We are into the first week of January, and maybe you are already wondering how much longer you can possibly keep up with this whole “working out” thing. Well, guess what? You are not alone. Most of us struggle the hardest within the first few days of a recent change, especially if you decided on something more drastic like going from not working out at all to training 3-6 times a week. The great news is that I have developed the following list for you – from personal experience – of things to do to decrease your chances of dropping out of your fitness journey or regimen. These are things I do on a regular basis that I have realized directly affect my outlook on training, inclusive of whether or not I’ll skip the gym, have a “blah” workout, or absolutely kill it.
Setting Realistic Goals:
This is one of the things I learned the hard way and one of the most important things I’ve learned. There is no magic workout program that is going to get you six-pack abs in six weeks, make you drop 30 lbs. in 10 days, or grow your glutes three pant sizes in a week without repercussions. In the fitness industry, drastic changes do not last long-term. Why? Because drastic change is not sustainable, realistic or healthy. Yes, you can eat super clean and work out like a maniac and look fantastic rather quickly, but then you risk bouncing right back and gaining even more weight. Try focusing on your fitness performance progress instead of only visual progress, and you’ll start to notice a change in your perception which will make the process much more enjoyable. “Wow, I was able to do 13 pushups today” vs. “Wow, I’ve only lost two lbs this month.”
I couldn’t even count the number of times my performance has suffered because of a lack of hydration. Dehydration can make me feel groggy, tired, anxious, hungry and mad. All at the same time. As a matter of fact, when I first started teaching for Flywheel, I remember getting cramps whenever I would teach doubles and forget to drink water in between classes. Could you imagine trying to motivate people to kill the last song when you have a shooting, debilitating pain in your abdomen? Not the best feeling. Consuming around two liters of water is recommended. If you are doing heavy exercise, I highly suggest finding an electrolyte drink to put in your water to support your body and prevent cramping. I literally swear by this stuff called Nuun Hydration. It’s better than the other drinks I have tried because it doesn’t have any of that added B.S. your body doesn’t need. It’s just 10 calories and is a straight up lifesaver, especially if you forgot to hydrate all day and realize you have a workout coming up or realized you have to teach two classes back to back. This is THE stuff.
Fueling Pre- and Post- Workout:
If you are doing an endurance workout, make sure you are having something that contains carbs for pre-workout energy but is still light, so it doesn’t make you want to puke. My go-to’s are one serving of oatmeal, a banana or a toast. I also like to have some caffeine, if I have to teach and it’s first thing in the morning. For some reason, coffee gets me out of breath and makes me feel dehydrated, so I normally stick to mate tea or Nuun Energy (it has both electrolytes and caffeine from green tea). Post-workout it is recommended to have a carb with a protein. If you are weight training you can still have something that has carbs before the workout for energy, but the post-workout carbs are not as essential as the protein component (which can also be consumed pre-).
Feeling sore AF? Foam roll! It’s so easy to skip over, yet so essential in your workout routine. So let's talk technique: most people roll over their calves five times and call it a day. That actually is the incorrect way to foam roll and does nothing for your body. The correct technique is to roll the muscle over the foam roller until you feel the most tender spot. Once you feel that tender, sore spot, hold on to that position for 30 - 90 seconds. Once you feel the tension reduce, then you can move on to the next spot. This technique allows your muscles to relax, stretch, unknot and realign. When should you foam roll? Right before your stretching exercises and after your workout, if you have time. If you still feel like this is not making you feel better, maybe try a natural BCAA supplement. They help aid in muscle recovery and have worked wonders for me in the past.
Knowing When to Stop:
Rest days should be a vital part of your regimen, so should sick days, mental health days, “I don’t feel like it” days, “my dog ate my keys” days – just like the go hard AF days. These days are called life. People who make pretend like they do not need them do, no matter how many #nodaysoff hashtags they use. Humans are humans. You are not going to get over a sickness by weight lifting when you should be sleeping or resting. You are not going to feel better after the gym, if you are not in a good mental state and start to associate it negatively. Take time for you because at the end of the day, this is only for you. Your lifestyle will not suffer if you take one, two, maybe even a week off if you need to. But if you ever feel like you won’t come back, remember why you started in the first place and go back to that true driving force that wanted to make a change.