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Maximizing Your Workout: How to Get the Most from Each Session

Committing to an exercise and fitness routine is a great addition to your life. Now that you’ve taken that step, you likely want to make sure you’re making the most of your time. Fitting in a workout into a busy schedule can be challenging -- so you want to make the most of every minute.

Alternatively, maybe you’ve been on a consistent workout routine for awhile, but aren’t seeing the results you want. Or you’ve hit a plateau and want to reach new goals. Mixing up your routine to maximize your workout could help you reach new goals.

Every individual is going to be different, but there are some common things everyone can do to maximize their workouts.

Maximize Your Workout

Start a Log.  If you don’t know what you’re doing, how can you know what to change? Start keeping a log of each workout and make it detailed. How much weight were you able to lift? How fast were you able to run a mile? Finding out where you stand will help you decide where you need to work to improve. It will also help you gauge if your improving and if you might need to shift.

Do compound and full body exercises. There are some schools of thought that encourage doing isolation exercises that focus on one muscle or muscle group. That strategy can be good for certain goals, but if you are looking to maximize your workout -- exercises that utilize multiple muscle groups are more effective. Compound workouts include exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, deadlifts, and burpees.

Try HIIT. High intensity interval training, or HIIT, has been increasing in popularity due to a growing body of research that highlights its effectiveness. Studies have shown HIIT to be more effective in growing muscles mass and burning fat than endurance training. What that means is you could burn more fat doing 15 minute workouts than spending an hour running on a treadmill. Not only can you do a 15 minute interval workout on your lunch break -- but it also doesn’t require any equipment. With HIIT, you can work in a super effective workout anywhere and anytime. That 15 minute HIIT workout will keep working for you long after you’re done too. It’s been shown that an HIIT workout simulates human growth hormone (HGH) -- the muscle building hormone -- production in the body by 450% during the 24 hours after the workout.

Add weight. Cardio exercises often get credited with helping burn fat -- and it’s true -- but strength training may help more in the long term. By adding weights into your exercise routine, you’ll build muscle. Muscle burns more calories while at rest -- meaning you’re burning more calories any time your just sitting in front of your computer or on the couch. Building muscle through weight training goes well beyond the time spent in the workout -- making it a great way to maximize your workout.

Go for intensity, not length. The harder your body is working -- the more calories you are burning. Unless you are training for an endurance event -- like a marathon or Ironman -- experts say working out longer than an hour isn’t helpful. Working out for too long could lead to exhaustion or overuse injuries -- which will set you back either further. Instead, aim for shorter periods of high intensity training (like HIIT) that challenge you.

Engage the Core. The core -- the group of muscles in the middle of the body responsible for balance and stability -- are involved in nearly every movement you make throughout the day. To improve your overall level of fitness, make sure to include core work in every workout. You’ll get the most fitness and lifestyle benefits from a strong core that prevents injury and falls. The tight, flat stomach will be a confidence-boosting bonus of core work. Extra-extra bonus -- tight, strong core muscles could encourage you to eat less because they allow less room for the stomach to expand easily.

Join a class. Sometimes you need outside motivation to push yourself harder. An hour spent on your own at the gym -- and you might slack in certain areas. During a class, you have an instructor -- and other classmates -- that is encouraging you to push yourself. The instructor has already put in the time and has the knowledge to maximize the time -- so let them do the hard work of planning and you can just show up. This can be great motivation to make the most out of your time in the gym -- and have a bit more fun!

Change the scenery. Anything you can do to introduce new elements to your workout will keep your body guessing -- and help you avoid plateaus. Alternate between indoor and outdoor workouts to keep your mind and body guessing and it could help burn some extra calories. Plus, you’re less likely to get bored if your workouts are constantly changing.

Properly recover. Without proper recovery, the gains you made during your workout may not be fully realized. Schedule in time to rest between intense workouts and take a day off to rest occasionally. Resting gives your body time to repair and grow muscles that are stressed during a workout. Give yourself an extra boost and utilize tools like compression products during your rest time. Compression will aid circulation and help you recover in the best way possible. Immediately after each workout, make sure you do some stretching -- it will improve flexibility and aid in better muscle recovery.

Now that you have some ideas about maximizing your workouts and proper recovery, get ready to reach those goals!

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