Everyone wants to be healthier, feel better, and crush their workouts, but the one thing that most athletes and fitness enthusiasts forget about is recovery. You’ll hit the gym hard, get a great workout, and leave feeling great and ready to seize the day. But there will always be those days where everything just hurts and you have zero motivation to make it to the gym, let alone get out of bed.
It seems like common sense – work out more often and harder each time to see results and get stronger; if only it were as simple as that. There is so much more involved to get a full picture of health and to optimize your body so you are able to tackle that next workout and reach your goals faster.
Your fitness routine shouldn’t only rely on the one hour you’re in the gym. There are 23 other hours in the day for you to make sure you’re the best version of yourself that you can be. We want to make sure you can make the most out of your hour of fitness by having the highest quality of movement, maintain high intensity, and remain pain-free.
There are four aspects of your life that you can take control of that will take your fitness to the next level:
Sleep is the most important factor to recovery. You can have optimized all other aspects of your life to perform at peak potential 24/7, but without sleep, the body and mind will break down in no time. You don’t get stronger at the gym; strength is built in your sleep. Your body needs a period to recover and repair so that you are ready for peak performance the next day.
At a bare minimum, you need 7 hours of sleep a night but closer to 9 hours is ideal. Unfortunately, we tend to get less and less sleep with age. We are distracted by scrolling through Instagram in bed or binge-watching a Netflix series and before you know it – you’re only getting 5-6 hours of sleep. You may become accustomed to less than ideal sleep, but in reality you’ll never reach your health and fitness potential.
Tips to get your best sleep:#hel
– Stick to a regular schedule (set an alarm 30 min before bedtime)
– Stay away from screens at least 30 minutes before bed
– Keep your room cool and dark (I personally use 2 fans and an eye mask)
– Try not to work or lounge in your bed during the day
– Avoid caffeine and alcohol a few hours before bedtime
Of course we associate eating well or counting calories with our healthy lifestyle, but there is a lot more to think about than just what we eat that will affect our performance in the gym. A lot of these recommendations are just that, recommendations. Some trial and error will come into play when figuring out what works best for our body, dietary restrictions, and needs.
Typically our body has a hard time digesting gluten and dairy. Consuming gluten and dairy may cause inflammation during the digestion process, leaving you feeling more sore and beat up after your workouts. While many people may not get stomach pain when eating food that contain these products, they still have adverse effects on the body. Try eliminating or reducing gluten and dairy from your diet for 2-4 weeks and take note of how you feel.
Another huge health and performance impact comes from the consumption of added sugars. These are just empty calories that provide no nutritional value whatsoever. You would be surprised just how many “health” foods and drinks have added sugar; sports drinks, protein bars and shakes, and low-calorie snacks are all culprits. Be mindful of what you reach for when you need some workout fuel and check those nutrition labels.
While the stresses of work and life may feel like they constantly get in the way of our health and fitness, we can’t let them control us. Let your workouts be your relief and escape from everything else that may be weighing on the conscious. Treat your time in the gym as something you get to do, instead of something you have to do.
Spend time practicing positive thinking and visualization. If you walk into the gym and look at a tough workout ahead of you and immediately think, “This is going to be so hard, there’s no way I can do this,” you’re already setting yourself up for failure and a less than enjoyable experience in the gym. Eventually, this will spiral into more and more negative thoughts and may even deter you from showing up to the gym altogether.
Walk into the gym and picture yourself crushing the workout. See yourself hitting a heavy squat with perfect form. Visualize how fast you can string together burpees. Always walk into the gym with your head held high and a smile on your face. Let the rest of the outside world melt away around you and keep your focus on the challenge ahead of you.
While we may cool down post workout for 3-5 minutes, it truly isn’t enough. Many of us are sitting at a desk and working at a computer for hours upon hours every day. All that sitting and hunching over a computer won’t be fixed with a few minutes of stretching a handful of times a week. We need to take our mobility as seriously as we take our workouts. Otherwise it isn’t a matter of if you’ll get injured – but a matter of when.
Take the time at least 3 times a week, if not every day, to spend time mobilizing to move better and keep yourself injury-free. This can be accomplished in a multitude of ways:
– set a timer for yourself and hold positions for a minimum of 2 minutes
Soft tissue work
– Foam rolling, lacrosse ball, massage, ART/MAT, graston
Take a class
– Explore yoga or kinstretch classes at a studio near you
– https://romwod.com/ or https://thereadystate.com/
While there are tons of options out there, the only option you don’t have is to skip mobility all together.
While making all these changes in your life may seem intimidating, start by making modifications to your daily routine little by little and see what a big difference it will make!