How to get more from your exercise
If you thought that the key to a great workout was to exercise until your muscles ached or to deny yourself food before a session, then think again. Believe it or not, being well prepared is the simple (and pain-free) way to maximise your exercise sessions and reap the health benefits. Here’s how…
1. Get more shut-eye
According to exercise physiologist Dr Adam Fraser, quality sleep is vital for exercise. Why? Because it plays an important role in rejuvenating the body so it functions effectively. A lack of sleep results in poor physical coordination, which is crucial when you’re working out. Give your next session a boost by aiming for eight hours’ sleep the night before.
2. Visualise exercise
Wandering aimlessly around the gym or spending five minutes on a machine before moving on is a waste of time and energy. It’s not going to get your heart pumping or shift the kilos. “You don’t have time to stuff around,” says Dr Fraser. “Planning leads to a more efficient and effective workout – it also helps you progress.” He recommends visualising what you plan to do on the way there, so you’re ready to get stuck in, when you arrive.
3. Harness a positive mindset
As psychologist, author and former personal trainer, Dr Elizabeth Celi explains, having realistic expectations can help smash your goals. “Unrealistic expectations set you up for failure because they’re not possible in the first place. Set a goal you can achieve so your motivation builds. The sense of achievement will lead to a more positive mindset.”
4. Wear the right sports gear
“Exercise puts pressure on the body, so wear the right clothes,” says Dr Fraser. Think lightweight and breathable to help regulate body temperature. Also, wear good-quality sneakers that support your feet, knees and, in turn, your hips and back. A University of Portsmouth study discovered that unsupported breasts move between four and nine centimetres during exercise, so it pays to invest in a well-fitting sports bra.
5. Crank out the feel-good tunes
It’s true what they say. Listening to music during a workout can result in both an uplifted mood and better endurance. Research from the UK’s University of Brunel discovered that working out to motivating tunes can increase exercise intensity, so plug in when pounding away on the treadmill.
6. Happy hour
While it may seem like a good idea to work off that lunchtime glass of wine with a cardio session, it’s not. According to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), alcohol detracts from peak exercise performance by taking its toll on psychomotor skills such as coordination, balance and reaction time. Result? Your workout is much less effective.
7. Pre-workout meals
“It feels uncomfortable to exercise on a full stomach,” explains Dr Fraser. However, there’s more to it than that. “Your digestive system needs a lot of blood to digest a heavy meal. When you exercise, blood goes straight to your muscles, so if you eat a heavy meal just before a workout, the undigested food will sit in the stomach.” Hungry? The AIS suggests snacking on fruit, yoghurt or a cereal bar as these fill you up without leaving you bloated.
8. Sneaky saboteurs
“It’s easy to blame others for getting in the way of a workout. But, ultimately, it’s you who makes the choice to exercise or not,” explains Dr Celi. So what’s the solution? Talk it out to find the root cause. If they’re worried about time management (for example your husband’s concerned about finding time to mind the kids while you hit the gym), hammer out a solution together. But if they’re insecure about your health goals, the problem is theirs to sort out.
9. Mobile distractions
Phone calls, text messages, internet access and wildly addictive games – yep, your phone is filled with many functions that cause you to procrastinate and stop you from working out properly. “For the best exercise results, you should be doing intervals in your cardio training – and you can’t do that while playing on your phone,” cautions Dr Fraser. Plus, it’s dangerous because you’re not concentrating fully on your workout and could end up hitting the floor.
10. Reading on the treadmill
It’s a shame to rain on the magazine parade, but reading while you’re exercising isn’t going to result in your best workout. “You might end up working out for longer because you’re engrossed in reading, but you’re not exercising effectively,” says Dr Fraser. Save reading for before each session to flick your motivation switch.