When we put in the time at the gym, it’s only natural to want to see some results from our efforts. While slow and steady may be the best approach to reaching your fitness goals, give your patience a little support with these five tips to get even better results from each workout and reach the finish line a little faster.
While it may be tradition to begin a gym workout with a few basic stretches, studies show that a dynamic warm-up is more effective in boosting the body’s capabilities during a workout. According to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, participants who incorporated squats or leg extensions at the beginning of their workouts ended up lifting more than 8% more weight during their workout, while improving lower body stability by 22%. For improved results in cardio workouts, consider beginning each gym session with squats, lunges, knee raises, or leg swings in place of bend-and-hold stretches. Likewise, a few active beginner yoga positions could sub in for bland stretching routines to improve workout results. Mix it up to keep interest.
While treadmills, ellipticals, and bikes may seem like the most beginner-friendly equipment at the gym, sticking to cardiovascular exercises only may actually cause weight gain—or at the very least, it can halt weight loss. A study out of Harvard that was published in Obesity reported that 20 minutes of cardio exercise per day didn’t measure up to the results in abdominal fat loss seen by participants who swapped out cardio machines for weight lifting. This is because muscle tissue has a positive effect on metabolism. While weight lifting machines may help beginners get familiar with form, for best results, incorporate free weights or exercises that use body weight as resistance (i.e. push-ups or pull-ups) to tap into a wider range of muscles, improve hormonal responses to aid in recovery, and boost the body’s overall functionality.
Muscles don’t grow stronger with each rep, but rather in the recovery period between workouts. Instead of focusing all efforts on getting the most out of the gym, refocus a little on rest. To help the body recover, consider a post-workout massage, which can decrease inflammation and improve mitochondria function, which basically means muscles are more open to recovery and strengthening. Likewise, a post-workout and nighttime snack containing casein, a protein, (think Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or even protein powders) can aid in muscle recovery overnight. Finally, help hormones reset and get the body back in shape for the next workout with some quality shut-eye. Skipping beauty sleep can slow metabolism and may be the root of that fitness plateau, so aim to get seven to nine hours of rest each night.
It might seem like vague advice, but simplifying day-to-day choices can actually promote happiness and improve the body’s ability to take action. According to a TED Talk by Dan Gilbert regarding the source of happiness, when choices are made simpler, we’re more likely to take action. Gilbert notes that fewer choices relieve pressure, while a broad range of choices overwhelm us and cause us to avoid choosing altogether. Start by simplifying daily routines, such as minimizing clothing choices, creating set meals, or sticking to the same coffee order, to improve overall happiness. Translate this to gym time by sticking to just a couple common props like kettlebells, resistance bands, or a skipping rope.
While some may be able to achieve their weight loss goals with diet and fitness tips alone, some of us need a little helping hand and there’s no shame in accepting that. In fact, the sooner we’re able to stop obsessing over loose skin following weight loss or those couple of inches we just can’t shave from our trouble areas, the sooner we can move on to improving our strength, taking pride in our bodies, and viewing our gym time with gratitude rather than frustration. We all have our own fitness goals and we all get there in our own ways.
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