Mar 31, 2013 02:50PM
Sweat Equity By Chip SchragerWhether you’re baking a cake, building a house or brushing your teeth you need the right tools to get the job done; the same holds true for working out. Oh sure anyone can throw on a pair of sneakers and shorts and work up a good sweat; but if you want to get the most gain for your pain then you need to do it right. I’m not talking about what weights you should use or whether you should go buy the newest machine that’s being sold at three in the morning on television. Whether you are a gym rat or a road runner, your time is important and you want to see results. Regardless of your fitness level, these five keys will help make sure that the time you spend working out is not wasted.
Get your mind right.
Have you ever come home from a bad day at work or had a fight with your significant other and decided that you were just going to go work the energy off; that you were going to run or ride or hit the machines until the endorphins kick in and all your anger had subsided? Of course you have, we’ve all been there and you know what, as good an idea as it seems at the time, it’s absolutely the wrong thing to do.
Working out should be something fun and relaxing but you need to be able to focus on what your body is telling you while you’re doing it. When you’re distracted or angry you can push yourself too hard, keep going when your body is telling, in fact begging, for you to stop and wind up hurting yourself.
This isn’t to say that the only time that you should work out is when you feel hunky dory; but if you’re feeling angry, feeling so wound up that you might burst, it’s probably best that you take a few deep breaths and calm down before hitting the gym. If you can’t calm down and get yourself in a good head space, then it is better to skip one work out than hurt yourself and have to miss several.
Once you start working out keep your mood even by listening to music, reading or watching television. Just remember, that person who tripped and fell off the treadmill because he wasn’t paying attention; oh yes, that could be you.
Honest to God I don’t understand some people. I go to the gym and see people wearing everything from corduroy pants and button down shirts to a glorified bra and underpants. Neither seem particularly comfortable to work out in. I get that there are some folks who like to multitask, using their workout time to also meet new and interesting people who might make for entertaining dinner conversation; but if your primary goal is to maximize your workout than you have to dress the part.
I am not a fashion expert, if it wasn’t for my wife I would still wear jean shorts and tattered t-shirts, so don’t take my word for it, take the word of fitness expert and DJ Skins clothing designer Danielle Flora, “Part of having a great work out is feeling comfortable, not only in terms of how you feel physically, but in terms of being comfortable in your own skin. If you ask most people why they want to get more exercise the answer you’ll get more often than not is to improve their appearance. At the same time, many of those same people will stay out of a gym because they are afraid of being judged.
“Wearing clothing that fits well, that breathes and moves well whether you’re running, doing yoga, riding a bike or taking Pilates is really important. It’s also important that those clothes make you feel good about yourself so that you can really just focus on your workout without worrying about how what people think about you.”
In addition to what you’re wearing on the outside, make sure that you have the right things on under your clothes. Support braces for your knees or ankles might become more necessary for your workout as you get older to protect against injury.
Set achievable goals
The first time I blew out my knees I was stuck loafing around doing nothing for a few months. I gained weight and lost muscle tone. When I was able to go back to the gym I tried to get right back on the horse. I wanted to drop all the weight, get myself back in shape and do it as soon as possible and so I jumped into the same workout regimen that I had before the injury. After my second set of knee surgery I learned my lesson.
This time I started slow. I set incremental goals both for weight and achievement and built my way back up. This might seem like a common sense strategy, and the fact is that it is. There are times though where common sense takes a back seat to our desires for a quick fix. In addition to risking injury, someone looking for that quick fix is liable to get upset when the results don’t come quickly and throw their hands up at the whole process.
Whether you’re coming off an injury or not you have to be realistic about what you can accomplish with your workouts. You aren’t going to drop twenty pounds in five days; you aren’t going to go from jogging five miles to running marathons in a matter of weeks. Figure out what your goal is, what your level of athletic ability and current condition is and then come up with a sound strategy on how to get there. If you’re not sure about what strategy is best for you; well that brings us to…
Ask questions when questions need asking
Those folks at the gym, the ones wearing the shirts that say “staff” on them, they’re there for more than re-stocking the towels. If you’re just starting out or thinking about a new set of goals but not sure where to begin, ask for help. No one expects you to be an expert on how every machine in your gym works; and odds are you can figure out how to use them all yourself but if you want to get the best results then if you’re unsure ask someone for assistance.
If going to the gym isn’t your thing and you think you would prefer to get your work in by going for a run or riding a bike there are clubs and associations that you can join (usually for very minimal cost) that can help get you going in the right direction. Again, more than just maximizing the effectiveness of your workout, these people can often give you tips and guidelines that will help prevent injuries before they happen and there’s nothing that would make your workout better than being able to repeat it without injuries forcing setbacks.
All of these suggestions will ensure that your workout routine is as productive as possible but there’s one that is more important than all the others combined.
If you’re not a professional athlete then working out is not something you need to do, it is something you want to do and when it stops being something you want to do, the odds are you are going to stop doing it. So how do you maximize your workouts? It’s easy, do what you enjoy doing. If you get bored to tears running on a treadmill but find Tae Kwon Do exhilarating, take up Tae Kwon Do; if you like riding a bike then ride a bike. It’s like dieting or dating or anything else, there’s no right answer. If you’re going to the gym because you think that’s the only way to get in shape but don’t really enjoy it, you’ll find excuses to leave before finishing your workout and eventually you’ll find yourself skipping workouts entirely. If your running or biking route is getting stale, find a new one; if you feel like you’re in a rut at the gym then change up your routine. The key is to find what works for you and keep it fun and enjoyable. If you do you’ll work out better and more effectively.
Just remember, whatever you decide to do, be smart, be safe and keep your eye on the prize!