Fitness is a pretty tricky thing. Even if you do manage to drag yourself to the gym or guilt yourself into eating “healthy,” that may not be enough. Forcing yourself to do something that you don’t genuinely enjoy will likely lead to lackluster workouts, burnout, discouragement and a sad drop-off from any and all fitness activities.
And it’s not just reluctant exercisers that have to worry about this. Boredom and disheartenment are real concerns for even the most experienced gym-goers. So, how can you bypass these potential roadblocks? Here are some practical ways to get the most out of your workouts.
- Have a goal and a plan. This is, by far, the most important – and oft overlooked – step toward being successful on your fitness journey. You might last a little while without a goal and a plan for reaching it, but eventually you’re going to lose interest. An appropriate goal, though, gives you something definite to work towards and keeps you motivated as you see progress. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends using the acronym SMART when setting your goals.
- Enjoy the way you eat. The vast majority of fitness experts these days hate the whole concept of “dieting.” Going on a diet – as most people understand it – is an act of self-deprivation that involves heavily restricting your food selection and giving up the foods you love. This is a problem. Eating well does not have to be a punishing process. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Instead of giving up the food you love, learn to practice moderation and replace those not-so-good foods with better options. Find a healthy way of eating that you enjoy and can continue for years to come.
- Warm up. Here’s another big one that many people ignore – including those who should know better. A proper warm up will, well… warm you up. The idea is to increase your body temperature and blood flow before the actual workout begins, rather than spending the first few minutes of your workout waiting for these things to happen. Essentially, this will prime your system and let you start off strong. Not only will you perform better, but you will have a decreased risk of injury later on.
- Get Creative. Sometimes, we tend to limit ourselves by thinking that our workouts have to look a specific way. Of course, your goals will have a big influence on the design of your workouts but a little cross-training is a great way to keep things fresh and avoid injury. For example, if your primary activity is running, you could alternate cycling or swimming as a way to keep working your cardiovascular system while limiting the stress on your calves. Throwing in a day of strength training can also improve your running performance and help you avoid burnout or overuse injuries.
To be honest, though, this is not a complete list. There are plenty more strategies you can use to increase the quality and effectiveness of your workouts. Maybe spend some time and do some extra reading to find something that works for you by reading Three Tips For Staying Motivated During Your Workouts.