We all have those days where, for whatever reason, we absolutely smash our workout. You’re brimming with energy, feel super motivated and everything just comes naturally. Other days… not so much. You wander aimlessly around the gym floor, spend an inordinate amount of time picking the ‘perfect playlist’ for your workout and end up leaving after 20 minutes after accepting that you’re Just. Not. Feeling. It.
While it happens to the best of us (even athletes aren’t always in the mood to train) it can be rather disheartening and make you feel super guilty. Of course, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it but at the end of the day, your time is precious and shouldn’t be wasted on bad workouts. Luckily, there are a few simple ways you can hack your workouts to ensure that every session is a great one. Here’s how:
1. Get your fuel right
We know you’ve heard it before, but fuelling your body correctly before a workout is an absolute must. If you’ve ever tried to do an intense HIIT session on an empty stomach, you’ll know why (dizziness and fatigue, anyone?). To really power through your session, it’s all about timing and tailoring what you eat to the type of workout.
If you’re tackling something cardio-based—like running, spinning or HIIT—dietician Abby Langer recommends having a high protein, high carb pre-workout meal 60 to 90 minutes before. She suggests a smoothie with almond milk, banana and berries as it’s easy to digest but will still fuel your muscles. For strength training, sports nutritionist Marie Spano recommends a balanced meal of protein and carbs an hour or two before. 100 grams of protein, like fish, chicken or tofu, a cup of sweet potato and few handfuls of veggies should do the trick.
2. Have a game plan
It’s far too easy to wander around the gym like a lost puppy when you don’t have a clear plan for your workout. Personally, that’s why I love group training because I can rely on someone else to tell me what to do! But if you can’t afford it or prefer to exercise solo, there are plenty of tools you can use to help you map out your workouts. You could download one of these training apps that come pre-loaded with heaps of awesome workouts or even try one of these online programs to help keep you on track.
3. Get warm
Believe it or not, stretching before your session isn’t just for athletes or people with too much time on their hands. It’s actually a non-negotiable when it comes to getting the most out of your workouts! Not only does it reduce your risk of injury (because a sprained ankle is a surefire way to derail your workout) research shows it can actually improve your performance by priming the muscles. For best results, opt for dynamic stretches that actually mimic the movements from your workout (rather than static stretches that you hold in one spot).
4. Prioritise form
When trainers harp on at you about your form, it’s not just because they’re worried about you injuring yourself (although that’s a big part of it). If you’re performing a move incorrectly, you may not be getting the full range of movement—or you may be working the wrong muscles altogether! This can seriously hinder your results. If you workout at a gym, ask one of the trainers to check your form (especially on things like squats or deadlifts) so they can make sure you’re doing it right and getting enough depth. They’re usually more than happy to help.
5. Track your workouts
You know when you’re doing a cardio session and you’re just SURE you’re on the verge of collapsing/having a heart attack? Having a heart rate monitor is super handy in these situations because you can see how far off your maximum rate you actually are. Not only does it give you peace of mind, it pushes you to work harder! Gone are the days where you had to wear chunky belts around your middle to track your heart rate. There are loads of stylish, high-tech fitness trackers that can accurately pick up your HR, along with a bunch of other cool features. Here are some of our favourites.
6. Refuel and rest
What you eat and do after your workout is just as important as what you do before—if not more so. If you’ve just finished a strength session, it’s essential to consume protein within 15 to 20 minutes after you finish. Otherwise, your body won’t be able to repair the muscle fibres that were torn during the workout. This means no strength gains which means that unfortunately, the workout would have been a bit of a waste of time (apart from the mental benefits, of course). Protein shakes are always an easily transportable option but if you can’t stomach them, here are some other high-protein snack ideas. It’s also crucial to stretch after your workouts (static is fine) and schedule weekly rest days so that you can actually give it your all when you are training.
7. Get competitive
We’re strong believers that everyone is on their own fitness journey and that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others. But for some people, a healthy dose of competition goes a long way in taking their workouts to the next level! No, we’re not suggesting you glance over to see what speed the stranger on the treadmill next to you is doing. But setting a fun challenge with a friend or partner can really help to keep you motivated during your workout (ie. whoever does the least burpees has to buy the winner a coffee!). Otherwise, you could download inKin, a social fitness app that allows you to set up private fitness challenges with friends and workmates or join public contests with strangers!