The science of exercise is all about timing. There are crucial things to do before a workout to prepare and fuel your body for the workout ahead. There are crucial things to do during the workout to make sure you continue to optimize weight loss and strengthening.
There are also things to do after the workout is done to help your body recover from the stress you just put on it during your workout. This article will help you get your workout timeline right so you can be successful in your exercise routine.
Before a Workout
Your pre-workout routine should involve a small snack to fuel the body during your workout. The timing of this meal is very important. Eat too close to your workout and you might get an upset stomach and make your workout really tough. Eat too far before your workout and you might not have enough energy to put forth the right amount of effort during your workout. Every person is different. This is more of a trial and error process but most people generally eat a snack about an hour before they workout.
You can’t just eat anything for this snack, however. Your mini power meal should contain a mix of complex carbohydrates and protein. The carbs will allow for a slow release of energy throughout the entire workout and the protein will help your muscles to be up for the work. Some good pre- workout snack choices include:
- A protein shake made with fruit, whey protein powder, and yogurt or milk. There are many other things you can add to a shake to add to its nutrition like veggies and oats. Play around with different recipes and you’ll soon find your favorite.
- Fruits like bananas and apples with cheese or nuts
- Whole wheat toast with peanut butter
- Hummus and carrots
You might also choose to use a pre workout supplement about a half hour before you workout. These supplements usually deliver a boost in energy and mental focus for a motivated workout. Ingredients usually include some sort of stimulant like caffeine and amino acids for better oxygenation and blood flow.
It is also important that you drink adequate water with this snack. Again, you don’t want to drink too much water or drink too close to your workout. All the sloshing around in your stomach will upset your stomach and you might not be able to finish your workout before you have to go to the bathroom. It is recommended that you drink at least 16 ounces of water about an hour before you start your exercise.
Now that your body is fueled for the workout, let’s make sure you get it prepared to get moving without any injury. For this you need to warm up your body to limber your muscles and joints and prepare your lungs and heart. The best way to do this is through light cardio and dynamic stretching. Light cardio could be jogging in place or jumping rope. Dynamic stretching involves a movement with a light stretch, like toe touches or arm circles. Starting your workout with these moves will help you ease into your workout and prepare your body to be more powerful without the risk of pulled muscles or more serious injuries.
You’ll know when you are properly warmed up if you are starting to feel a light sweat begin to break out and your heart rate has increased gradually. A warm up should never leave you overly winded or tired but should invigorate you and get you pumped.
During a Workout
During your workout you should always stay hydrated. Without proper hydration you may begin to feel dizzy or light headed. Dehydration can also cause muscle cramps during your workout which will stop you in your tracks.
Another thing you should do during a workout is to keep track of your exercises, sets, reps, weights, and rest time. Having everything written down will allow you to keep track of your progress and see where you need to improve and what is really working for you. It also helps to give you goals to reach and keep pushing yourself harder. Another important aspect of this is to keep changing your workout to never allow your body to become complacent.
Your workouts should be uninterrupted. To make sure of this, turn off your phone and get rid of any other distractions. Pick a time of day that you know you won’t be interrupted by a more important responsibility, before the kids get home from school or at the beginning of the day when you have nothing on the mind, whenever you know you can completely dedicate yourself to your workout.
You should be pushing yourself to keep you on your game but don’t forget to listen to your body. If you start to feel pain or soreness, stop. This pain might be from improper form. Always choose less reps with proper form instead of more reps or heavier reps with improper form. Anything else might land you in recovery for longer than necessary and push back any possibility of reaching your goals.
Don’t be scared to try new things. Getting bored with your workout routine will result in a lack of dedication which will result in a lack in results. Keep things interesting and switch things up every once in a while to keep your workout fun and exciting.
After a Workout
Things aren’t over just because you finished your workout. What you do in the hours after your workout can be very effective in reaching your fitness goals. Properly caring for your body after you exercise can help reduce your recovery time and muscles soreness. It can also help you increase your range of motion and flexibility.
Just like you warm up before a workout to help reduce injury, a cool down after your workout will also help. Your cool down should mimic your actual workout. If you did a lower body workout, cool down using your lower body. If you had a harder cardio workout a light jog to cool down will help.
Using a foam roller after your workout will help to release any tension in the tiny fibers deep in the muscle tissue. It will hurt so good, like a massage on a sore muscle. This goes beyond stretching, increasing flexibility and circulation and blood flow. After a good roll on the foam roller, you can then do some stretches. Make sure never to use any bounce. Just a slow stretch with a hold to help lengthen the muscles. Stretches should be somewhat uncomfortable but should never be too painful. It also helps to breath deeply in and then let it out during the stretch.
You’ve just sweat bullets (hopefully, or you wasted your time) during your workout and now is the time to rehydrate the body and replace any lost electrolytes. Water is good but it won’t replace any electrolytes so make sure to drink plenty of water but also include something like Gatorade, or even better, coconut water to replace lost electrolytes.
After your workout you will need to feed your muscles for recovery and replace the amino acids lost. It is recommended that you do this by consuming protein within an hour after your workout but you should also include protein during the rest of the day, especially for a more intense workout. The best meals for post workout include:
- Protein pancakes with blueberries
- Tuna sandwich with whole wheat bread
- Protein oatmeal, add a scoop of your favourite protein powder to the hot water you cook your oatmeal in. Add any fruit to it.
- Scrambled omelette- scrambled eggs with lean meat and veggies and mozzarella cheese
Compression clothing, or tight fitting spandex or shirts, worn after your workout will help with blood circulation and muscle oxygenation which helps in recovery. You should wear these for about 3 hours after your workout for optimal results.
Never forget how important rest and recovery are. Your muscles get the most recovery while you sleep. Don’t underestimate the power of sleep. Make sure to get at least 7 hours a night and you will wake up with less sore muscles and much more energy. The better you recover the better your next workout will be and the quicker you will reach your fitness goals.
Keeping it Going
Following this workout timeline will help you to stay on track. Some other things to consider are motivational and organizational tools. You can always benefit from having things planned before hand. Making a date with your workout, actually putting it in writing in your schedule, will make you feel more obligated to do it. Write down in detail when you will begin your workout and how long you will workout. Also, having a plan of type of exercise and how many reps, sets, and how much weight will help you focus on completing the workout, not having to think “ok, what next?”
Having the right atmosphere in your workout space will also help keep you motivated. Whether you workout at home or in the gym, the right playlist will always help you to keep moving. The music should have a quick beat and more importantly, it should move you personally.
Plaster pictures of people who motivate you on the walls, whether they have a body you are trying to achieve or you look up to their dedication to whatever or they inspire you for some reason. Inspirational quotes or phrases to remember can also build your confidence. Do whatever works to keep your brain as dedicated as your body.
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