Maximize Your Time And Results

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January is a wonderful month for renewing your commitment to fitness.  Many people, from beginners to advanced athletes, set goals for themselves.  Wether your goal is to add more stretching to your established workout program or to just hit the gym more often, there are some small habits you can incorporate into your routine to help maximize your time and results. 


PUT DOWN THE SCREEN

No matter what your fitness goals are, tucking your phone away for your workout is going to benefit your life and your workout greatly.  It’s too easy to scroll Facebook or check your email if your phone is handy.  Too often, a quick internet search can become a 5 minute rest.  Keeping your phone out of sight will ensure that your mind stays in the game.  You’ll be able to move more quickly through your workout, keeping your heart rate up and your workout challenging.  

You’ll also minimize your time in the gym, enabling you to accomplish other tasks and goals that may be on your mind.  This can greatly reduce your stress if time management is an obstacle for you.  Instead of looking at your phone between sets or on the treadmill, visualize what you want to accomplish right after the gym.  This process will help you seamlessly move into another task instead of possibly slowing down and hitting the couch, thus helping you check things off your TO DO list.

In addition, taking screen-free time is good for your body.  According to psycologytoday.com, neuroimaging research shows excessive screen time damages the brain.  “Internet addition is associated with structural and functional changes in brain regions involving emotional processing, executive attention, decision making, and cognitive control.” (2014, Dunckley M.D., Victoria L.).  The easiest way to get results during your workout is get out from behind a screen and enjoy the moment.  Your brain will thank you.


TIME YOURSELF

If results is what you are after, then adding a timer to your workout can be a fun, fasted-paced challenge.  If you only have a limited amount of time to devote to your fitness, timed circuits or “As many rounds as possible” (AMRAP) are two fun workouts that rely on a timer.  For example, if you only have 20 minutes you can pick 5 exercises and perform each one for 1 minute each, for 4 rounds.  This circuit method helps keep you focused and challenged.  AMRAP also picks a set amount of exercises, but instead of performing each exercise for a timed period, you perform a set amount of reps.  For example, you can pick 10 reps of 10 exercises.  Move through all the exercises, then repeat routine.  See how many rounds you can get though as your timer counts down from 20 minutes.


SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

When I say set yourself up for success, I literally mean set yourself up - write out your workout before you hit the gym and, then, set up your station.  Collect and set up all the equipment you are going to use before you start working out.  (This process is especially important if you are going to use a timer). 

If you don’t feel confident writing your own workout, you can find printable PDFs in the VIP Membership Section.   Follow my STF workouts if you feel like knowledge or time are factors holding you back.  

In addition, if waiting on machines or searching for equipment are your obstacles, you may want to limit the amount of equipment you are using.  A busy gym, especially in January, can often slow down a workout.  While I’m always thrilled to see active people in the gym, especially new people!, I understand that it also does come with limitations.  A “single equipment workout” can help if you feel like most of your time is spent waiting for machines.  For example, you can do a full body workout on the Smith Machine, or you can use the Lat Pulldown machine for 5 different exercises in a row.  

Again, think about what you want to accomplish and write down your workout before you hit the gym.  If you are using the same piece of equipment, however, be sure to let people work in.  You can simply add some jumping jacks while you are waiting.  


PACK YOUR BAG

Another habit that can help you maximize your time and results is packing your gym bag with your own equipment.  In the past, I would get frustrated if I had to search the gym for a small piece of equipment.  The process of looking around a (sometimes HUGE) gym can add 5 minutes onto a workout.  That is too long to be resting when you’re in Beast Mode.  A simple solution is to buy your own stuff and carry it in your gym bag.  My gym bag often has an ankle cuff, loop bands, mat, and squat bar pad.  I just found it too annoying to hunt for these things.  Once I started carrying my own items, my workouts went more smoothly. 


WHAT NOT TO DO

If you are feeling stretched for time, there are a few things you should never do!

SKIP WARMING UP

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, EVER SKIP A WARM UP.  Warming up is the single most important thing you can do to reduce injuries and manage pain.  Warming up for 5-10 minutes, possibly more if you are working out in a cold environment, will “enhance the ability of collagen and elastin components within the musculotendinous unit to deform and the ability of the Golgi Tendon Organs (GTO) to reflexively relax through autogenic inhibition.” (Bryant, 2012). This allows the muscles, tendons, and ligaments more elasticity when moving through stressful movements, such as resistance and agility training.  

During your warm up, I advise giving special attention to your rotator cuff, hamstrings, lower back, and core.  After 5 minutes of light cardio, a gentle yoga flow series incorporating Downward Dog will target all key areas.  If you want more ideas on how to maximize your warm up, check out the STF Full-Body Treadmill Warm Up. 

SKIP STRETCHING

Cooling down after accomplishing a tough workout may often seem like an afterthought.  Once the hard work is finished I know it’s easy for the mind to think about the next chore on the TO DO list.  Nevertheless, stretching is equally important as all the other components of fitness.  Stretching and cooling down promote “the removal of muscular waste products by the blood, reduces muscular soreness, and allows the cardiovascular system to adjust to lowered demand.” (Bryant, 2012)

Stretching also helps maintain a healthy frame and kinetic chain.  As you resistance train, muscles lose their elasticity.  This process can pull joints out of alignment and cause chronic joint pain.  Stretching helps maintain proper joint health by keeping joints in line.  In addition, tight muscles are more at risk of strains and tears.  Stretching minimizes the risk of injury by maintaining a healthy range of motion (ROM).  Furthermore, losses in flexibility can result in a reduction of movement efficiency and place individuals at risk for low-back pain.  

Holding a stretch for 30-60 seconds is a great way to safely maintain your flexibility.  Check out the STF Final Stretch in the STF Library!

SKIP YOUR WORKOUT ENTIRELY

We’ve all experienced waking up with good intentions, only to have the day fly by us with minimal productivity.  Even if the day gets aways from you, don’t ever think skipping a workout entirely is a good idea.  Especially if you are just starting out, getting into a routine is the most important part of habit change.   Even 10 minutes of movement is better than no minutes!  So get off your couch and get moving!


Bryant, Cedric X., et al. (2012).  ACE Essentials of Exercise Science for Fitness Professions. San Diego, CA: American Council on Exercise.


Dunckley M.D., Victoria L., (2014). Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mental-wealth/201402/gray-matters-too-much-screen-time-damages-the-brainFebruary 27, 2014.