How do we get the most out of our workout? Sure, we all know that a good night’s sleep helps pretty much everything. But what else can we do before, as well as after, our workouts to maximize the impact?
Picture this. It’s 10:00 PM. You’ve brushed your teeth, washed your face, packed the kids’ lunches for tomorrow and now you check your calendar to see what the next day brings.
You scroll to 9:00 AM and beside it, “Workout Class.” Aha! Me time.
What can you do right at this moment, and up until your workout begins, to make sure your workout is as KICKA$$ as possible?
It turns out, much more than just getting those 8 hours of shuteye. However, since we’re on that topic, let’s start with the ZZZ’s.
1. GET SLEEP
How your workout goes today all starts with what you did yesterday. Working backwards, the last thing you probably remember from yesterday was laying your sleepy head down on that comfy pillow.
Both the amount of sleep and quality of sleep you get impacts your workout. For one, you repair muscle tissue when you sleep. Two, a full night’s rest gives you the energy you need to deliver all you got at the gym. So, don’t plan on pulling an all-nighter before your morning kickboxing class.
What’s even more amazing is the positive correlation between sleep and exercise. Not only do you get a better workout with a good night’s sleep, but you also get a better night’s sleep after a good workout.
2. MOTIVATE THROUGH MUSIC
Ever notice that we choose music based on how we feel or how we want to feel. The same can be done in anticipation of your workout. If you’re about to embark on a killer kickboxing class you’re probably selecting David Guetta’s Titanium over Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite to get you revved up.
We do this because the former is a high-power musical composition. Researchers at the Kellogg School of Management found that the heavy bass in a song, categorizing it as a “high-power” song, invokes a sense of power within us.
This sense of power provides us “the tendency to see the forest instead of the trees (thought abstraction), perceived control over social events (illusion of control), and the desire to move first in competitive interactions”(Science Daily.)
In other words, the power of the song resonates with us in a positive way, morphing our perspective on our workout, our abilities and ourselves.
Next time you’re driving to the gym, turn up the volume on those jams that gets you motivated and get ready to have a better workout.
3. WARM UP
Yes, time is hard to come by these days but don’t let that stop you from warming up. Many times we just want to go full force into our workout in order to maximize the time we have available to devote to exercise. However, this increases our risk of injury.
The act of warming up loosens our joints and muscles, preparing our body for the high intensity to come. Fortunately, many group fitness classes like CKO Kickboxing incorporate a warm-up at the beginning of class.
Listen to your body. You know it better than anyone else does. If a muscle feels tight, make sure to stretch it well before class. Your instructors can assist you in finding additional stretches based on your needs.
4. EAT UP
Eating a well-balanced meal that includes carbs, protein and fat two to three hours before your workout is ideal. However, if you have a 6:00 AM workout, no need to set your alarm for 4:00 AM to eat. Eating a small meal 45-60 minutes before your workout will do. Try whole grain toast with some almond butter, oatmeal with a handful of nuts or yogurt with fruit.
And don’t forget to nosh post-workout. Yes, you are encouraged to eat after you break a sweat. Seems counterproductive, doesn’t it?
Think of your body like a racecar. While watching a race you’ll see a car pulled over to the side so their team can refuel and fix any damage, preparing the car to carry on with the race in prime condition.
As you work out (race the car) your body uses up its stored glycogen, a carbohydrate that is a source of energy (gasoline). As you exercise you become fatigued, meaning that those glycogen levels are depleting (fuel is running low.)
So you recover with carbs, protein and fats, which restores your glycogen levels, repairs any muscle tears, and decreases your risk of injury.
Some studies urge you to eat within an hour after your finish working out, especially protein, claiming that timing is vital in order to maintain and build muscle mass. However others refute this, stating that just making sure you get the ideal amount of protein each day is more important than focusing on a specific time frame.
All in all if you want your body to blast calories and burn fat, you need fuel (aka food.) Without something in your belly your body will begin to burn muscle, and who wants to lose muscle when you’re aiming to channel your inner Wonder Woman?
5. DRESS THE PART
Speaking of Wonder Woman…
No, we’re not suggesting you re-use last year’s Halloween costume as workout gear, but why shouldn’t you feel like Wonder Woman when you come to the gym, right?
