Try these clever hacks to improve performance by working smarter, not harder.
You show up. You move. You find your edge. But are you sure you’re getting everything you can from every workout? These simple — but often overlooked — tricks can help beginners and experienced athletes alike push past those dreaded plateaus.
1. BRING ON THE CARBS.
Protein good, carbs bad. Right? Wrong! If you want to improve athletic performance or build strength, you need to replenish your carb stores after a workout to keep your body from using your muscles for fuel. So add some carbs to that post-workout protein shake. Shoot for a ratio of 3 grams of fast-digesting carbohydrates to 1 gram of protein. (Think fruit, juice, or a simple sweetener like honey rather than whole grains.)
2. TAKE IT OUTSIDE.
Get out of the gym and embrace the challenges of uneven terrain and wind resistance. Even on flat ground, you’ll burn more calories and recruit more stabilizing muscles exercising outdoors than you will inside on a treadmill, stationary bike or elliptical machine — not to mention the serotonin boost that comes from being in the great outdoors. Daunted by the weather? Choose performance fabrics built for the season, and layer appropriately.
3. HIT THE SWITCH.
Doing the same thing for months on end will only get you so far — even if you feel like you’re pushing yourself. Why? Your body adapts to repeated activity, using less energy to perform the same movements as you get fitter. After a while, you’ll see smaller and smaller incremental gains from even the most strenuous workouts. Instead, choose a different aspect of fitness to focus on. For example, if you’re usually a cardio junkie, get serious about strength training. If you’re a heavy lifter, hit the treadmill. Switch it up every 6–12 weeks.
“ADD SOME CARBS TO THAT POST-WORKOUT PROTEIN SHAKE.”
4. GIVE IT A REST.
Guess what? You’re not actually getting any stronger while you’re at the gym. Your muscles need adequate rest to repair the damage you inflict on them before you see any fitness gains. That’s right: the real magic happens during your days (and nights) off. Skip the recovery period, and you’ll see disappointing results. But that doesn’t mean you have a free pass to spend some quality time with your couch. Incorporate light exercise, stretching and myofascial release — also known as “foam rolling” or self-massage with a lacrosse ball, Roll Recovery, etc. — into your recovery plan to make sure you come back stronger than ever.
5. KEEP YOUR COOL.
Overheating isn’t just uncomfortable. It can have a big impact on athletic performance for reasons that might surprise you. When your core temperature rises during exercise, your heart has to work harder to move blood to your skin and cool you down. But that’s not all. Studies show that the brain actually suffers the most when you get too hot, a phenomenon known as “central nervous system fatigue.” In this condition, the brain is unable to send the necessary signals to the muscles — and your workout comes grinding to a halt.
Drinking cold beverages during your warmup can help keep your core temperature down while allowing the muscles to heat up. What you wear also makes a big difference. Super-light Under Armour HeatGear® fabric uses its signature Moisture Transport System to wick sweat, keeping you dry and light while regulating your body temperature so you can go harder, longer.
“SWITCH IT UP EVERY 6-12 WEEKS.”
6. LOWER THE BAR.
High intensity, or slow and steady? You need both — and the ideal ratio probably isn’t what you think. Studies show that elite endurance athletes commonly spend 80% of their time on low-intensity training, and only 20% on the hard stuff. Athletes who train at a 50/50 ratio of high to low intensity see fewer fitness gains — not more. So don’t ditch your sprints, but be sure to add plenty of longer, slower sessions to increase your endurance and keep stress hormone levels in balance.
7. GET SOME SUPPORT.
The glutes, hamstrings and quads are your body’s biggest muscles — and they can take a major pounding during a workout. Ditch the yoga pants and choose a performance legging that gives your hardworking muscles the support they need. Under Armour leggings are engineered to promote optimal blood flow and minimize energy loss through muscle vibration — so you don’t just look good, you perform better.