The first key to success in the gym is consistency. You have to come consistently to get results. If you aren't getting the results then the first thing you need to look at is how often you are coming. If your gym tracks your attendance then have them check how often you have been coming. Most people overestimate how often the train. If you aren't averaging at least 4 days a week in the gym then you need to bump up your consistency. If you ARE averaging 4 days a week and still aren't happy with your results, then you need to look at other areas. I'm going to talk about 5 ways that you can maximize your results in the gym. If you want to speed up your progress, break through a plateau, or just make sure that you are getting as fit as you possibly can, then take a look at these 5 areas.
I put sleep first because if you aren't getting proper sleep then no matter what else you do you will not make much progress. Sleep is when our bodies recover. When we are working out we are tearing our muscles down. They repair themselves and come back stronger outside of our workout. Much of this happens when we are sleeping. There are many other bad things that happen when we are sleep deprived but suffice it to say that you need to get enough sleep. Every person is different with how much sleep they need but a good goal to start with is 8 hours. Many people think that they can get by on less but they are really walking around in a chronically sleep deprived state. If you are one of those who gets less than 8 hours every night, try cuttting a few things out (Neflix, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) for a week and get at least 8 hours and see how you feel. You will be amazed at how much better you feel, how much more you recover, and how much better your body operates. If you are a competitive athlete then you need to be getting more than 8. Mat Fraser, Rich Froning, Katrin Davidsdottir, and Brooke Wells all get at least 10 hours of sleep at night, if not more. So do many others. If you truly want to optimize your performance then the more sleep the better. If getting that much sleep isn't an option for you then try to take naps. They are a great way to supplement your nightly sleep and can provide a ton of benefits as well. If you aren't getting the results you want then the first place you need to look is sleep.
If you have your sleep in check then the next place you should look is your diet. Diet is one of the biggest ways that people sabotage their results. I have talked about diet in depth before but if you aren't getting the results you want then you need to look at your diet. Are you tracking your food consistently? If you aren't then you don't' really know what you are putting in your body. Food recall is notoriously bad for most people. If you are tracking then are you at a calorie surplus or a deficit? Most people are eating more calories than they realize. Are you getting enough protein? Not getting enough protein is one of the main problems that we see with people's diets. Are you eating high quality foods or are you eating a lot of junk? If you are eating out 4 days a week then you could probably eat higher quality foods. Do you know what you need to be eating? If you are completely lost on this topic then you need to find someone to help you. Do you know what you need to be doing but can’t execute? Find someone to hold you accountable who you don't want to disappoint. Getting your diet in check will help you perform better, hit your body composition goals, feel better, be healthier, along with many other benefits. If you want to optimize your time in the gym then take a good long look at your diet.
Recovery can be one of the most underutilized tools out there. You can only make progress from work that you can recover from. If you are constantly working out and never resting then your body will never recover. You will constantly be broken down. One common problem I see with people, especially highly motivated people, is that they are constantly doing more. They want to add extra work onto an already very high work load. If you add work to a program then you are no longer following that program. A well put together program takes each piece into account. If you add more work, you are taking away from the INTENSITY that you need hit each part with. If you can't hit each piece hard then you are not getting as much out of your sessions as you can. So how do we maximize our recovery? The first two steps are to get enough sleep and get your diet on point. You also need to be resting. I recommend that everyone take at least one day a week completely off. You also need to find a good program and follow it. Resist the urge to add extra work to it. You will only be taking away from the work that you do. Remember that we only make progress from work that we recover from. Other ways you can help recovery are to add in trips to the sauna, massage, contrast baths, stretching, light bloodflow work, breath work, and others. If you have your sleep and diet in check, are taking your proper rest days, and aren't training yourself into the ground and want to improve recovery then start adding some of these tools. Above all listen to your body. If you are never excited about training and are always dragging into the gym then it might be time to take an extra rest day or to lower your work load. Paying more attention to your recovery can take your results to the next level.
4. Stress Management
One way that often gets overlooked in people's health and fitness is stress. Our bodies perceive all stress the same, whether it is stress in the gym, stress at home, stress at work, or stress in any other way. If you are constantly stressed out about work then it is going to be hard to optimize your fitness in the gym. That is just more stress that our bodies have to recover from. If you are always stressed out then find ways to lower your stress outside the gym. Think about the things that are stressing you out. Will they matter in one year? In one month? In one week? If they don't then stop worrying about them. Stop getting worked up when someone cuts you off in traffic. Stop complaining about long lines at the store. Stop taking everything personally. If you can't control it then there is no point in stressing about it. Focus on what you control and let everything else go. This is easier said than done but can be achieved over time if you work at it. One good way to help with stress is to stop and take some deep breaths. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed then take 10 deep breaths. It is amazing what some focused breathing can do to your cortisol levels. If you are constantly high strung then focus on reducing your stress levels. Lowering your stress levels could be just what you need to take your training to the next level.
It's not what you do, it's how you do it. You can have the greatest program in the world but if you don't follow it with intention then you won't get much out of it. If you skip over the details then you will never make the progress that you could. If you are always focused on the negatives, defining yourself by your place on the board in the daily workout, or looking for every possible short cut then you will never make much progress. Stop focusing on the daily results and play the long game. Commit to the process and realize that if you put in quality work every single day then you will eventually get to where you want to be. Adopt a growth mindset and ditch the fixed mindset. Enjoy the journey. You are not your results in a workout. They don't define you. If you play the long game then you will fall in love with the process and you will get much farther than if you treat every day like game day. That is a recipe for burnout and plateau. If every day you walk in the gym is a competition then you need to take a good hard look at yourself and your mindset. Changing your mindset can be the last piece of the puzzle to take you where you want to be in your health and fitness.
If you want to optimize your fitness results then take a look at these 5 areas of your life. Start at 1 and work your way to 5. Be honest with yourself on each category. If you can't take an honest look at yourself then ask someone who knows you well how you rank in each category. A good coach should be able to let you know what you need to work on. If you can attack each of these categories like you do your workouts in the gym then the sky is the limit with your health and fitness. Remember that if you aren't where you want to be then there is only person to blame-yourself. Take an honest look at your life and see what needs to improve. Your future self will thank you.