6 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Workouts

Your time and energy are valuable. Setting aside some of that time and energy each week to get your workouts is an investment in your health and well being, and thus your life, so how can you get the most out of each one?

This great question is frequently asked by our Wildfire Fitness community members, so we thought we'd share some tips to help you succeed:

1. Increase your intensity. If you're a new exerciser or nursing an injury, it's ok to take it slow and easy to give your body a chance to adjust to exercise stressors. That usually means staying at a level where you can carry on a conversation while you're moving. If you're otherwise healthy, have been at it for a while and are still not seeing results, however, it's probably time to shake up the program and raise the intensity. That means moving in and out of moments where you are a bit out of breath. On a scale of 0 to 10 (with zero being getting out of bed and ten being running up several flights of stairs at full steam), you'd have moments where you hit an 8 or 9. Keep those moments short, though. Twenty to forty-five seconds is usually sufficient depending on the activity and the workout protocol.

2. Don't train longer than an hour. As a trainer, many of you know that when I send out a workout program I'm sure to ask how long it took to complete. Unless you're an competitive athlete or training for an endurance sport, there's generally no need for the average person to exercise longer than an hour at a time. Research has shown that extended workouts can increase the risk of injury due to fatigue, plus there's little added benefit. Instead, strive to get a bigger bang for your buck in a shorter period of time by increasing the overall intensity, as mentioned before. You can do interval training (e.g. 45 seconds work:15 seconds rest), add cardio elements like jumping jacks and burpees to your circuit training, or simply shorten your rest periods during resistance training (be sure to decrease the weight accordingly).

3. Hydrate. You've heard this one time and time again, but I can't stress enough the importance of drinking water! Your body is composed primarily of water. Your metabolic system requires water to function optimally and efficiently. Every time you workout, your body is taken out of it's desired homeostasis and put into a state of temporary chaos. While this is desired in order to get the training response (firmer/bigger muscles, stronger cardiovascular system, fat metabolism, etc), you must help your body prepare, perform and recover properly. So, don't just drink water during your workouts, hydrate throughout the day. Generally the recommended amount is 6-8 cups, but for optimal performance you can opt for as much as half your body weight in ounces.

4. Eat complex carbs and protein at every meal. While gastrointestinal issues may make this undesirable for a few people, many people find this to be an efficient way to make sure that their body has what it needs at the right time. Protein choices include: fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, dairy and quinoa.* Complex carb choices include fruit, vegetables, sweet potatoes and whole grains such as wheatberries, brown rice, barley and steel cut oats. Also keep in mind that the optimal time for protein intake after a workout is within 30 minutes and the optimal intake time for carbs after a workout is within 2 hours. As an added tip, be sure to eat regularly; don't skip meals!

5. Lift heavier weights. Now, here's a word of caution. You should never, ever sacrifice form and safety for more weight or advanced moves. If you're new to exercise or have poor form, back off on the weight until you've correctly mastered your exercise performance. If, however, you're experienced and injury-free, have been doing the same exercises, the same number of reps, in the same order for months or years... if this describes you, it may be time for a change. Do progress gradually and decrease the number of reps as necessary, but work on stepping it up. If you're unsure of anything, ask a fitness professional for help.

6. Avoid long, boring cardio sessions. Generally, there's no reason to plod along on the treadmill at one speed for extended periods of times, unless you're doing it as part of a periodic (and progressive) endurance program. Instead, add variety by doing hills, climbing stairs, adding plyometrics (fancy word for jumping) and varying the speed during your workouts. As mentioned before, you can also mix it up by pairing your resistance training with your cardio for heart pumping circuits and interval training. Again, be sure to adjust the weights and reps accordingly.

Do you have a question you'd like to see answered here? Just ask! We love answering questions. Contact us.

*Yes, technically quinoa is commonly considered a grain and thus a carb, but it also supplies all 9 amino acids (8 essential for adults but babies also require Histidine) so you can use it to get your protein as well! Read more on quinoa...

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