5 Ways to Supercharge Your Workout
Getting in a great workout isn’t only about what you do when you’re at the gym. What you do in the hours or minutes before an exercise can be vital in helping you achieve your fitness goals. Preparing before the gym is huge, and some simple workout tips before you hit the gym can make the difference in results. Taking the time to hone those habits can be fitness game-changers, allowing you to get the most out of the workout. That means all your enthusiasm, motivation, and sweat you put into your workout will go toward reaching your fitness goals. Whether you want to get stronger, run longer, complete a circuit without taking extra rest, or feel like a beast after you crush some lifts. Tropika Club shares what you can do before your exercise session to make your workout work for you.
1. Set a goal, any goal.
If you want to make the most of your workout, it helps to think this through before you reach the floor: What do you want to get out of your workout? And even more broadly, what do you hope to gain from your overall fitness regimen? Maybe you have specific goals of getting stronger, increasing your endurance, or changing your body composition. Or perhaps you want to improve your movement each day, break out of a workout rut and expand your repertoire to try more new things, or find a type of exercise you enjoy.
These small goals are vital to stoking your motivation and boosting your confidence and persistence for the long haul, according to a 2017 study published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. That’s because they seem inherently more doable, and once you start crossing them off the list, the big picture starts to feel way more attainable. So one of the solid pre workout tips is to break up your goal into manageable chunks. Challenge yourself to try a new fitness class once a week if your main goal is to shake up your workout, or to add a few more minutes of running without walking each time if your goal is to run a long race.
2. Start with a robust plan
Whether your goal is performance-based or more holistic, you need a plan that’ll get you there. And that means making decisions well before you get to the gym, not once you arrive. The idea is that having a concrete plan gives you a road map to those goals you set.
Whatever plan you’re following, be sure to keep it handy. Keep a paper copy of this plan or have it on your phone, and bring it to your training sessions every time. That way, you don’t have to wing it when you get to your workout. The plan will guide you, but don’t be afraid to modify it.
3. Be intentional about how you use your phone.
If you bring your phone with you while you work out, take some time to do a quick check-in about how that’s working for you. Do you use it mindfully, like to measure your rest times, fire up a playlist, or refer to your exercises or instructions? Or do you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through your social feeds or distracted by incoming texts or emails? If it’s the latter—and you feel like it’s messing with your concentration—consider putting your phone on “do not disturb” or aeroplane mode, or making a rule with yourself as to how often you can check or respond to notifications.
That doesn’t mean leaving your phone in the car (unless that helps you), but instead potentially seeing it as a tool that can help you shift your mindset. For example, you can download a killer playlist, listen to a fitness-motivation podcast, or use a mindfulness app for five minutes of visualisation and breathing right before you exercise.
By evaluating a potential distraction—and working to alleviate it—you’ll be able to focus more on the mind-muscle connection in your workout, Thomas says, which will help keep your form on track. Plus, you may be better able to pick up on the little warning signs (like that slight ache in your lower back when you deadlift) that let you know your form needs adjustment back into alignment.
4. Pay attention to the timing of your snacks and meals.
What you eat—or don’t eat—and when you do so can make or break a workout. We’ve all had those workouts when we’re too hungry to bang out another rep, or just a little too full from that last-minute, in-the-car snack. But like many things in the nutrition world, there’s not a one-size-fits-all recommendation for how exactly you should eat to make the most out of your workouts. While there are some generalised recommendations out there about food choices—for example, the standard advice is to avoid eating too much fibre and fat, you likely need to overeating what works best for you.
The key is paying attention to how your eating strategies affect your workouts and, if necessary, tweaking them to see whether that makes you feel any better. Still, there are some guidelines you can look to: Most people benefit from eating a full meal about two hours before training, says Andrews, and may supplement with a small snack about an hour before exercise. If you eat too close to your workout—like a meal within a half-hour of start time—you may end up experiencing G.I. distress because your gut is still working hard to digest the meal. The primary strategy here is to track what you eat, at what time, and how you feel during each workout to pinpoint what works and what doesn’t.
5. Tweak your warm-up to finish strong.
When you think of a warm-up, stretching probably comes to mind. But static stretches—think the gym-class staple of bending over to touch your toes—and ballistic stretches aren’t the best choice. That’s because you’re trying to stretch a “cold” muscle, which doesn’t prime your muscles for the constant movement of your workout, and may even increase your injury risk because your muscles aren’t ready for more intense activity. Instead, think about warming up by performing the specific movements you’ll be doing in the workout, he says, since those will be the muscles working and the range of motion you’ll be using.
If you’re doing strength training, try five minutes of light cardio to get your blood flowing, whether it’s brisk walking or a few sets of dynamic moves like jumping jacks. Then you can continue with light, movement-specific warm-up sets using much less weight than you will for your actual workout. In general, the heavier the weight is, the more warm-up sets you need If you’re sore or stiff from previous training, add a rep or two to each warm-up set, or an additional set, and take a little more extended rest between sets.
If you’re doing cardio instead of strength that day, you still want to focus on doing a warm-up specific to your range of motion—check out this five-minute warm-up before a run, for example. For a workout that’s more of a circuit-training focus, you can still get dynamic by blending these, like doing jumping jacks and then lunges and arm circles.
In general, keep in mind that your prep is part of your workout. Getting in the right mindset, having a plan, knowing the pre-workout food that seems to be right for you—it’s all essential. Your workout doesn’t start as soon as you begin moving—it starts when you start getting ready.