While having an effective workout is key to maximizing results, did you know that it’s also equally important to focus on what you’re doing before and after your sweat sesh? Most of us don’t give a second thought to what we do before working out, except maybe running through that mental pep talk for the 13th time. But just like you should have an actual workout routine instead of making it up as you go, you also should also give some thought to the outside factors that will definitely help you improve and recover from any workout session.
Lots of personal trainers, athletes, and fitness gurus have their own pre and post workout routines down to a science.
Personally, I don’t like to overcomplicate things, so I won’t insist that you master a circular breathing routine or perfectly calculate every single meal leading up to the gym, there are four things I’ve found to either be extremely necessary or very helpful to prevent injury, prepare mentally, and excel physically.
1.Make sure you are plenty rested! One of the worst things you can do is workout while you’re exhausted. The increased risk of injury is exponential. So make sure you’re prioritizing a good nights sleep, or at least a little power nap a little bit beforehand to help keep your mind sharp and your body ready.
2. Minimize distractions beforehand. It’s always super convenient when something pops up that keeps you from the gym, whether its losing track of time, getting invited somewhere, or remembering a to-do list. Taking care of your body however needs to be a priority just like everything else, so shut your laptop and turn off Netflix beforehand so you don’t get side-tracked.
3. Eat a light snack. It’s hard to drive a car on an empty tank, just like its hard to perform a workout when you’re on low fuel as well. While you definitely shouldn’t eat a full meal beforehand (too much food in your stomach will cause cramps or worse), something with carbs for an energy boost and protein to help your muscles. My go-to snack is a banana with a little bit of peanut butter.
4. Take time to warm-up and and stretch. 5-10 minutes before you actually begin your workout, spend some time jogging, stretching, and getting your muscles ready to work. Think about what a rubber band or a hair tie is like before you stretch it out – tight and ready to snap. The same thing goes for your muscles if you don’t take the time to get them good and loose beforehand. For a great full-body stretch routine (that is also great to do on a rest day or any time you need to unwind), check out the link here.
The Post Workout
5. Take the time to cool-down and stretch. Again, take a couple minutes to let your muscles take a chill pill after all that hard work you just made them do. You don’t want to go straight from the gym to being still again – your muscles will be more prone to cramping and developing soreness. You can repeat the same stretching routine as in your warm-up.
6. Again, eat! But this time, eat something higher in protein. Carbs before, protein after to help with the recovery process. After a workout its also likely that you’ll be pretty hungry, so eating protein will help keep you from eating everything in sight. It will also provide everything your tired muscles need to start rebuilding and repairing for the next go.
7. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! You probably sweated a lot during your workout, but even if you didn’t its very important to make sure you drink lots of water afterwards. Water will replenish any fluids you may have lost through sweat, perk your brain back up, and help fight off soreness.
8. Pat yourself on the back. No, seriously. Get in the habit of taking a minute to think about the hard work you just accomplished. Take the time to appreciate what you accomplished and to be proud of yourself! Most people fear going to the gym because of the negative mindset they’ve developed.
These are just a few things you can do to help get a better workout. Some people workout in the morning before eating because food slows them down, others rely on pre-workout for an added boost.
I’ve found that the helpfulness of these tricks lies in moderation and simple science, just giving your body what it needs.