13 Ways You Could Improve Your Workout
Exercise faster, smarter, and more comfortably with this round up of tips from the latest studies.
1. Feel Good About Being a Lightweight
Grab that three pound weight—it’ll still help you build muscle. A new
study found that using light weights for more repetitions, until muscles are fatigued, promotes the same muscle building
response as lifting heavy weights for a few repetitions. So if you’re nursing
an injury—or would just rather workout from the comfort of home instead of an
intimidating weight room—get going with those small weights, resistance bands,
and exercises using body weight.
2. Carry a Cold Water Bottle
the weather outside is hot, stick a water bottle in the freezer and
then carry it outside for your walk, run, or workout. A new study from
Stanford University demonstrated that participants holding a cold device experienced less fatigue
and could exercise for longer periods of time in warm conditions.
3. Drink a Cup of Coffee
Make like an Olympian and have a cup of joe before heading off to exercise—more than
2/3 of athletes studied had caffeine in their urine, making it the most used
“drug” in sports. The professionals are onto something: a new study shows that
participants who had a caffeinated drink before a weight lifting session were
able to do more before they were exhausted—and left looking forward to their
next workout. That’s what we call a win-win.
4. Load Up a New Playlist
“Music has some kind of privileged access to the
motor system,” neuroscientist Robert Zatorre told NPR. “When you are
perceiving very rhythmic sounds, particularly those that are used in music,
these sounds engage the areas in networks of the brain that allow us to move
and in particular synchronize different muscle groups.”
So music is a magic workout motivator, but it’s not always a top
priority to add new songs to your repertoire. Head on over to Sweatin’ With NPR
to pick a mix tailored just to your sport, from a Gospel music workout to
kickboxing, Urban Cyclist, Classical, and a Rocky Balboa Montage.
5. Watch an Inspiring Commercial
Can a 90 second spot of
Olympic-sized chills get you out the door? Cue up a list of inspirational
fitness commercials on youtube (we like the ones featured here). To start off, get revved up with Under Armour’s ‘Protect This House’ spot, filled with Olympic athletes training their hardest:
6. Make Friends with a Foam Roller
Stop muscle knots in their tracks—without a visit to a
massage therapist. Unlike tight muscles, knots can’t be stretched out, and can
often lead to tears and muscle imbalances. But with a $20 foam roller you can
treat and prevent knots at home, using the power of your own body weight.
Simply lay with the specific body part on the log (you can use it for
everything from quads and hamstrings to calves, IT bands, glutes, and back) and
roll until you reach a tender spot. Move back and forth on the area for a few
moments; repeat daily.
To watch videos for various exercises, visit runningtimes.com »
7. Get Appy
Consider your smartphone a healthphone—there’s a range of apps to help encourage, track,
and help with your fitness. Runners will like Map My Run, which also includes
coaching advice, and cyclists will enjoy Endomondo. If you need a push to get
to the gym, commit to gym-pact. Each week you pledge a dollar
amount and the daily workouts you’ll perform; if you skip, you lose money. But
if you make your workouts, you’re paid out of the fund of everyone else who
skipped—typically $0.75 a workout.
Or check to see if your gym has its own app—national
chains like Lifetime Fitness and Equinox have apps that include upcoming
classes, locations, and check-in incentives. Finally, put a little motivation
in your hand and download the free app “101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy.” You’ll never be without a dose of inspiration again.
8. Hydrate All Day Long
You know it’s good to drink water during and after your workout—but the biggest
benefit may come from the H20 you drank hours earlier. Plan to have at least a few
sips every hour, and you’ll go into your time at the gym in the best shape
9. Go All Out—For Just a Minute
about slogging away for hours at marathon speed. New evidence shows that just 60 seconds of all out exercise (at about 90% of your maximum
heart rate) followed by 60 seconds of recovery, can dramatically improve
fitness. Repeat the cycle 10 times (for a total of 20 minutes) and you’ll
significantly improve fitness in just a few weeks. Or just add in a few fast
sprints to your regular run, walk, bike ride, or elliptical session.
10. Wear Sunscreen
This timeless advice applies to all areas of your life, but especially to outdoor workouts.
While you might always apply sunscreen for a day at the beach, it’s often
overlooked during an early morning or rainy run. “Daily sunscreen should
be just a starting point. Put it on as routinely as you brush your teeth,”
Mark Naylor, M.D., a cancer biologist and assistant professor of dermatology at
the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, tells Runner’s World.
Look for new labels this summer that say a product is “Water Resistant”—by the end
of the year, it will be the only term allowed, and will also tell you how many
minutes you can safely rely on its protection while sweating or swimming. And
remember to always protect areas like the bottoms of feet and in between toes when you’re at the
beach—you’ll feel those burns painfully when you lace up your sneakers.
11. Wear Good Socks
Look for a snug pair made
from polypropylene or wool—a good fit will keep blisters at bay, and
moisture-wicking material will help prevent fungal infections and pale spots on
your feet, called macerations. And
it might sound obvious, but take your socks off and let your feet air out as
soon as possible after your work out—it’s the fastest and easiest way to get
12. Have a Snack
True story: Your body can’t work to the
fullest if it’s running on empty. If you’re eating enough regularly, your body
has at least an hour’s worth of high intensity fuel stored away. But if you
feel better with a little food, eat a nutritionally balanced small meal about
two hours before a workout, or a small snack about 30 minutes before putting on
your sneakers, says Dean Anderson of Sparkpeople.
13. Save the Stretch
There’s no need to hold your toes and count to ten before hopping on a treadmill—static
stretches before you’ve warmed up (or even after a few minutes of cardio) are
generally ineffective—and may even be harmful. When should you bend away? A few
minutes after your workout should be all you need.