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When it comes to your fitness routine, the time you spend sweating it out in the gym tends to get all the credit—but it shouldn’t.

Victoria Calderone

Victoria at Fire Island

When it comes to your fitness routine, the time you spend sweating it out in the gym tends to get all the credit—but it shouldn’t.

Whether you lift, take a class, or run, an hour is only four percent of your day, and you can’t make that more important than the 23 other hours you’re not exercising. Things like good nutrition and quality sleep matter too, and smart pre- and post-workout rituals can ensure you’re recovering properly, fueling your efforts, and crushing it in every single workout. Here are the seven things that should definitely be a part of your fitness routine if you want to maximize your results.

Before your workout:

1. Get enough zzz’s.

The most imperative thing in any fitness program starts the minute your head hits the pillow—that’s where all the magic happens. Being well-rested not only energizes you through every burpee or sprint, but it also keeps your hunger hormones in check so you’re not undoing your efforts in the gym by overeating the rest of the day.

While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Children and teens need even more.
If you can’t do seven, at least try for six and a half hours, and minimize cell phone use before bed, so the light doesn’t keep you awake. A good sleep is also super important after a workout, too—that’s when muscles really get to recover.

2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

You already know that drinking your H20 is crucial to overall health, but it plays an especially important role in a fitness routine—when you’re sweating it out, you need to make sure your body is properly hydrated since you’re losing water. Plus being hydrated will make sure your energy levels are where they need to be.

Just look at the parallels between oil in a car and water in a body—a car can’t run without oil, and a body can’t run without water. You should be sipping it before, during, and after a workout.
Although exact water needs vary from person to person, aim for half of your bodyweight in ounces per day. (So, if you weigh 150 pounds, try to get in 75 ounces). If your urine is dark, it probably means you’re not hydrated enough.

3. Grab a small snack.

If you’re really not feeling like a pre-workout snack, there’s no need to force food down ahead of time, but don’t ignore your body if you feel like you need some fuel. If there’s no food in, there’s no energy out. A piece of Ezekiel toast with a bit of almond butter to get you going can do the trick. The sweet spot? You shouldn’t feel like you’re starving, but you shouldn’t feel full either.

4. Work in a dynamic warm-up.

Skipping your warm-up is a definite no-no—even if your workout is only 10 minutes long. The warm-up is meant to give your body the opportunity to raise your body temperature, increase your range of motion, and prepare yourself for what you’re about to do. It also helps decrease your chance of injury when you ease into your workout, rather than jumping straight from a resting state to the hard work.

Increasing your range of motion can help you make the most of your workout because you’ll be able to recruit more muscles during an exercise (for example, getting deeper into a squat means putting more muscles to work). This is done through a dynamic warm up, which essentially means moving through stretches that aren’t held in place.

After your workout:

5. Stretch it out.

A cool-down brings your body back to a resting position—the way you walked into the gym is the way you want to leave. To increase your range of motion, decrease soreness, and help expedite your recovery process, you need to implement isometric stretching. This is the opposite of the stretches you do in a warm-up—after a workout, you should hold your stretches for at least 15 seconds each. And because muscles are best stretched when they’re warm, you definitely don’t want to go straight from your workout to a seated position, like at a desk or in a car.

6. Refuel with post-workout nutrition.

A pre-workout snack is more optional than a post-workout one—giving your body the fuel it needs to recover after a tough sweat is essential. There’s something called the anabolic window, which lasts about 30 to 45 minutes after the workout. During this time, your body looks for carbohydrates and protein to help replenish glycogen stores and rebuild muscle, respectively. So getting your body the nutrition it needs to recover in a timely manner is important. Plus not eating after a workout can leave you feeling ravenous later on—and, chances are, you’re not going to reach for a salad. To make it easy on yourself, pack a post-workout snack. Or pre-order a protein shake at the Skylite Café and pick it up as you’re heading out.

7. Take a cool shower.

Taking a cool shower helps decrease the inflammation after a workout and expedites the healing process. By decreasing inflammation, you decrease your chances of soreness. That’s what athletes do, and it’s how they’re able to perform day-in and day-out because they’re focused on recovery. You don’t have to jump in an ice bath like the pros, but you should turn the shower temperature down lower than you usually do. This makes it less likely that soreness will get in the way of your workout the next day.

By making sure your body’s been warmed up, worked out, and cooled down properly, you can maximize the results you’re working towards. Cheesy as it may sound, fitness really is a lifestyle and one that doesn’t begin and end with your actual workout.

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About the Author

Victoria Calderone

Victoria Calderone

Victoria Calderone is a Certified Personal Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor at Fitness Incentive.

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