Working out is a must for optimal health. There’s a reason people say exercise is good medicine! Studies show people who are physically active have a longer lifespan and healthspan, the number of years they live fully functional and free of major health problems. In fact, exercise is the best medication that pharmaceutical companies can’t patent, and you don’t need a prescription to enjoy its benefits!
Here’s the downside. Finding the time to exercise can be a challenge but consider the time you put in an investment in your future health. To make every second count and get the most out of the time you sweat, try these simple but powerful tips for maximizing your returns on fitness training.
Set Achievable Goals
Without solid goals, you’re like a boat adrift on the sea with no direction. You go through the motions of training, but you fail to make measurable gains. The reason for some is they don’t set goals or choose poorly defined or unachievable goals. That’s a motivation killer! Instead, define your bigger goal but break it down into smaller goals that are realistic and specific. Then, put a timeline one each one. Without a timeline, you won’t feel the same motivation to push through. We thrive on seeing a return on the time we spend!
Once you’ve established your goals, write each goal down in a fitness journal and track your progress each so you can see where you started, where you’re headed, and how much progress you made. Seeing results is motivating and helps you stay on track. Don’t skip the documentation step! It’s one of the most important habits for staying on track. A lack of realistic fitness goals that are measurable and achievable is one reason people quit exercising. Don’t let it happen to you!
You can have achievable goals and plan to see them through but if you aren’t consistent, you won’t get there. Know what your individual barriers to consistency are. If time is an issue, work out first thing in the morning before starting your day. You’re strongest in the late afternoon, but if working out before sunrise means you’ll do it consistently, it’s a good trade-off. In fact, one habit of people who successfully stick with their workouts is they exercise as soon as they wake up. With this approach, it’s less like that something will come up and make it harder to follow through with your workout plans. Plus, it gets you warmed up and ready for the day!
Whatever time you choose for your workout, make it consistent so it becomes an established routine and you do it without question. However, if you can’t exercise one day, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back on schedule the next day. Everyone has setbacks and they shouldn’t deter you from your goals.
Increase the Challenge!
Your body adapts to the stress you place on it. When you first start working out, any structured movement is a fresh challenge to your body, but after a time, what you’re doing is no longer as demanding. Unless you increase the challenge, the gains will slow or stop. Too often, people get into a comfort zone where they do the same exercises using the same volume and resistance and then wonder why they don’t see results. They’re not asking enough of their body!
The name of the game is progressive overload, increasing the intensity of training over time. For strength training that usually means increasing the weight or adding more sets or reps. For cardiovascular conditioning, that could mean boosting the intensity or increasing the duration of a workout. High-intensity interval training has the advantage of conditioning your heart by boosting the intensity for brief periods of time. Keep a fitness journal, so you can monitor your progress and make sure you’re not slacking off or getting too comfortable. Don’t be content to just go through the motions. Push yourself harder over time and watch your body change!
Add Some Variety
It’s important to increase the challenge but add some variety to your workouts too. Shake up your routine every 4 to 6 weeks. Variation is important for avoiding plateaus but also for staying mentally stimulated. Don’t be afraid to introduce a body “shocker” into your routine once in a while to shake things up. If you usually do moderate-intensity exercise, try HIIT. If you train with dumbbells, switch to kettlebells or resistance bands. You’ll work your muscles differently and that will help jumpstart gains.
Adding variety also helps reduce the risk of overtraining. Another advantage of varying your workouts is you’ll enhance your fitness capacity in other areas, such as balance, power capabilities, and agility. For example, adding plyometric movements builds greater power and agility. Don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new!
Reward Your Hard Work
Reward yourself when you follow through. We all like positive reinforcement, but make sure the reward doesn’t undermine your goals. In other words, don’t reward yourself after a workout with a honey-glazed doughnut! Instead, treat yourself to something healthy and relaxing instead. For example, if you follow through on exercise for a week, treat yourself to a relaxing massage. Positive rewards further reinforce the health and fitness message.
The Bottom Line
Use these tips to maximize your fitness level and get the most out of your workouts. With a little hard work and focus, you’ll be surprised at just how fit you can become, and you might even enjoy reaching your fitness goals more when you set small, achievable goals and take these steps to achieve them.
- com. “Don’t Let This Happen to You”
- Psychology Today. “15 Science-Backed Tips for Turning Your Goals Into Reality”