So January is here and those new years resolutions are finally starting to become a reality! For many of us getting back into the healthy swing of things is top of that list and is without doubt an important starting point after the festive indulgence.
Those first few steps onto the gym floor can be some of the hardest but the benefits of regular exercise speak for themselves and if you make one change for 2018 let it be a healthy regime to keep your body and mind active throughout the year.
Here are a few tips for getting more out of your workout and maximising the time you spend in the gym:
1. Get Up And Get Cracking:
No one likes getting out the house when it’s still dark and rather chilly, but there’s no better time to hit the gym than in the early hours of the day. Most gyms tend to be fairly quiet pre-8am and working out in the mornings kick starts your metabolism and essentially awakens the body for the day ahead. It’s been scientifically proven that you will burn more calories throughout the day by working up a sweat first thing.
*Top Tip – The morning is without doubt the optimum time to get your sweat on, so set the alarm for 6am and focus on getting your workout out the way and completed before work so you can focus on the remaining tasks for the day.
2. Reach For The Black Stuff:
It’s not rocket science, drinking coffee before a workout will leave you feeling more energised and add a cheeky spring to your step when leaving the house. In addition to the added ‘zing’, consuming caffeine in the morning has been proven to speed up your metabolism, helping you burn more calories throughout the day!
I like to take my double ‘lungo’ to go and sip away on my walk to the gym, it’s become a bit of a morning ritual and without doubt one I couldn’t do without.
*Top Tip – Steer clear of the plethora of ‘pre-workout’ supplements on the market. I’ve tried many and they may give you an initial buzz but the number of additives, sweeteners and ingredients in general is rather scary. Best to stick to the black stuff, it’s healthy and safer.
3. Upgrade With HIIT:
When it comes to the session itself it can be rather overwhelming – the internet is full of contradictions, ‘weights over cardio’ and other misleading and confusing claims. Ultimately it’s important to pick a workout that suits you and suits your aims!
For me, HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training is the ultimate addition to any weekly gym routine and the perfect way to train for those of us that are time poor and only have 30-45 minutes a day set aside to workout. It’s not complex, essentially intervals of serious intensity followed by a rest period and then repeated.
My favourite approach is interval sprints on the treadmill. Set aside 20 minutes and look to achieve 8-10 x30 second sprints (as fast as you can go) with a 60 second rest in between each. For added toughness increase the incline on the machine with each sprint by 0.5. They may sound brutal but you’ll be amazed at how quickly time goes and nothing beats that euphoric feeling when the 20 minutes is up!
*Top Tip – Circuits are another great way of getting your daily HIIT, limit the rest periods and focus on getting as much done in your timeframe as possible – There’s a new YouTube video of an epic circuit to come this Weekend so make sure you’re subscribed to my channel 😉
4. Workout With A Partner:
Sometimes things can get a little much in the gym and when those sessions become too tough to handle give a mate a call and get them involved. Working out with a friend alongside will give you added motivation and a much needed breather in between exercises or circuits 😉
Additionally it will encourage you to stick to your plan and get down to the gym, no one likes letting a friend down!
*Top Tip – Workout with a loved one – I like to workout with Josie once or twice a week and we often do circuits together, alternating exercises as we go and it can make that 45 minute session that much easier and more enjoyable.
5. Rotate Your Playlists:
Don’t underestimate the importance of music when working out. I like to build a few playlists every month and rotate them throughout the week to keep things interesting and different.
If you are lacking ‘songspiration’ head over to Spotify and pick a few random workout playlists, there are some great ones around.
*Top Tip – Tailor your playlists to suit the type of workout and exercises for that session. I like a bit of Eminem or Linkin Park for heavy lifting and R&B for the higher intensity stuff.
6. Don’t Be Afraid To Turn To The Experts:
Back in December 2016 I decided to get the help of a PT over at Virgin Active and looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I have always been fairly confident in the gym and it can be hard asking for ‘help’ but there’s no doubt the added expertise has taken my sessions to another level.
If you ever find your sessions becoming a little mundane, then there is no better way to mix things up and getting a second opinion from an expert can be game changing. It’s amazing how many of us are working out incorrectly and ultimately not as efficient as we think (myself included) and so a second set of eyes can make a big difference in form and technique alongside fresh ideas and added motivation!
*Top Tip -Always Take Note -it’s key to make notes before and after the sessions to ensure you are able to replicate them when your PT isn’t by your side.
7. Upgrade Your Gym Gear:
If you look good, you will feel good. Gym gear is an important part of any workout and the positive impact of a fresh set of kicks should not be underestimated! If you are getting down to the gym 4-5 times a week make sure you’ve got a few sets of everything to mix things up and stay looking sharp whilst working up a sweat.
My favourite brands at the moment are Lululemon and Nike for gym wear and Adidas for kicks. I’m a little obsessed with the UltraBoost Laceless and they are the perfect all rounder for circuits, HIIT and weights. They also look great with jeans 😉
*Tip – Check out The Active Man, a site dedicated to mens fitness gear and there is a sale on at the mo!
8. Take Progress Shots:
A very straightforward point but often dismissed. I started taking progress shots a few months back and it’s a fantastic way of maintaining motivation and staying on track. Take a weekly shot to track your progress and if you ever feel the motivation lagging refer to your last few photos and the certain progress. It’s all about progression.
*Top Tip – Take notes in your phone with your PBs and challenge yourself to improve on these week by week.
9. Empty The Tank:
Time is a precious commodity and when hitting the gym it’s crucial you maximise your time and get the most out of any workout. For that last 5-10 minutes of any session up the intensity – whether thats running faster or upping the repetitions, push yourself to that next level and make sure you leave the gym feeling knackered and accomplished 🙂
*Top Tip – Finish your workout with a 5 minute challenge to really leave everything out there. This could be a 5 minute sprint test (x5 30 second sprints with 30 seconds rest) or a mini-circuit, that last push will make all the difference. Then remember to stretch!
10. Smash That Protein:
The UK (and World) has become protein obsessed over the past few years and it’s popping up in everything from pasta to Snickers bars (they can’t be good for you…!). Clearly it’s all about balance and eating a varied diet without any crazy rules.
That said, after a tough session your body and muscles will be screaming out for protein to help rebuild and repair, so your first meal of the day (or meal following your workout) should reflect this. Up your protein with eggs, smoked salmon and spinach to feed the body and maximise all that work you’ve just put in. Remember, breakfast really IS the most important meal of the day.
*Top Tip – Avoid protein shakes and grab a tin of tuna or packet of smoked salmon for the office! Failing that, Pret do smoked salmon and boiled eggs in a pot 😉
Hopefully you guys find the above tips useful, over the past year I’ve really mixed it up in the gym and hit that ‘wall’ numerous times where things become too much and motivation takes a hit. It’s at times like this you need to change things up, whether that’s your workout set up, exercises or your meals, keep changing things and don’t become too set in your ways.
Would love to hear of any other tips out there – what works for you guys?