It’s time to take your tired old fitness routine and throw it out of the window! Our bodies adapt to any training routine that has been followed for longer than 6 to 8 weeks, so over time your improvements slow down and reach a plateau. Our fitness expert Caroline Pearce shares her top tips on how to re-FRESH your workout for fun, fast and lasting results.
1 Adopt single leg exercises – even if you recognise the benefits of free weights over machine weights for greater stability and body awareness, you’ll probably still have both feet firmly fixed on the floor. So recognise that single leg exercises such as, single leg dead-lifts, Bulgarian split squats (where the back foot is positioned on a step or bench) and walking lunges, for example, ensure greater isolation of your muscles and reduce imbalances, compared to double leg exercises, such as squats and dead-lifts. Incorporate them into your workout now.
2 Start super-setting – this method of training is super-time efficient. Performing two exercises for opposing body parts (for example, quads and hamstrings and biceps and triceps) right after each other with little or no rest between. You don’t waste time waiting for one muscle group to recover before you perform a second set. Do 3 super-sets of each pairing, aim for 10 to 12 reps of each exercise.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
3 Take part in exercise classes – it’s widely recognised that people are more likely to keep working out and reach their goals if they’re not alone. Group training is fun and motivating. Find a class you enjoy, book your place and treat it like any other appointment, such as the dentist or hairdressers, so that it’s not an option to miss. My favourites are vibration training classes, boxing classes and yoga for when I need a little relaxation – see our new class review on page 108.
4 Alternate between ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ workouts – if you want to increase the number of days you workout without burning out, then why not adopt my method of alternating each heavy workout with a lighter one. One day could be a high intensity circuit workout (see my workout in our Dec issue) and the next could you be an easy form of yoga or some light cardio training. This is great for keeping motivation high and makes sure you’re raring to go for each heavy session.
5 Understand your circadian rhythms – it’s thought that circadian rhythms (a complex network of body clocks, or timekeepers, that control everything from our hormone fluctuations to sleeping patterns) can have a powerful influence on our workouts. For instance, our body temperature is at its lowest before we wake up in the morning, this makes early mornings the optimum time of day for moderately paced activities like jogging, as you’re not likely to overheat.
By contrast, the ideal time to hit the weights room or do a high intensity session is later in the afternoon/early evening, when body temperature and muscle strength are at their optimum. Circadian rhythms are a complex phenomenon, but understanding them just a little could maximise your training results.
6 Think and train like an athlete – you may not be a 2012 hopeful but adopting the mentality and practices of an athlete will give you a no nonsense approach to exercise and meeting your goals. 1) Treat training like a task at work, something on your ‘to do’ list that must be carried out by the end of the day. 2) When selecting exercises, think about function.
For example, how will this exercise or routine improve my tennis at the weekend, help me climb the stairs or kick a ball around with the kids? One simple example would be multidirectional lunges for stability and joint protection in tennis. If you can see that your gym efforts are improving the energy and performance of your sport/life’s activities then you’ll be motivated to continue. Athletes see direct results from their training and so can you.
7 Find home workout solutions – if time is tight or you can’t physically get to the gym then don’t despair. There are many ways to get fit in your own home – for example, use the stairs for step ups, split jumps, cardio stair climbs and triceps dips to. Efficient home workouts should be based on circuit training – all exercises can be done in a small space in a short amount of time.
Work for 30 seconds and take 30 seconds’ recovery. Perform the circuit as many times as you can in 20 minutes. If you really want to isolate one body part then simply perform an abdominal, arm or leg circuit only.
8 Keep a training diary – log your workouts after each session to help future planning and progression. I also record the time of day of the session and how I felt before, during and after it. I may also note down what else I’ve done that day that may have been stressful or exhausting – this may explain a slightly under-par workout. A training diary will help track your progress and better understand what other factors may improve or jeopardise your efforts.
“log your workouts after each session to help future planning and progression”
9 Follow a solid post-exercise routine for a better workout tomorrow – a few healthy postworkout habits will get your muscles recovering quickly and make your next gym session more productive.
1 Cool down by moving at a low intensity for about 10 minutes after your workout to bring your heart rate down and flush out the lactate/lactic acid (these are chemicals, that although present in your body at all times are elevated by exercise) from your muscles.
2 Stretch slowly to help relieve any muscle soreness and stiffness.
3 Re-hydrate by increasing your fluid intake post-workout.
4 Refuel with a snack rich in proteins and with a high glycaemic index to replace blood sugar levels instantly. Try a protein shake with a banana.”
10 Fish oils for faster recovery – Omega-3 fats are important in the anti-inflammatory process. When you strength train, you break down muscle protein. It’s when you are not training that this protein regenerates and muscles grow stronger. Part of that process uses inflammation to initiate the rebuilding phase.
However, sometimes this inflammation is excessive and it creates more damage and soreness than required, which can inhibit your training. Omega-3 fats help reduce the inflammation and allow you to recovery better and therefore maximise training gains.
11 Row your boat – working out on a stationary rower, or ergo, is a great way to build all over strength and fitness. It works all major muscle groups in the body. Keep your stroke rate low (around 22 to 26 strokes per minute) and ensure you master optimum row technique (see advice if necessary).
Try the following workout: , 5 min. steady warm up at even pace. , 5 x 500m row at a faster stroke rate with increased drive (the ‘push’ effort with the legs). I aim to complete each effort under 2min – so challenge me. Take 60sec’ recovery between efforts. Build up to 10 efforts. , 5min cool down (as per warm up).
12 Reward yourself – giving yourself small rewards as you begin to reach your goals will motivate you each step of the way. But beware not to use food treats as a reward as these may jeopardise your good efforts! Instead, book a massage or buy yourself a new pair of jeans or even some new workout clothing to make you feel great strutting your new body on the gym floor!
Weighted side plank with dip
Fix a side plank position with a kettlebell or dumbbell held overhead. Then dip your hips towards the floor and bring the weight down to tap the floor before lifting it back overhead you drive your hips back up. This is a great exercise for core strength and control. Perform continuously for 10 to 20 repetitions each side. Build up to 3 sets.