Would you pay attention if I regurgitated all the reasons to stay true to your workout commitment in the coming year? Probably not. So I won’t. Instead, I will offer you some tips to make your fitness year go easier by helping you prepare for as well as recover from workouts, even though I simply know you will want to hurl 4-letter words at me from time to time.
Stay hydrated and have a bit of protein before and after each workout. It's important to drink water before, during, and after exercise. Water regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints. It also helps transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy. As for protein, make sure you ingest at least 20 grams before you see me or workout on your own and 20 more within an hour afterward to help your body recover.
Get plenty of sleep. Did you know that getting fewer than 7 hours of sleep per night can both reduce and undo the benefits of dieting? In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, dieters were put on different sleep schedules. When their bodies received adequate rest, 50% of the weight they lost was from fat. However when they cut back on sleep, the amount of fat loss was only 25% —even though they were on the same diet. Sleep-deprived subject also reported feeling significantly hungrier, were less satisfied after meals, and lacked energy to exercise. When your body is sleep deprived, it suffers from “metabolic grogginess,” also referred to as “sleep debt.”
DO SOMETHING between workouts. I know. You savor those days between your workouts, but by not doing anything between your gym visits you are actually setting yourself back. Even if it’s a morning stretch, a short walk, 50 minutes of yoga or roughhousing with your kids, any form of exertion is better than none. Don’t consider your weekends or between-workout days as “off” days; consider them semi-rest days. Why? Because they serve a vital role in building anti-fragile body capable of leaping tall buildings with a single bound. A good rule of thumb is to schedule something every day at the same time you normally train.
Consider every morsel of food as medicine. Practice mindful eating, even if you are around friends and family. Your food regimen is 80% of the fitness equation even before the first push-up of the week. People understand more than ever how difficult it is to get and stay healthy, but you may still need to offer a convincing narrative when you are over someone’s house for a football game and everyone around you is drinking beer and eating nachos. “My trainer will kill me if I stray off my eating regimen” (you are welcome to use me as the bad guy at all times). Or make that pre-emptive phone call. “I can imagine all the great food you are going to serve, but I hope you don’t mind that I bring my own snacks today.”
When you are sore, exercise those sore muscles a bit. I know it sounds a bit absurd, but the best way to soothe sore muscles is to use them. Remember how, when you were a kid, you hated it when you bumped your knee and cried, but it didn’t stop your mom from rubbing the hell out of the place that got bumped? You thought it would make it worse to touch the injured area, but after she stopped, it actually hurt less. Think of this the same way.
If you can fit it into your budget, a sports massage is one good way to reduce the effects of muscle soreness. I know a number of massage therapists who offer economic packages geared to shorter but more frequent visits to their treatment tables. Massage moves the fluid and blood around in your body, which can help heal the micro-trauma your muscles are suffering from. Other ways to alleviate soreness include foam rolling, contrast showers (alternating between hot and cold water), Epsom salt baths, increased protein intake (to increase protein synthesis), omega-3 supplementation (to reduce inflammation) and, as I mentioned earlier -- sleep.
As we enter a new year, we also enter a new chapter in your fitness journey. While New Year’s resolutions are only a start and you will no doubt see more diet ads on TV than any other time of year, it’s best to take this journey one day, one week, one month, and even one workout at a time. I am here to help, so feel free to use me as your shrink in 2017 – whether it’s for food regimens, advice on how to up your game, or just as a sympathetic/empathetic ear.
In the end, it’s all about adding days to your life. But it's also about adding life to those days.