If you want improve your performance and physique, there will be times when you need to push your body to the edge. Being willing to work that hard doesn’t come easy. Read on to learn exactly how to take your workout to the next level each and every time.
1. WARM UP CORRECTLY
It’s not easy to go from a 10-hour work day to an hour-long workout with squats and deadlifts. If you want to get your body and nervous system fired up for heavy weights and a lot of reps, use a great warmup to reach your full potential. Skip the 10-minute jog on the treadmill. Instead, perform a series of mobility and activation drills that mimic the movements you’ll be doing for your main workout to open your body, raise your body temperature and fire up your muscles and nervous system.
2. USE POWER NAPS
If you ask professional athletes what their pre-game ritual looks like, I’ll bet that all of them take a nap. If you’ve had a long day or are feeling a little rundown, try to get 20–30 minutes of sleep to feel re-energized and focused. Coffee might perk you up, but it could give you the jitters and ruin your sleep if you drink it too late.
Sometimes a 20-minute power nap a few hours before your workout is all it takes to help you rest your body and mind. Try not to sleep too long (more than an hour) because it could actually make you feel more tired afterward or even interfere with your sleep.
3. WEAR THE RIGHT GEAR
If you’re looking for an extra boost in your workout performance, what you wear can make a difference. For example, your footwear is super important: During a long run, instead of an old pair of tennis shoes, use comfortable, light and high-quality shoes — you’ll feel like there’s nothing on your feet, and you’ll get all the foot support you need.
Finally, after a hard workout, a trusty set of compression clothes can help accelerate blood flow and recovery for faster results.
4. LISTEN TO THE RIGHT MUSIC
Often, the right music gets you in the mood, while the wrong music makes you want to call it quits.
For your next workout, arm yourself with the right tunes. Invest in good pair of headphones — something that won’t fall off when you’re running, jumping, or lifting weights — and build a playlist that helps you feel energized.
Pick something that’s upbeat, fast and matches the energy you need for your exercise. (For example, I have a playlist on my phone called “Gym,” but it’s not something I’d play before bed.)
5. IMPROVE YOUR BASELINE CONDITIONING
Here’s a simple fact of training: The better your aerobic conditioning, the harder you can push yourself during exercise.
That’s because your aerobic system is the powerhouse of your body. Even when you do a hard sprint and go into your “anaerobic zone,” your body still needs to return to your aerobic zone to refuel itself and recover.
To improve your aerobic conditioning, spend 20–40 minutes 2–3 times a week doing steady-state cardio.
6. PRACTICE GOOD NUTRITION
If you’re looking for better performance in the gym — or better performance overall in life — good nutrition is vital. It gives you the fuel you’ll need to support your physical performance while speeding up your post-workout recovery.
First, if you’re training hard and often, make sure you eat enough carbs. Athletes need more carbohydrates than you might think. That’s because carbs are a great source of fast energy for your body. Cut back on your carbs, and you’ll feel like your gas tank is empty.
Second, eat plenty of protein, fats and veggies to support muscle growth and overall health. In fact, just by cleaning up your diet, you can often crank up your energy throughout the day and boost your focus during workouts.
Third, avoid processed foods, sugary carbs and artificial fats. Too much negatively affects how you feel and perform.
7. TAKE THE RIGHT SUPPLEMENTS
While supplements cannot compensate for a poor diet, using them may help you get the nutrients you need for better athletic performance — just watch out for ones loaded with caffeine, sugar and artificial ingredients. However, after a workout, drinking a protein shake can help jump-start the repair, rebuilding and growth processes, so the next time you work out, you’ll be ready to go.