What you wear to the gym impacts you mentally and physically. If you feel confident in
what you’re wearing you’ll be more confident in your workout. This is called “enclothed cognition,” the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes. This shows that dressing for the part you want instead of the part you have is quite rewarding.
Your clothing should also fit the exercise. Having the right sneakers, breathable comfortable clothing, and hair pulled back allows you to focus on your workout instead of what’s annoying you about your attire. A more focused mindset on your workout will allow you to work harder and longer.
6. HYDRATE. HYDRATE. HYDRATE.
It’s not always obvious when we are dehydrated, which makes it even more important to get our H2O in before, during and after our workouts. We lose water while we break a sweat, so going into a workout already dehydrated isn’t a smart idea.
Hydration is the key to body functioning, helping lubricate our joints and muscles, increasing our metabolism and regulating our body temperature and blood pressure. Dehydration causes us to feel fatigued and sluggish, which does not a maximized workout make!
Dehydration has significant negative effects on your brain, specifically you’re cognitive performance meaning that your mood, concentration level and motor coordination are not in an ideal state. Now who is going to have a killer workout when moody, lacking focus and feeling clumsy? No one.
The American Council on Exercise recommends you drink 17-20 fluid ounces of water two to three hours before exercising as well as 8 fluid ounces 20 to 30 minutes before exercise. During your workout make sure to drink 7-10 fluid ounces every 10 to 20 minutes. Thirty minutes post-workout, grab another 8 ounces. For strenuous workouts you also need to drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during your exercise.
Go ahead…Have a cup of joe before your workout.
We drink coffee or tea to wake us up in the morning and help with that afternoon slump, so why wouldn’t java give us a boost during exercise?
Caffeine improves focus and increases both energy and endurance.
Usually caffeine needs about an hour to start showing its effects. Grabbing a coffee one to two hours before your CKO class can give you that jolt you need to wake up and throw some powerful jabs.
Make sure you know your caffeine limits by talking to your doctor. And if you happen to be prepping for the Olympic Trials, just don’t abuse it please. It’s just a bad idea.
8. INVITE A FRIEND
To make sure you actually get to the gym and to amp up your workout, invite a friend. Working out with a buddy keeps you accountable and further motivates you as you sweat.
If you made an agreement to work out together, you’re more likely to show up because your friend is counting on you. Don’t let her down, now.
Working out with a friend helps create a sense of community for you whenever you hit the gym.
9. PLAN AHEAD
Our hectic lives call for organization in order to get things done. This goes for the exercise aspect of your life as well. As they say, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
So, create a weekly routine, in which you make sure your wraps and gloves are in your gym bag. Keep your gym bag in the same place in your home so you can’t lose it. Stock your bag with extra hair ties, towels, band-aids and bottles of water.
The last thing you want to do is get to class only to realize you left something you need at home. Never put yourself in a position to not work out once you’re there.
10. PUSH IT
You’ve been doing this workout long enough now to know what to expect. But don’t let that bag know what to expect from you. Surprise it.
Each time you show up for class, do more. Challenge yourself some way, somehow. Choose something to focus on at every single class. Perhaps aim to do half of your push-ups on your toes instead of your knees. Squat a little lower. Land those kicks higher on the bag.
Choosing just one way to challenge yourself will help you feel accomplished internally. Meanwhile your body will benefit. The challenges you take on can increase your strength, speed, endurance, agility and flexibility.
You just finished the last combo and relish getting to toss your gloves to the floor, feeling uber accomplished. You’re done for the day and ready to go.
Not so fast there, friend. You’re not done. Just as warming up is important before your workout, cooling down is vital afterwards.
Stretching at the end of your workout is like a massage for your muscles. It loosens them, increasing flexibility, while decreasing your risk of injury. Without a proper cool down your muscles will feel tight the next day, making it harder for you to take on another amazing workout then. By stretching you will always be ready for your next CKO class!
Whether or not you accomplish everything above both before and following your workout, just getting to class is an accomplishment. You’ll still get so much out of it.
Here’s a Maximize Your Workout Checklist to keep on hand:
- Get Sleep
- Motivate Through Music
- Warm Up
- Eat Up
- Dress the Part
- Hydrate, Hydrate. Hydrate.
- Invite a Friend
- Plan Ahead
- Push It
- Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.
- Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.
- Eat Up
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Article written by Kimberly Oley, CKO Contributing Author and CKO Member since 2015!