- Take off trainers. 2. Get back into bed. 3. Don’t workout.
OMG I’M KIDDING.
What you do with your body in the time leading up to a workout plays an absolutely pivotal role in your performance, and there’s a few very basic things which you can incorporate into your routine to make sure that your body is always as prepared as it can be to perform optimally. AND, because I am an absolute babe, I have compiled a list of the 5 most important components that I think contribute to a successful workout: rest, hydration, fuel, planning and mental preparation. Let’s have a look.
Allowing your body to rest is one of the easiest, most important, and yet probably most neglected and underrated ingredients in the progress pie. The time you spend resting is equally as important as the time you spend exercising. Insufficient rest = insufficient time for your body to recover and regrow = physical and mental fatigue = poorer performance in the gym = less progress made. *and that’s the closest we’ll ever get to maths*.
- We all love sleeping. We all spend our days whinging about how tired we are. So SLEEP. And I mean sleep sleep. I don’t mean lie in bed for 8 hours, spending two of those hours on your phone. I mean 8 solid hours of non-disturbed rest.
- Make it a habit of going to bed at a certain time. Set a reminder on your phone 30 minutes before that time so that you can prepare yourself and finish what you’re doing and stick to a routine. It might sound ridiculous to suggest setting a reminder to sleep, but it’s far too easy to let the night creep away and end up staying up too late.
- Find what works for you and your lifestyle. Some of us don’t function well on anything less than 8 hours of sleep a night, whereas some of us can grab 3 hours and are good to go. For me, personally, I find anything less than 7 hours to be too little for me and so aim for 8-9 hours a night.
- Turn your phone off, put it on “don’t disturb” or leave it away from your bed. Switch off and focus your attention on resting.
Ensuring that your body is sufficiently hydrated is something I would hope you are doing every single day, but particularly on a training day. If your body isn’t sufficiently hydrated, nothing is going to be working properly, so your workouts will suffer. You cannot expect your body to perform if you are failing to provide it with the basic essentials.
- Don’t get worked up about numbers of litres or glasses of water. I’ve found the best way to measure it is to not measure it at all, but to simply drink enough that you never get thirsty and that you never feel like you need to drink.
- Make sure you are drinking constantly throughout the day so that by the time you go to work out, you’ve been hydrating for hours already. For those of you who work out first thing in the morning, I know it’s a little more difficult to get yourself properly hydrated before you hit your session, so what’s important here is that you drink plenty of fluid the day before and, as I often do, wake up 10-15 minutes earlier to give yourself plenty of time to get at least 1 litre of water into you before you get to the gym.
- Hydrate before, during and after a workout.
- Hydrate with WATER. You don’t need anything else.
When you don’t eat well, your workouts suffer because your body isn’t being fuelled with the right nutrients to allow it to function properly and do its job. So it’s crucial that you always try to fuel up correctly before a workout, and not just in the 30 minutes before. What you eat in the days before can have a huge impact on a workout and this is why it’s important to always be eating well, so that every workout is carried out with your body working at its best.
- Make sure that the vast majority of your diet is based on whole, nutrient-dense foods.
- If you’re eating a meal before your workout, try to leave at least an hour to allow for your digestive system to do its thing. Digestion is a major bodily process, and if you’re not giving your body the time it needs to carry that out properly, that will have a negative impact on both the digestion itself and on your performance in the gym. Let your body finish doing one job before you make further demands of it. *also applies to giving tasks to members of the male species*
- Don’t worry too much about macros. In my opinion, in terms of more “immediate” pre-workout nutrition, it’s not overly important what you eat so long as you’re eating plenty of carbs to ensure that your energy levels are high.
A workout without a plan can be great and spontaneous, but more often than not, it’s a bit of a disaster. I occasionally walk in the gym with a very vague idea of what I’m doing, and end up wandering around and wasting time because I’m distracted, I’m not focused and I don’t have a goal in my head. A little planning can make a huge difference.
- Take 5-10 minutes to write down a plan, either the night before, or on your way to the gym, or even while you’re warming up/stretching.
- Be flexible. The plan might have to change depending on what equipment is available and when, but it gives you a structure. Write down your goal reps and sets, and stick to the plan as much as possible. If you’re really struggling with a certain exercise or the reps are too high or the weight is too heavy, adjust your plan accordingly. And likewise, if it’s all feeling too easy, don’t just carry on thinking “woo this is easy I am a God”. Change your weights, add another set, do a few more reps. The plan is there to guide you, but only you can know on the day how you feel and what you’re capable of. Use your plan, but do not limit yourself to it. Push yourself.
I don’t have much to say about nutrition supplements, but one thing I am totally against is pre-workout drinks. I don’t wanna upset any hardcore supp fans, but if you’re totally dependent on a highly-caffeinated, questionably-coloured, full-of-sh*t powdered drink to get yourself through a workout, I feel like there’s a bigger problem. Sure there’s some days when we’re not really feeling it and we could all do with some magic dust to get us in the mood. But get over it. I assure you, being present in your mind and concentrating on your workout is the most effective pre-workout that there is. And hey, while we’re on the subject, why do we always need to be psyched up for a workout anyway? Why can’t we just chill out and take it down a notch? It doesn’t always have to be about swaggering into the gym ready to “smash it” and having to sit down 20 minutes later because you’re having palpitations from whatever the f*ck you just drank.
- Listen to music. Get your gym clothes on. Motivate yourself. Think about your workout. Picture yourself going through it. Imagine how good it will feel once you’ve finished. Enjoy your workout, take peace and rest from it, use it as therapy. Put the pre-workout down. You don’t need caffeine, you need a connection with your mind and your body. Focus.
So moral of the story? You don’t need expensive workout gear or supplements to make progress or be “gym ready”. Mastering these 5 components is all you need for strong, successful workouts. So get yourself a little routine, make it a habit, and the whole thing will become so much easier and more natural. And last but not least, don’t take it so seriously. It’s a gym session, not the trials for the Olympics.
Follow me on Instagram for more fitness tips, advice and motivation!