10 Tricks to Get More From Your Workouts

Tips to help you exercise more efficiently and save hours each week

Man stretching before workout
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You run every day and are even hitting the gym every day after work. You feel that you're pushing hard and following all the right advice, so why haven't you been seeing the changes you want in your physique?

The good news is that you may only need to add a few key elements before, during and after your workouts to get the most out of each and every workout.

10 Tricks for Getting More from Your Workouts

From changing up your workout routine to watching what goes in your mouth, below are 10 ways you can get more out of the workouts you've already been doing.

1. Keep Your Hard Efforts Short and Infrequent

Whether you are doing high-intensity anaerobic interval workouts or weight lifting workouts, keep these hard efforts short and infrequent. This means 30-45 minute workouts no more than 3 times each week. Also, be sure to take at least a day of rest between these harder efforts. For the average athlete who is trying to improve or maintain a fitness level, this simple barbell workout routine is often enough to hit the sweet spot between time put into an exercise program and the benefits derived from your time.

Yes, you can work harder, and longer, but the return on your investment may not be worth the time spent. If you are a professional athlete or working to your absolute maximum ability, this advice probably won't apply to you. But if you are the typical athlete, who still has other daily responsibilities, this routine makes perfect sense.

2. Get More Slow Movement Each Day

The bulk of the real hard exercise training (the workouts that build fitness) will happen during the short, high-intensity efforts mentioned above. So, the rest of the time you will simply want to move around more at a relaxed pace.

Whether you build more walking into your days, do yard work, go dancing, bike for your errands or simply get up from you desk every hour to do a few office exercises, this sort of frequent movement goes a long way to keep you limber, healthy and well-balanced.

Look for ways you can build more movement into your daily routine. This doesn't have to be hard, sweaty effort, just moving. It's great for the cardiovascular system, the joints, weight management and even your posture.

3. Improve Your Diet

If you eat a well-balanced diet that consists mainly of vegetables and high-quality fats and proteins, you probably won't need special 'energy foods.' So exercising, and in particular running, as a weight loss or weight maintenance strategy is generally ineffective in the long run. As Professor Tim Noakes said during this interview, "if you’re running to regulate your weight, your diet is wrong. You can not regulate your weight with running." So, instead, clean up your diet to maintain a healthy body weight and use exercise to improve your fitness level.

4. Time Your Eating

Eat a well-balanced meal about two hours before you exercise and you won't have to worry about stomach cramps and aches, running out of energy or having to find a pre-workout snack.

If you keep your hard and focused exercise sessions under 45 minutes, you will have plenty of energy stored up just by eating normally—no special energy bars or protein powders required.

Be sure to drink a bit of water before and during your workouts to keep thirst at bay and to replenish the fluid lost. Don't worry about drinking copious amounts of water either, just drink enough to quench your thirst.

5. Vary Your Exercise Type

Over time you will adjust to the workouts you are doing. So in order to continue to build fitness, you'll have to mix it up. It doesn't have to be drastic, but adding some new weight lifting exercises or a different high intensity workout venue (stairs, hills, intervals, treadmill, bike, bootcamp workouts) are an easy way to add some variety of movement. Each different type of workout will target slightly different muscles and energy systems, and will help you avoid overuse injuries while keeping your heart and muscle strong.

Even doing two different types of hard workouts each week can help. For example, you could do a full body weight workout on Monday, a sprint workout on Thursday and go to a bootcamp class on Saturday. All fine ways to keep your workouts interesting and a bit varied. In between these sessions, you'll keep your easy movement going strong with walks, hiking, and some stretching or yoga. 

6. Get High-Quality Sleep

What is high-quality sleep? It's sleeping soundly, deeply, and for an extended period of time, usually 6-8 hours. If you are regularly waking during the night, or lying in bed for hours before falling asleep or waking early each morning and feeling tired upon waking, there is a good chance you aren't getting quality sleep. How can you ensure your sleep is helping and not hurting you? 

There are many opinions on how to get better sleep, but some of the research, and my own experiments have to do with retuning with nature—that is getting out in nature if you can. And if you can't, get rid of the evening devices (bright screens and noise and outside light) and cut out alcohol and caffeine for about a week, and set your waking and sleeping times with the natural cycle of the sun.

Yes, you will be going to bed so much earlier (and probably waking earlier as well), and it may seem impossible to do this in our busy, electronic laden lives, but try it for one week and see if you find your natural circadian rhythms taking over and getting better, and more sleep. Other advice holds as well, so you can give this list a review, but the one-week back-to-nature reset method is my personal favorite.

7. Cut Out Alcohol

Alcohol is a huge drain on your workouts. Not only does it add calories with no nutrition, it can make you sluggish and foggy during exercise and interrupt your sleep. If you are trying to get into the best level of fitness, alcohol is one of the first things you should consider cutting from your routine. And if you don't want to cut it out entirely, then cut back.

One drink may not noticeably reduce your workout performance or overall fitness levels, but avoid overdoing it and avoid daily drinking if you want to improve your workout effectiveness.

8. Work on Your Mental Fitness

Many athletes work their bodies endlessly and never give their mental fitness much attention. Mental fitness included learning and practicing techniques that help athletes perform well under pressure, to understand how to stay relaxed during competition and how to gracefully recover after failures and setbacks.

Keeping a positive mindset is far more important than many athletes realize, so taking a bit of time to learn the basics of mindfulness, visualization and breathing exercises can be worth the investment.

9. Do a Little Yoga

Yoga isn't just a fad, it's effective. Learning and practicing the most basic yoga poses can help an athlete balance out muscle tightness or imbalances while improving breathing, posture and range of motion. And nearly all forms of yoga will improve balance and proprioception, which can help improve agility. All great skills for any athlete.

10. Keep Exercise Fun

Yeah, it sounds easy, but many adults have a really hard time having fun while exercising. If you find your workouts are drudgery, then look around for something a bit more fun for you. 

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