If you have days where working out is not working out, don’t worry. According to the exercise pros, these simple tweaks not only help move the needle on the dreaded motivation slump, but improve your at-home workouts in the process:
Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods
If you’re participating in a high-intensity workout, it’s best to keep things light, says Julia Brown, founding trainer and general manager of DOGPOUND L.A. “But, you might want to go with carbs if you’re solely doing heavy lifting,”
Personal trainer Katie Jo Zayon agrees. “I shoot a little beet juice to get some natural sugar in my system, but I generally prefer to work out on a ‘no solids’ empty stomach,” she notes, adding that this practice can actually help your body burn more calories at a faster pace.
If you like to have a quick bite before you hit the gym, Brown recommends rice cakes with peanut butter and sliced bananas on top or mix overnight oats with protein powder, almond milk, peanut butter and berries.
It’s also important to take the eating easy once you’re done exercising, says yoga and fitness instructor Tara Bradley Connell, who likes to ease into her post-workout meal by having a smoothie or protein drink. “It will help replenish your electrolytes and make you feel satisfied without weighing you down with a heavy meal.”
Nothing is better than a huge glass of ice water after a sweat session, but Bradley notes that hydrating with room-temperature water is actually better for recovery. “It is easier on the body, helps with digestion, and will make you feel more balanced before and after your workout.”
Drinking water throughout the day is another way to increase performance. “It is recommended to drink between half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh, every day,” Brown says. “The key is to make sure you’re hydrated before and during your workout, so drinking 15 ounces an hour or so before a workout, and then continuing to sip while you’re working out, is best.”
Stretch It Out
Stretches pre- and post-workout are key, Bradley says, and they don’t have to be overly complicated: “Neck rolls help release tense muscles, open up the body and wake up sleepy joints. Start with your chin to your chest and then gently bring your right ear to your right shoulder, then tilt the chin upwards to extend the stretch. Bring your chin back to your chest and repeat on the other side.”
She’s also a fan of the ultimate full-body stretch: child’s pose. “With your hips wide and toes touching, sit back on your heels and gently walk your hands forward, resting your forehead on the ground. If your hips feel tight, place a towel or blanket under your sitting bones to allow you to relax into the pose. Walk your fingers forward and feel your shoulders relax, and your spine elongate.”
It’s no secret that setting yourself up for workout success is first understanding when you will be at your best—and most motivated. “If you work twelve to fourteen hour days and you will find this as an excuse to flake on yourself, you should probably knock it out in the morning,” Zayon recommends. Bradley also prefer morning workout sessions for their ability to “wake up the body and rejuvenate the mind for the rest of the day.”
If you prefer to work out at night without feeling that end-of-the-day drag, keep chugging. However, Brown says that exercising or lifting at night can make some people have a restless sleep.
Find Your Drive
“Running and high-intensity interval sprints are ideal for a quick calorie burn,” says Brown. Her most recommended workout for weight loss? Resistance training three-to-four times a week, as well as cardio two-to-three times a week.
But, Bradley says, never force yourself to do workouts that you’re not enjoying in order to lose weight. “The trick to staying on your workout path is to keep it interesting and, most importantly, fun! If you powered through a blood-pumping HIIT workout session on Monday, try a relaxing walk on Tuesday evening after dinner. Then on Wednesday, you’ll be excited to jump back into a cardio-packed workout.”
“As long as you move at least 20 minutes every day, even if it’s dancing around your kitchen, then you’re doing you and your body a favor.”
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