hours away, indulge in complex carbohydrates and lean protein, like a sandwich with deli meat or chicken and veggies—by the time you hit the gym, your body will have had enough time to digest and absorb the fuel.
If you plan to work out in an hour or so, go for a small bowl of whole grain cereal or oatmeal with a piece of fruit. The small serving size will allow your body to digest in time for the workout.
If you work out early in the morning, within a half hour of waking up, grab a piece of fruit like an apple or banana for a quick and digestible burst of energy.
Say No to Distractions
There are many distractions at the gym, whether you realize it or not. Eliminating these allows you to focus on your workout, ensuring proper form (to reduce injuries) and greatest output of effort. Here are a few simple rules to avoid some of the most common distractions:
- No Friends: If you’re a talker, don’t got to the gym with a good friend—chances are you’ll spend more time discussing the latest gossip than actually working out.
- No wires: Purchase a pair of wireless headphones and you’ll wonder why you never realized how distracting regular headphones are.
- No single-knotted laces: Always double-knot your shoes. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails like stopping during a good run to tie your shoes.
- No texting or emails: Use the gym as your “unplugged” time, and don’t answer emails or text messages.
Track Your Heart Rate
Your heart rate is one of the best ways to track how hard you’re working. It’s ideal to be training within 55-85 percent of your average maximum heart rate for 20 to 30 minutes—use this calculator from Active.com to determine what that means for you in terms of beats per minute (BPM).
If you’re not so good with using your fingers to track your pulse, you can track your heart rate, and whether you’re in the target zone, with a fitness tracker. If you don’t have one already, and want to avoid spending half of your savings account on one, check out this pricing analysis, which found that there’s a wearable for every budget, with prices dipping as low as $45.
Pick a “Partner”
This is a fun and helpful trick if you’re a competitive person who hates the “dreadmill.” When you hop on, look around and find someone who seems to be running at a good pace or doing intervals. Without being obvious, try to keep up with that person, as if you’re racing them. Not only will this make the time go by faster, but you may even get a better workout because you’re competing with someone else.
Another way to use this tactic is to take a class, where you’re working out with a number of other people. This may motivate you to work harder, push through that last set, or pick up a heavier set of weights.
Use these ideas to be more effective at the gym. You’ll make the most of the little time you have and may even speed up the results you’ve been waiting to see.
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