Knowledge is power—read on for the 10 things you should do before every workout to help further your progress.
If you’ve ever spent a night tossing and turning, it won’t surprise you that a poor night of sleep has been shown to affect focus and memory. So when you don’t get a good night’s sleep, not only will your workout likely be less productive, but you’re also more likely to skip the gym altogether. Conversely, a night of quality sleep can ensure you’re at your best. “Good sleep improves stamina—both mental and physical—stabilizes hormones, improves endurance and speed, and also aids in muscle memory,” said Dr. Rebecca Q. Scott, a sleep specialist at the New York Sleep Institute.
Walking into the gym and then deciding what you’ll do for the day is a lot like walking into a grocery store without a list and then deciding what you might need—there’s a good chance you’ll wind up wasting time and you probably won’t get what you need. It’s a good idea to formulate a plan based on your goals before you head to the gym. Thinking about the plan will help get you in the mindset to work out and it’ll help you save time.
“Many people have no clue as to what to eat and drink before and after a workout,” said Lindsay Langford, a registered dietician at St.Vincent Sports Performance. She said the body doesn’t perform well without fuel, so it’s important to plan pre-workout nutrition and eat right. “Carbohydrates are the main fuel source for workouts, and the ACSM/ADA (American College of Sports Medicine/American Dietetic Association) recommends consuming .45 grams of carbohydrates per each pound an athlete weighs, one hour before working out. [For example] an athlete weighing 175 pounds should consume about 79 grams of carbs. Some ways to get that are from a sports drink (30-50g carbs), bagel with peanut butter (50g), banana and blueberries with a string cheese (55g).”
“You shouldn't be thirsty before starting a workout. Have at least 16 ounces of water in the hour before starting to exercise to stay hydrated throughout your workout,” said Ed Halper, a personal trainer and owner of Mountain Fitness. Although hydration is crucial, drinking too much water isn’t a good plan. “Your stomach shouldn't be bloated from excess liquid intake. It will affect your performance and may cause unwanted bathroom stops.”
“Psychologically, listening to your workout song or playlist will improve your mood and energize you for your workout even when you are tired,” said Eric M. Emig, a certified personal trainer and owner of Evolution Fitness. “Studies have shown that tunes that fall between 120-140 beats per minute (BPM) are best for exercise.”
Your odds of making it to your workout hinge on having the gear you need, when you need it. If you plan to work out in the morning, then you should lay out your clothes, shoes and anything else you’ll need the night before. Working out in the afternoon? Bring your gear to work. “Store workout clothes at the office or the trunk of your car so you are ready to go at all times,” said Bryce Taylor, a competitive volleyball player and physical therapist at Halo Rehab and Fitness.
“Before you get to the meat and potatoes of your workout, it's important that you do a little soft tissue maintenance via foam rolling and other SMR (self-myofascial release) techniques,” said Chris Cooper, an NSCA-certified personal trainer, Precision Nutrition coach and co-owner of Active Movement & Performance. “This can help prevent trigger points from developing. Pick a few body parts like quads, lats, glutes & adductors and work out any wonky parts. Then perform a dynamic warmup that helps with mobility, preps the body for the workout ahead and increases the body's temperature.”
“There are many benefits to a dynamic warm-up, as opposed to a static stretching routine,” said Jeff Richter, a certified strength and conditioning coach and performance specialist at St.Vincent Sports Performance. Some studies suggest that static stretching before a workout could actually limit power and strength. Conversely, “by engaging in a dynamic warm-up routine before a practice, game or competition athletes can increase their core muscular temperature, increase blood flow in muscles and ignite the firing of the nervous system.”