Five Smart Strategies for a Successful Workout

How’s your workout routine holding up thus far in 2018? Here are five smart strategies to consider to help boost your fitness levels and promote a successful workout, time and time again!   Tweet This!

1) Create a workout plan.

Engaging in any type of physical activity is beneficial for your health, but starting every workout with an established plan can help lead you to success and reach your fitness goals.   Tweet This! Having a specific purpose each time helps you correspond your workouts to your exact goals, which not only saves time, but also holds you accountable.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults engage in at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity and at least two days of muscle-strengthening activities, which comprise of all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). First, consult with your physician before starting any new workout plan/exercise routine. Next, study your weekly schedule and identify days/times where your schedule allows time to fit in workouts based on these weekly physical activity recommendations.

Select a few aerobic activities which allow you to reach the CDC’s recommended target heart rate of 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. You can calculate your maximum heart rate by simply subtracting your age from 220 (CDC, 2017).

Examples of typical aerobic activities include swimming, cycling, jogging, kickboxing and hiking. Distribute your activities of choice throughout the week until you reach a minimum of 150 minutes. The duration of each activity largely depends on your schedule and targeted goals.

A common practice for implementing muscle-strengthening activities is to follow a training split. Conventional training splits like full body, push-pull, upper-lower body splits, etc. Alternating resistance and aerobic workouts may be best to allow complete recovery for major muscle groups.   Tweet This! For example, assign Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for aerobic exercises; and Tuesdays and Thursdays for resistance training.

2) Warm-up and recover.

Rather than jumping straight into a workout, reserve five to 10 minutes for a quick warm-up before exercising. Warm-ups encourage the circulation of oxygenated blood and gradually increases body temperature to “warm up” the muscles.   Tweet This! On the flip side, cooling down immediately after a workout promotes a gradual decrease in heart rate and body temperature to normal levels (Mayo Clinic, 2018).

Recovery is often viewed as a method to lessen the soreness from an intense, successful workout. However, proper recovery also entails the return to homeostasis at the cellular level, the stabilization of blood pressure, in addition to the replenishment of energy stores that are depleted during intense physical activity (Jeffreys, 2005).

The recovery process begins during exercise itself where adenosine triphosphate (or ATP for short) is resynthesized, intramuscular pH is restored and blood flow is increased for rapid oxygen delivery (Weiss, 1991). Post-exercise recovery consists of normalizing body temperature, blood circulation, ventilation levels and an increase in excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) (Borsheim & Bahr, 2003).

Incorporating recovery practices in your weekly workout routine can enhance your overall performance and remedy the effects of physical stress from exercise.   Tweet This! Active recovery consists of low-impact exercises like walking or yoga to stimulate blood flow, especially after a strenuous workout. Passive recovery involves no exercise and are also essential for complete recovery, especially after an injury. The duration of your recovery will be determined by the amount of stress exerted on the body during the last workout. Typically, each large muscle group requires two to three days of rest   Tweet This! (Rhea et.al, 2003).

3) Strengthen your core.

When you think of your “core,” the first thoughts that possibly come to mind are terms like “abs,” “crunches” and “planks.” Our core is in fact a collection of five muscle groups, all of which provide movement, support and stabilization to our spine:

  • Rectus abdominis
  • Erector spinae
  • Internal/external obliques
  • Transverse abdominis
  • Multifidi

The purpose of strengthening the core is not to attain chiseled abdominals, but rather to achieve and maintain core stability in order to enhance our performance during a workout.   Tweet This! Most activities we perform depend on core engagement – from squats, deadlifts and jogging to carrying out household chores like vacuuming or doing laundry. It is essential to integrate various core strengthening exercises to target all areas of the core.

4) Stay hydrated.

Proper hydration is a key factor to ensuring your body performs at an optimal level, which is essential to achieving a successful workout.   Tweet This! Water, the most vital source of life, helps regulate body temperature and maintain homeostasis during physical activity. During exercise, your body temperature rises and stimulates sweat glands to excrete sweat to help cool your body down and keep you from overheating.

In addition to physical activity, factors such as climate, body size and genetics play a role in how much an individual sweats. Sweat is comprised of water and electrolytes like sodium and potassium, which help, maintain proper water balance and blood pH.

Adequate hydration before, during and after exercise can help replenish essential nutrients and potentially reduce the risk of dehydration, and poor performance during your workout.   Tweet This! Although there is (currently) no consensus on an official recommendation, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggests men consume 15.5 cups (124 ounces) of fluids per day and women consume 11.5 cups (92 ounces) of fluids per day (including water consumed via fruits and vegetables). Consider incorporating an electrolyte replacement drink to replenish minerals and electrolytes lost through sweat.

5) Find an accountability partner.

If you have had difficulty sticking to a workout plan and/or attaining your fitness goals in the past, having an accountability partner may help inspire you to persevere through your workouts.   Tweet This! While some people may prefer to work out alone, others may benefit by involving a friend and/or family member in their fitness journey. Adopting this tactic can offer additional support and motivation towards staying on the right path towards accomplishing your goals.

When selecting an accountability partner, look for someone who is optimistic, dedicated and dependable, and with similar fitness goals. Be open and honest about any fears, failures or frustrations during your journey so they can properly lend support when needed. Likewise, share your documented progress with others to celebrate each milestone.

Which smart strategy will you commit to implementing into your fitness routine this year?   Tweet This! Which strategies have you already put into practice for promoting a successful workout?


References

  1. Borsheim, E & and Bahr, R. (2003). Effect of exercise intensity, duration and mode on post-exercise oxygen consumption. Sports Medicine, 33(14), 1037-1060.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017). Physical Activity Basics.
  3. Jeffreys, I.  (2005). A multidimensional approach to enhancing recovery. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 27(5), 78-85.
  4. Mayo Clinic (2018). Aerobic Exercise: How to warm up and cool down.
  5. Rhea, M.R., Alvar, B.A., Burkett, L.N., & Ball, S.D. (2003). A meta-analysis to determine the dose response for strength development. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 35(3), 456-464.
  6. Weiss, L.W. (2008). The obtuse nature of muscular strength: The contribution of rest to its development and expression. Journal of Applied Sports Science Research, 5, 219-227.