8 Ways to Get the Most out of Your Workouts
Tip #1: Don’t skip the warm-up
The warm-up is there for a reason—not only will it help you start unplugging from your day and focus on the workout at hand, it'll protect you from injury by helping you oil your joints and limber up your muscles. If you want to train safely when it comes time to ramp things up in your workout, warming up is crucial. Don’t forget to incorporate some dynamic movements, too, like leg swings and shoulder rotations, to catch your central nervous system up to speed, too.
Pro tip: making your warm-up habitual will also serve as an important psychological trigger for self-care, which you’re going to need to lean on when you're suffering from a lack of motivation (something that happens to even the fittest of trainers!). In those dark times, remind yourself, “okay, let me just focus on getting through the warm-up, and then we’ll see”. If you play the habit formation game right, nine times out of ten, you’ll crush your workout once you’re ‘in the zone’ from the warm-up.
Tip #2: Listen to your body
You probably already know that your workout performance hinges on a multitude of variables. So before diving into a workout, take stock: Did you sleep well last night? How’s your nutrition been? Are you handling a lot of stress at work or at home? Might you still be run down from yesterday’s workout?
These types of questions help you build awareness of your body, and what it needs, over time. If you’re not feeling a 10 today, you don’t have to train at a 10. Listening to your body like this will leave you in good company—as part of her training, Katie Ledecky (currently the most decorated female swimmer of all time), notes her wellness on a scale of 1 to 10, factoring in things like nutrition and sleep. Her coach credits this practice as a crucial part in her progress from outsider to dominant Olympian.
Life is a balancing act, and knowing when to tweak your energy input and output will enable you to go harder, faster, longer—at the right times.
Tip #3: Don't Forget To Breathe
It's surprisingly common for people to hold their breath when doing intense exercise, so try to stay mindful of your breathing—work with your breath, not against it. We’re not telling you not to get out of breath, we’re telling you to stay on top of it. Maintain a regular, deep breathing pattern throughout each workout session and you’ll find yourself lasting longer and sustaining better focus. Think about timing the rhythm of your breath with the rhythm of your movement, and stick to it.
Apart from ‘automating’ your pacing in a workout based on your breath cycles, it’ll also take less effort to regulate your breathing and calm yourself down in between work sets. You’ll feel more in control of your recovery, instead of a slave to the panting and pounding.
Tip #4: Never compromise on form
Five good reps will always do way more for you than 10 sloppy ones. Besides the obvious benefits of good form (lower injury risk, better muscular activation, posture fortification), staying disciplined about technique is also a great way to train your neuromuscular system. With each rep, you’re literally laying down and reinforcing patterns of activation, governed by your central nervous system.
By demanding good technique from yourself, especially when fatigue is high and you’re trying to squeeze out the last reps of a workout, you're literally training your body to be able to express those good mechanics when a real-world situation demands it. From this view, a good deadlift is about so much more than just the deadlift exercise.
Tip #5: Challenge yourself to learn new skills
Once you feel confident doing the basics of a particular movement pattern with good technique, up the complexity or add resistance. Learning some progressions can help you mix things up during during your workouts—depending on how you feel that day, you can rotate and vary your training levels with each exercise, each set, each workout.
Yes, new skills are fun to do, but they also keep your mindset in a position of improvement, versus ‘maintenance’. When you focus on mastering a new move, the physical benefits (e.g., fat loss, lean muscle) come as a welcome side effect, rather than the sole purpose. It keeps your training interesting, and allows you to expand your movement repertoire so over time you feel more and more ‘literate’ when it comes to using your body for different tasks.
Tip #6: Don't skip the cooldown
We get it—it's tempting to bang out the final rep of your workout and just move on with the rest of your day. However, it's well worth taking a few minutes to steady your breathing and do some stretches to ease the tension in your muscles. It’s important to understand that exercise is a stressor, and we get improvement from recovering from that purposeful dose of stress.
The quicker you can transition from a stressed state to a relaxed state, the better. Consciously slowing your breathing down—deep in through the nose and out through the mouth—will help your heart rate slow down. Combining that with some simple stretches will send the signal to your central nervous system that the hard work is over, and it’s time to switch over to recovery mode.
Tip #7: Pay attention to the other 23.5 hours
If you’re doing high-intensity interval training, especially our particular brand of it, you’re done in half an hour, but the afterburn effect is only just kicking into gear. Your body’s metabolism will go on working long past the workout (for up to 48 hours), burning more calories even when you’re at complete rest. Yes, that's a good thing, but it doesn't mean that a quick half hour session should be the only thing you're doing towards your health each day.
Try to stack up your hard-earned wins, bit by bit: keep hydrated, choose more whole foods over processed, take the stairs when the elevator’s full, go to bed half an hour earlier. Small wins like this will really make a difference in the long run. When better choices prevail, you’ll keep feeling better.
Tip #8: Stay consistent
Sometimes you’ll have amazing workouts when you don’t expect to, and sometimes nothing will feel right. That’s normal—it’s all part of the human experience. It’s a good idea to accept the fact that you’re not going to get great sessions in every single time you train. It’s just part of the process. It’s not really about how much you can do today, but collectively, how much quality training you can accumulate and how many positive habits you can cultivate over the next few months and years. One baby step at a time, starting with consistency.
Not sure where to start? Take the first step by downloading our Ritual FIT app, available for both iOS and Android, which comes with a fresh, full workout daily for a balanced training stimulus, personalised audio cues, a giant movement library, and more.