How to Make the Most of Every Training Session
Written by Niamh McWalter
Whether you’re back training in the gym or continuing at home, not every session is going to be your favourite or the best you’ve ever done.
Life events, lack of sleep, or stress at work can leave you feeling less than enthusiastic to get your workout done! Unfortunately, though, too many “meh” sessions can really affect your results and lead to you feeling like you’re putting in so much effort with nothing to show for it.
Small, meaningful efforts repeated over days and months really add up, so it’s worth your while making the most out of the sessions. After all, you’re getting to the gym and you’ve bought the Gymshark t-shirt – it’s time for you to see some pay-off from your efforts!
So here are some tips to help you build habits and routine around your training sessions that may even help you perform and recover better!
Before you workout:
- Fuel your body. What you put into your body before your session matters – no one likes training when they’re hangry (adjective: being angry or emotional due to hunger)! Usually, you’d like some form of pre-workout meal that’s not too heavy and contains carbs and protein. Protein porridge, greek yoghurt with berries, or some pasta with chicken or ground beef are all decent options. Avoid fats, as they will slow digestion and can make you feel ill. Look to have this meal 1.5-2 hours before you train. If you train early in the AM, you’re probably better off having an extra hour’s sleep rather than getting up even earlier to eat. In this case, make sure you get a decent serving of carbs in your evening meal to fuel your morning session.
- Caffeine/pre-workout: A serving of caffeine or a pre-workout isn’t essential, but can improve focus and performance in your gym session. Coffee or an energy drink will do the trick, and generally, you’d look to have 100-150mg of caffeine (depending on your tolerance). That’s around two strong espresso shots or a can of Monster/energy drink. Caffeine takes up to 40 minutes to reach peak concentration in your body, so try and have your pre-workout caffeine at least 20 minutes before your session. Pre-workouts will also contain other ingredients such as taurine and beta-alanine, which can also boost performance but are not essential.
- Set-up: Whether you’re training at the gym or at home, make sure you’ve set aside enough time to complete your session. Put your phone on ‘do not disturb,’ have your headphones charged and a playlist ready! If you’re training from home, get all your equipment together before you start. If in the gym, bring over whatever you need to your spot. The fewer opportunities there are for distractions, the better!
Pro-tip: Add your session as a meeting to your phone’s calendar, cross the time out of your diaries, this is your time… or better yet, schedule a session with one of our trainers at Austin Simply Fit!
While you’re training:
- Plan your session around how your gym is set-up, especially if you include supersets. A superset is kind of like an exercise sandwich: two exercises performed back to back with no rest. Ideally you’d pick two machines that are close to each other, or, if using a bench, plan to do two bench-based activities together.
- Set your intentions for the session: if it’s resistance training, set out to get a good mind-muscle connection. Mind-muscle connection is a way to describe how you feel your muscles work during training. For example, when you are performing a rowing exercise, pull your shoulder blades together and visualise your muscles swallowing your spinal cord. If it’s cardio, set out to get your heart rate up and sweat on. Think about the muscles used. If you’re ever stuck: ask! Too often we just go through the motions.
- Keep a record. Using a logbook or a notebook to track your reps, sets and weight lifted will help you maintain focus and track progress. Keeping a record will also help you notice patterns, i.e. for women, you may find at certain points of your cycle, you’re able to lift more/less weight. This’ll help you with future programming, as an important part of seeing results is progressive overload. Progressive overload means constantly making slight increases to the load (weight lifted), the number of reps, or the number of sets performed to make sure you are challenging your muscles. For example, if you try to perform 10 press ups right now you might struggle, but if you did them every day for a month, by the end of the month 10 press ups would be way too easy! So you add 2 reps every week to make sure it’s still challenging. Logging your exercises can make sure that this ishappening and avoid the mental gymnastics of trying to figure out how much to lift.
- Enjoy your sessions. Get the music going, wear gym gear you feel comfortable and confident in. Don’t create (or perform) workouts or exercises you hate – there are always alternatives! If you’re stuck, feel free to ask a coach/trainer who can help you.
Pro-tip: Our trainers at ASF can take care of all your programming for you, making your sessions engaging and effective!
After your session:
- Refuel with a good meal. You don’t need to leave the gym aggressively shaking a protein shaker, but you should have protein and carbohydrates in your next meal. Plan this meal ahead of time or even prepare it. Otherwise, a pizza may magically land at your front door, and although delicious – probably not the best food to refuel after a heavy session! A good post-workout meal has plenty of carbs and protein (20-30g) and is lower in fat. It’s a good idea to wait around an hour before eating as this will give your body time to cool down and de-stress from the session which will help your digestion.
- Rest and recovery. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep: sleep is often overlooked for recovery. If you find that your late night sessions are affecting your sleep, try to train earlier, or avoid caffeine for any session after 3 pm. When the almighty DOMS (the delayed soreness in your muscles which hits 24-48 hours after a session) hit, a walk or swim can be really good to help with stiffness. Getting into a good routine with both your sleep and nutrition will also help your body recover from your sessions consistently, and of course will help with any other fitness goals you may have.
Hopefully this has given you more insight around how to get more out of your sessions and get better results. So many of the tips listed relate to planning ahead (your food, your programme, your playlist) so it might be worthwhile putting aside time to plan out your training once a week. Nutrition is so important for fuel and recovery: you will really struggle unless this is on point. And remember: fitness doesn’t have to feel like a chore! Make your routine fun and enjoyable as this will help you keep going. Remember, consistent efforts over time give the best results. Have fun and happy training!
If you want someone on your side to help you get the most out of every session, schedule your free consultation and first workout today!