“e-dubble makes great workout music.” – Keith
Certain weeks, a workout is hard to come by. For me, this was one of those weeks. I felt exhausted from the word go, and it was a busy week. When stress builds up, it’s harder to get good rest, and fatigue can quickly become a constant companion. In order to break that pattern, it’s important to force a workout in, however you can. The workout boosts your energy and mood, mandates better nutrition and hydration, and makes for better rest.
People have asked about my favorite workouts, and I wanted to share some general tips that have helped me a great deal. Taking the mystery out of working out makes it easier to work out – it becomes less intimidating, and more fun. So here are some simple rules toward having a good workout:
1. Just show up
If you can get to the gym, you’re going to have a decent workout more than 90% of the time. Your cares have a tendency to disappear, and the focus and intensity arrive soon after. So find a gym that’s easy to get to. The easiest gym to get to is one that’s in your home, so I highly recommend keeping something heavy at home for those days when going anywhere seems impossible. A small set of dumbbells, a mat, and some exercise bands make a great home gym, for very little money and space.
Public and commercial gyms are great in that they offer a wider range of equipment, and heavier weights. But finding one that’s right can be hard. I find going to a new gym to be very intimidating: I’m anxious about the new environment, and about being judged (“Am I strong enough? Is my worn-out grey t-shirt cutting it here?”). In the end, no one likely cares about my clothes, but I’m always happiest after I’ve acclimated to a gym. The first few visits tend to be very minimal workouts, while I check out the new place, the new people, and the new equipment. But once I’ve settled in, I really start to have fun.
2. Warm up
This acclimation process happens at every workout. I begin each with a warmup of band stretching and mobility work. Warming up does two things for me. First, it physically helps prepare me, triggering muscles without too much effort to prepare them for what’s to come. But more importantly, it’s a mental cue that the workout has begun. Over time, my warmup has developed as a method of tuning out the events of the day – it’s a signal to forget all my other cares. For the next little while, the workout is all that matters.
3. Keep it simple
You’re not going to accomplish all your goals in one workout. Focus on having a good workout that leaves you ready to workout again soon. Consistency is key. Thirty minutes is a good start, and I use that trick to keep the workout simple in my mind. Blocking out thirty minutes in my schedule is generally easy. I generally work out for longer, but if I try to plan for an hour, I have a tendency to keep putting it off. And if I obsess over how many sets and reps I’ll be doing, I can easily turn a simple, fun workout into a scary beast I want to run from. Keep it simple.
4. Have a plan
There are more workout plans than days in a year. Here’s a good overview of many.
My favorite lately has been number 5, the superset routine. With supersets, you do multiple exercises one right after the other, with no rest in between. This increases the density of the workout, and I find that I can get more bang for my buck time-wise with supersets. And I make sure that I have the plan laid out in advance – if I show up to the workout without the plan, I’ll spend too much energy scrambling to plan the workout. The best workouts come when you can shut off the thinking part of your brain and just lift whatever the plan tells you.
Here was today’s workout, three supersets:
Superset 1: Dumbbell rows and dumbbell bench press, 5 sets of 5 reps each, rest after this pair
Superset 2: Dumbbell shoulder presses and cable pulldowns, 5 sets of 7 reps each, rest after this pair
Superset 3: Pushups and dumbbell curls, 5 sets of 10 reps each, rest after this pair
Note that supersets are a great way to make the workout less daunting. Instead of counting up all the reps (in this case, 220), I look at it as only three big exercises. Simple keeps it manageable.
5. Find a balance
What weight should you use for each exercise? And how long should you rest between each exercise? Most programs will offer suggestions here, but for me it’s a question of balance. I want to have an intense workout so that I feel energized afterwards, but I have to keep in mind two important points: I want to work out again in a few days, and I don’t want to get injured. So I’ll start with a weight I think I can manage, and adjust up or down according to how I feel. If I’m having a low-energy day (or week, like this one), I’ll use lighter weights. But to keep the intensity up I may decrease the rest interval. This way, I come out fully energized without destroying my will to workout for an entire week.
6. Cool down
After a workout, you need to account for some time to recover. I started writing this blog post just a few minutes after my workout, and it looked like this: “WORKOUT HARD. LIFTING GOOD. REST OK.” For a few minutes after a workout, you’ll be a bit brain-dead while the endorphins kick in and the fatigue wears off. Doing complicated work like walking up stairs and reading may be impossible. So, this is a good time to shower and to focus on nutrition – right after you work out is a vital time to get some quality recovery nutrition. Protein, amino acids, and nutrients with some simple carbohydrates make a really good recovery drink. I’m a big fan of Surge but I’ll let you do your own research.
Go back and work out again after 2-3 days, and build up some consistency, and you’ll see some very positive results. Making exercise part of your life isn’t easy, but it’s definitely doable. Keep things simple, focus on having fun, and strive for consistency and you’ll be on your way in no time.
This is a very basic introduction to working out. If you have questions, please post them below, I’m happy to answer them.
Categories: Physical Fitness