How to Maximize the Effectiveness of Your Workouts
Do you find yourself spending hours at the gym without getting the results you want? So many of us head to the gym without a plan, hop on a cardio machine for 40 minutes, and hope for the best. Here are some tips for maximizing the time you invest into your workouts.
1. Get a good night’s sleep. This one may seem obvious (ok, super obvious), but it’s easy to stay awake ‘til 2 am bingeing Netflix or scrolling on your newsfeed. Relying on caffeine for an energy boost to fuel your workouts will work in the short term, but has its limits. There are diminishing returns (i.e. over time, it becomes increasingly ineffective). It is well documented that sleep deprivation impairs athletic performance. Why is that?
Exercise stresses the skeletal muscle, cardiovascular, nervous, endocrine, metabolic and immune systems. Generally, we think of stress as a bad thing. In this case, stress is a positive impetus for change. It forces our bodies to adapt to new conditions. It allows us to increase our cardiac output, improve strength, and grow new muscle mass.
Sleep is the time during which our bodies recover from this stress. While we sleep, our bodies create the neurological and physiological adaptations necessary to run faster and lift heavier. Studies document that athletes without sleep tend to lack the motivation and energy necessary to get through a workout.
Sleep is crucial for our central nervous system (CNS, made up of the brain and spinal cord) to function. When we lift heavy weights, our nervous system must recruit more motor neurons or activate them more frequently to signal our muscle fibers to contract. When we sleep, our CNS rebuilds itself, cementing in the neurological adaptations we initiated during exercise.
And if you aren't already convinced that sleep is important, studies show that sleep deprivation decreases leptin levels (a hormone that makes us feel full), and increases ghrelin levels (the hunger hormone). Yes it's true! Lack of sleep makes us feel hungrier, even if we don't need the extra calories.
If you have trouble falling asleep, try eliminating your screen time within an hour before bed (yes we know, this one is tough). You can also create a nighttime routine that includes stretching and meditation to signal your body that it’s time to hit the hay. Sleep hygiene is a real thing.
2. Cut back on drinking. As a society, we tend to overindulge on the booze. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting intake to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Calories from alcohol will impede your weight loss goals. Additionally, we tend to have less self control after a few drinks (just because you don't remember eating that late night pizza pie doesn't mean it didn't happen). It's hard to get motivated for an early morning workout sesh when you wake up dehydrated. Even if you do make it to the gym, you're not going to push as hard.
3. Make it difficult. If it’s not challenging, you won’t change. It’s easy to hop on a stationary bike and read a book, or watch TV as you leisurely stroll on the treadmill. While this is better than no exercise at all, it is not going to do much to change your body composition (and who doesn't want a little more muscle tone?). The key to progress is to stimulate your body in a way that will force it to adapt. Try adding intervals (periods of intense work followed by periods of a slower pace) and strength training to your routine.
4. Create a plan. If you go into the gym without a plan, you’re more likely to wander around, get distracted by your phone, or leave before you really hit it hard. The ideal workout consists of a 10-15 minute warmup, followed by 20-30 minutes of strength training, optional cardio or high intensity interval training, and a 10-15 minute cooldown. To get results, you need to address all aspects of fitness including strength, endurance, and mobility.
5. Record your progress. The key to improvement is to increase the difficulty. The only way to know if you are increasing the difficulty is to track your reps, weights, and time. Without a record, there is no way to know if you are improving. We have a tendency to stay in our comfort zone when it comes to pushing our physical limits.
6. Hire a trainer! If you don't know where to start, or feel like you've tried everything without seeing results, it's time to hire a trainer. At Resonate, we take the guesswork out of exercising. We will track your workouts, fix your form, and get you lifting heavy to maximize your strength gains. Simply fill out an inquiry form and we will schedule your free consultation at our home gym in Chelsea.
Åkerstedt, T. and Nilsson, P. M. (2003), Sleep as restitution: an introduction. Journal of Internal Medicine, 254: 6-12. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2796.2003.01195.x
March PP, Schub TB. Sleep Deprivation. Pravikoff D RPF, ed. CINAHL Nursing Guide. August 2018. https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.simmons.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nup&AN=T701491&site=eds-live&scope=site. Accessed June 5, 2019.
Rae, D. E., Chin, T., Dikgomo, K., Hill, L., McKune, A. J., Kohn, T. A., & Roden, L. C. (2017). One night of partial sleep deprivation impairs recovery from a single exercise training session. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 117(4), 699–712. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-017-3565-5