No matter your level of fitness, there’s plenty you can do to keep getting better. Stick to these seven simple tricks, and you’ll be on the fast-track to a fitter, healthier you.
1. Do it in the morning. For real. Believe it or not, it really is possible to train your body so that it becomes used to getting active before the day really “starts”. If you can get yourself OUT of bed and IN the gym during those first few weeks of 6:00 a.m. alarms (they’ll be the hardest), doing so will not only become easier, it will pay off.
By working out in the morning, you’ll avoid the horrifying after-work swarm of stressed out 9-5’ers. In a less crowded space, you’ll get in a better workout and spend less time awkwardly waiting for that guy who’s been texting at the squat bar for 45 minutes to go the hell home.
When you’re truly committed to reaching your fitness goals, you’ll obviously need to pencil in some time to hit the gym and make it happen. It’s simple to tell yourself that you’ll go after work, however that makes you susceptible to a never-ending list of stressful situations. What if your friends decide to get together for happy hour at the last minute? You don’t need that FOMO in your life. What about working late? Emergencies pop up midday all the time, but you shouldn’t have to choose between working hard on your career or working hard on you. When you knock out a solid sweat session before heading to the office, you’re free to spend your nights however you’d like, whether that’s happy hour with friends, putting in extra hours at the office, or binging Netflix. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you COULD even use your free evening to squeeze in a second workout.
2. Ditch the phone. Stow your phone in a locker during your workout to stay focused. You’re not at the gym to email Terri from HR, check your horoscope, or mindlessly scroll through Instagram. Those sporadic moments of toying with your phone may seem few and far between, but all the song-skipping and texting cheats you out of sacred time that’s meant to be spent kicking your own ass. Plus, if you’re at the gym early in the morning (see tip #1), it’s unlikely that you’re missing anything important anyways. Get to work, then feel free to spend the rest of the day plugged in to Terri’s email blasts and Trump tweets.
3. Have a daily goal and a time limit to achieve it. Before you start your workout, know exactly what it is you’d like to accomplish that day. Maybe it’s leg day, maybe you want to run six miles, or maybe you’re someone who likes to mix a bunch of different exercises into one session for a full-body workout. No matter what your plan is, having one in place prevents you from meandering around the gym like a zombie, wasting time figuring out what you’d like to do next.
Once you have some direction, set a fixed amount of time during which you’d like to accomplish the day’s exercise. Even if it’s just 30 minutes, knowing that the clock is ticking will keep you motivated to make the most of your time.
4. Track your progress, but don’t get crazy. All the early mornings and hard work along the road to getting into better shape become worth it when you do something you previously were incapable of. If you’re hitting the weights, take a mental note (or actual pen-to-paper note, if that’s how you’ll remember) of how many reps you’ve been doing, and at what resistance. If you’re into running or biking, test out apps like Strava, MapMyRun by Under Armour, and Nike+ that record your distance and pace.
Set goals each week to be better than the last, but be patient. Any form of self-improvement takes time, and there are countless factors that can prevent every new workout from being your best one yet. Small victories, like running half a mile longer than ever before, or upping your bicep curl by five pounds, are still victories that should be both recognized and celebrated. Benchmarking your progress is half the fun.
5. Be a little creepy. Needless to say, gyms tend to be a place full of healthy, fit people. If you happen to think, “Damn, I’d like to look like that” when one of your fellow gym-goers passes by, know that it’s totally acceptable to gaze over on occasion to see what kinds of exercises they do. If you see a new move that seems challenging, steal it and supplement it into your own routine.
*Please note that a quick gaze is not the same as staring, and that you should probably not make a habit of following hot people around the gym.
6. Mind over mass. No two people have fully identical fitness capabilities, which is why it’s crucial to understand how to properly perform exercises in order to actually get stronger without injuring yourself. If a weight is too heavy for you to do your reps correctly, go for a lighter weight.
In other words, that massive dude doing deadlifts with 120 pound dumbbells and scream-grunting at the top of his lungs? Yeah, the one with horrible form who looks like the Kool-Aid Man and Hulk made a baby inside an egg white. Don’t be like him.
7. Recover. Don’t ever think it’s beneficial (or even okay) to starve or overwork your body. If you’re working out regularly, your body needs adequate fuel and rest, otherwise you’ll be going nowhere fast. Some people tend to fall under the impression that depriving their bodies of proper nutrition can expedite weight loss, but this ridiculous theory will ultimately result in binge-eating, illness, or both. After a great workout, you need to replenish your body appropriately with a good meal or at least a protein shake.
In short, listen to your body. It shouldn’t be telling you that it feels like it’s been hit by a medium to large-sized vehicle, or that it’s about to give up on you because you haven’t fed it right.
Now get to it!