Has your workout been stale lately?
Does it seem like forever since you set a new PR?
Have you turned your training regimen inside and out to get it jump-started and still can’t get the results you want?
Many athletes feel that the quality of their workout is most dependent on the factors they see while doing their lifting and conditioning: proper warm-up, flexibility, and atmosphere like heat in the gym and the music playing.
Sometimes it’s not so simple. Sometimes we need to take a good hard look at our entire lifestyle to find what is holding our progress back. Here are several factors that I have found to have a big impact on how well my workouts go.
When I don’t drink enough water throughout the day, I usually end up dragging ass by the time it’s time to lift. In order to get enough water every day, I have to concentrate on it every day. I have a system for this.
I only count the water that I drink when I am not eating. I like to bring a 16 ounce bottle of water and drink it dry several times a day. I try downing it once before my 9 AM meal, once before lunch, and once before I leave work. These three bottles of water between meals, plus what I drink while eating, make a big difference in my hydration status and in my workout when I get home at night.
I also see a difference in how often I need to use the bathroom during the day. Getting enough water means I’ll have to go to the bathroom to at least 3 to 5 times and the urine will be clear. Clear urine is a sign of proper hydration and it is what I shoot for.
If you don’t get the rest that you need you will not be able to fully recover from your workouts. Everyone is different as far as how much rest they need, so you will have to find out what is optimal for you. For me, I have found that it isn’t always the night before that has the most bearing on my rest levels and my success in the next workout. Instead, two nights before is what has the most impact on my training. For instance, I know that if I go out partying on a Friday night, I can usually have a decent training session on a Saturday morning if I slept well Thursday night.
I try to anticipate what my sleep patterns will be like during the week based on my work schedule and I plan my workouts accordingly. For instance, once a month I have to go into work about 4 hours earlier than normal on Thursdays. I get less sleep than normal on Wednesday night, but as long as I get to bed at a reasonable time Tuesday night, my Thursday afternoon workout will not be affected.
This is something you can monitor for a while and see how changes in your sleep patterns affect the quality of your workouts. After assessing them for several months, try to find patterns. When these patterns show themselves, try to schedule your workouts appropriately.
Your eating approach needs to be dialed-in to have good workouts. After all, the food you put in your body is the fuel you will draw energy from later on.
These days, I shoot for 4 meals during my work day, as opposed to the 2 meals per day I was eating for the last 3 years. I started this eating schedule in January and have stuck with it ever since. I have seen excellent results since changing. I have cut off about ten pounds of fat and have seen a steady increase in my grip strength levels. These meals are smaller and more frequent, but I think this has helped me because my body can absorb the nutrients more efficiently and I end up storing fewer excess calories as fat at the end of the day. I plan on eating this way for quite some time and I encourage you to do something similar – whatever your schedule permits. See how you can trim your meal sizes down and see where you can stick an extra one or two throughout your day. I think you will see huge dividends from doing so.
Time of Workout
Are you a morning person? Are you a night owl? Depending on how you would describe yourself, you may want to think about moving your workouts around in order to take advantage of how your body best operates.
I think that for me the best time to work out would be 11 PM. If I can get a decent nap in from 6 PM to 8 PM, I can stay up all night and be productive throughout that entire time. Unfortunately, doing this does not complement my current lifestyle, and so I must train when I am able, most days between 6 and 8 PM.
I think the second best time for me is around noon. I say this because this is when I train on the weekends and my workouts on the weekends are always more productive than my workouts during the week. This holds true whether I am training with a group or training alone on the weekend.
Don’t just train in the afternoon because that is when you have always trained. Try moving your workouts around if you can. Find what time of day is best for you. Many people find that they can be more consistent in the gym if they go in the morning, before work. They are mentally fresh in the morning because they have not yet been frazzled by the stresses of the work day. Many who train in the morning also feel better throughout the day because of the increased energy levels they experience from waking up with brisk, stimulating exercise.
Drinking massive amounts of coffee may give you a jumpstart of energy, but drinking too much can work against you where your training is concerned. Caffeine thins the urine and causes you to become dehydrated. I do my best to stick with one large coffee a day. If I drink too much coffee, I notice several things. First, I urinate more and become dehydrated. Next, my thirst levels go down and I drink less water, becoming even more dehydrated, and finally my appetite goes down and I eat less. This cycle results in me feeling like I am going to pass out by 2PM.
We all experience ruts in our strength and fitness training from time to time. I know there have been lots of times in my ten years of serious training where I wondered when I would see another PR (personal record). What I have learned is that patience and consistency are very important. I have also found that usually the factors that take place long before and long after the workout are much more important than the ones that exist during the workout. Thank you for reading. I hope by analyzing the factors I mentioned you see substantial improvements in your training quality.