Every so often the stars will align and you become superhuman in the gym despite your cheat meals and not so routine sleeping patterns. Then you wait in wonder for the same energy to return but it doesn’t show up. You meal prep, get adequate sleep, and avoid over-training but still . . . you can’t seem to summon that heaven-sent beast mode you briefly tasted.
Some days are better than others no matter how well rested you are and vice versa, that’s just the way it is. The perfect workout isn’t the one where you feel invincible, it’s the one where you did all you can. Here’s seven steps you should ALWAYS take to ensure the best workout possible no matter how the stars align:
1. FUEL UP THE NIGHT BEFORE
If your goal is to bulk up a bit and keep a certain amount of mass then consuming calories the night before shouldn’t be an issue for you. But for those of you watching your weight keep in mind the body needs fuel to burn if you’re hitting the gym more often, so don’t ease up on the meals for quick results. Weight loss is a process that takes time to be done right. Whatever your goals may be make sure to eat a balanced meal with clean protein, fats, and carbs the night before your workout. Yes, I said it, carbs! They are not the enemy, they give you energy. Just so long as you burn that energy you’ll be fine.
PS, don’t forget the forever neglected macronutrient H2O #stayhydrated
2. GET A GOOD NIGHT’S REST
This is more often than not easier said than done in our hustle and bustle world but it’s vital to be fully rested if you’re on a fitness mission. If you don’t rest up the night before a workout, especially if it’s a high intensity day, you’ll be doing more damage to your body than good. Just remember the gym is where you break your body down and home is where you recover and build it back up again. So count your sheep if you must, limit your screen time an hour before the head hits the pillow, and rest up!
3. WORKOUT WHEN IT’S BEST FOR YOU
Personally, I’m a night owl, my best workouts typically take place just before or after sundown. Maybe you’re a morning person and you have full energy closer to when you wake. Whatever you’re body's system gravitates towards, do your best to exercise then. Life may get in the way of this being a possibility due to work, family, kids, errands, etc. If that’s the case, do the best with the schedule you have and aim to free up better times to workout in the near future. There’s no point in going for a max lift when your body and mind are operating on less than 100%. Maximize your results by getting it in at the optimal time.
4. WARM UP
I don’t care if you have to crank the heat in the car or bundle up with extra layers to break a sweat as you travel to the gym late, just make sure you do whatever you can to warm up. Okay, running late for the gym and being pressed for time when you’re there is a worst case scenario. Best case scenario, you’ll have time to warm up at the gym. If you do, spend 5 to 10 minutes gradually warming up on your preferred cardio machine and make sure to include dynamic warm up exercises specific to your workout. Rule of thumb: break a sweat before you do what you do. By doing this your body and mind will thank you when it collides with the resistance and impact just around the corner.
5. WORKOUT OR GET OUT
This is it, you’ve laid the foundation layers for your perfect work out to be had, now it’s time to make it happen. I’m a firm believer in giving all you have or nothing at all. When you’re at the gym and you’re warmed up and ready to go, remove yourself from distractions and get to work. Don’t be that person who’s taking selfies between sets (or during sets), browsing social media, texting or talking on the phone (unless an emergency), socializing more than liftanizing (new word), or watching reality TV as you coast on the cardio equipment . . . FOCUS! Life is short as it is, don’t make it even shorter by limiting yourself at the gym. Give all you have or get out until you’re ready to.
6. COOL DOWN
Just as you ascend a mountain top only to descend you have to warm up only to cool down. It takes a bit of patience to ascend to the summit peak of a local hike and maybe more patience and focus to descend back down to level ground. In the same way, it takes extra focus and energy to cool down after a good workout and bring the body back to a state of homeostasis. Maybe you have a habit of leaving the gym as soon as you’re done your last set and maybe that works for you. But a proper cool down gradually decreases your heart rate to prevent fainting or dizziness, blood pooling, and it helps remove lactic acid from the muscles. Instead of rushing out the door, take 5 to 10 minutes and do some light cardio or static stretching.
You ate the night before to fuel your body in preparation for energy expenditure the following day, you had a good night’s rest to replenish your body’s stores, you chose the best time of day to workout for maximum results, you warmed up to prepare the body for pain, you put your body through pain in a focused manner, and you descended from your mountain top of a workout at a recovering pace. All the fuel was used and your vehicle is broken down, it’s time for a tune up, it’s time for another healthy and balanced meal. Make sure to get some quick sugars within 30 minutes (ideally 15) and a complete meal with clean protein, healthy fats, and some beneficial carbs within 90 minutes of your workout’s end (ideally 60).
Once in a while we feel invincible at the gym and we can’t explain exactly why. When this happens embrace it, such a workout is but a drop in the bucket. Don’t spend your time trying to replicate this experience. Rather, do the best you can to maximize your results at the gym through preparation and execution. Then repeat this process consistently. You don’t need the stars to align to give all you have, perfection is doing all you can with what you have!
Get Fit, Stay Fit, Enjoy Life!