The results you get in the gym – how many push-ups you can bash out, or how long you can hold that killer plank for, for example – aren’t always a result of the work you put in. We know what we put into our workouts will reflect what we get out, but sometimes outside forces play just as big a role as trying to grunt and groan your way through that last rep that just doesn’t seem to be happening!
Here’s 5 ways you can improve your results in the gym without setting foot through the door!
Improve your sleep
Whenever we work out, we break our body down. That’s how we improve, by breaking our body down so it can come back stronger.
Because of that, it’s in those periods of rest between sessions, not actually during sessions, that our strength increases so we’re ready for the next one.
Our body does the most repairing and building while we sleep, so the better quality sleep we can get, the better the improvement we can make from the last workout.
Have a read of 5 Ways to Get More ZZZzzzs to make the most of your time up the wooden hill in Bedfordshire.
It’s a rat-race out there, and if you were to ask anyone at any given time how they were, most people if they were honest would say stressed! Work’s stressful. Kids are stressful. That knob-jockey that cut you up at the roundabout this morning was stressful.
Problem is, stress encourages our body to produce a hormone called cortisol, and cortisol is responsible for everything that slows our progress! One of it’s main jobs is to prevent protein synthesis, which for you means it will slow down the repair and rebuild process we worked so hard to stimulate in our last workout.
In between your workouts, try to arrange periods of relaxation. Sit down and read a book. Book a massage or a facial. Run a hot bath with Epsom salts and light some candles, the full works. Whatever it takes to find your bliss for an hour or so.
Increase protein intake
Remember back to number 1 when we said exercise breaks down your body? Well you need a certain amount of protein daily to provide the building blocks necessary to build that up again.
In the west, it’s not difficult to get enough protein. In fact we often eat more than we need without even trying. However, that protein tends to come with twice as many carbs, and a tonne of fat. Then when we lower our calories to ditch the wobbly stuff, we lower our protein as well, which can often mean we’re now eating less than we need for best results.
Protein and carbohydrates have the same amount of calories per gram, so if you need to increase your protein a bit, try swapping out half a serving of carbs for half a serving of protein at each meal. If you’re eating 4-6 times daily, that will increase your protein by 2-3 servings per day and might just be what you need to give your results that kick up the backside.
Go for a walk
Walking is great. It’s low enough intensity that it doesn’t interfere with your workout recovery, but also has a bunch of benefits that can actually speed the process along allowing you to come back stronger at your next workout!
The two big ones are that it stimulates blood flow to the muscles, and it’s been shown to reduce muscle pain and joint stiffness. So if you’re suffering from a bout of post exercise muscle soreness, getting up and going for a stroll could be just what you need. It also raises serotonin levels in your brain and helps to lower blood pressure, both of which help lower stress levels.
Try to schedule in a 30 minute walk every day.
Take a few days off
Exercise (when done right) is awesome. There’s no arguing that. But exercise all the time without any significant break time and you can end up overtraining… Which is exactly like it sounds!
Overtraining puts our body in a more vulnerable state. Vulnerable to illness. Vulnerable to injury. And it can also bring your progress to a grinding halt. Your body only has so many resources, and can only allocate so many of those to the recovery and then overcompensation (coming back stronger) process.
So if you’re finding that you’re struggling to move forwards in your workouts, you might be due a recovery week. For most people, having a week off from working out every 8-12 weeks is a good place to start, and should keep your body firing on all cylinders.