With 24/7 gyms popping up all over the place, the health department increasing their emphasis on exercise promotion, everyone trying to get their beach bodies set for summer and the warm weather making any kind of exercise that bit more appealing, more and more people will start hitting up the gym and pounding the pavement.
As everyone begins to emerge from their winter exercise hibernation, we will slowly see the usual suspects start to fill Lifecare clinics:
- The hibernators – Now that you can go for a run without fear of frostbite or getting drenched, there will be plenty of people who will try to resume their exercise routine from the end of last summer after not doing much over the winter and find out the hard way that they aren’t as fit as they were 6 months ago
- The weekend warriors – Sportsmen who finished their winter sport a few months ago, had a great off season, and then start training 3 times a week for pre-season, which inevitably results with them burning out their legs
- The beach bodies – The approaching summer means long days at the beach are just around the corner and the masses will start flocking to gym to regain their beach bodies after a long winter. Unfortunately many will realise that lifting heavy things with poor technique or without a well-planned workout routine is a sure fire way to sustain an injury.
- The revellers – Along with the easily preventable injuries, there will always be the token few after Christmas and New Years who get a little too involved in the holiday fun and end up with a PAFO (pissed and fell over) injury. Such injuries include rolled ankles and sprained wrists from falling down stairs in heels, pulled muscles from unrealistic physical challenges and “mystery injuries” where people are sore in multiple areas but have no idea of what happened.
- The high achievers – This group consists of the few people who maintained good exercise habits over winter and have found that after 6 months of training their performance has plateaued and they are unsure how to reinvigorate themselves and their exercise routine.
Many people (including myself) have fallen into at least one of these categories over the last few years and will know how annoying it is to have injury ruin your summer exercise.
To ensure this doesn’t happen to you this year or you want to maximise the results of the exercise you are currently doing, check out the following simple exercise tips:
Get your preparation right!
1. Set goals
Before you even go near your runners and jump head first through the gym doors, you need to ask yourself a few important questions:
- Why are you doing it? What do you want out of it?
- How is it going to fit into your daily routine?
Once you have an idea about what you want to achieve, you can set some SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) goals so you have something to aim for.
If you know what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it by, you have that extra motivation to push yourself that much harder.
Sleeping is like plugging your phone into the charger: It recharges your body, and gives it time to update and perform repairs on anything that’s damaged.
If you don’t get enough shut eye, your body’s battery will slowly run further and further down until you have nothing left.
It is hugely beneficial for a plethora of reasons including; improving your productivity at work or while studying, maintaining a healthy immune system, ensuring you have enough energy to run as far and train as hard as possible and reducing your risk of sustaining an exercise-related injury.
Each individual’s sleep requirements are different, so someone might only need 6 hours sleep to function properly and the next person might need 10.
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep for you.
If you want to perform well, you need to make sure you have the energy stores in your body to draw on when the going gets tough.
Carbs get a bad rep but they are the primary source of energy for your body and are essential to load up on before a workout.
Protein provides the building blocks for new muscle to form allowing you to become bigger, stronger and faster.
To optimise your muscle’s growth and repair and the overall effectiveness of your workout, you should already have protein in your system prior to exercising to ensure it is readily available once you’re done.
Eating immediately before any type of exercise is not recommended (unless you don’t mind the taste of it coming back up), so make sure you’re eating your last main meal at least a couple of hours before your workout.
If you’re a morning exerciser, have a small breakfast and a snack rather than a full English breakfast!
4. Drink up!
If you’re anything like me and you start sweating even thinking about exercise, let alone 30 minutes into a run, take note!
Sweating is one of your body’s key thermoregulation strategies (stops you from overheating) and without it our body would start to shut down in the middle of an exercise session, which would be pretty inconvenient to say the least.
The harder you work, the more heat energy is produced by your muscles and the more sweat you will produce.
Some of the WAFL players I have worked with previously were losing between 1-2 litres of water per hour during their pre-season games.
To ensure your body can effectively keep your core temperature down and allow you to work out harder for longer, you need to be fully hydrated in the lead up to a session.
Most people will have learnt the hard way that sculling a bottle of water prior to running isn’t such a great idea, so to reach optimal hydration levels you need to up your drinking the day before.
In the hour before a workout you shouldn’t be drinking more than a glass of water otherwise your stomach won’t have time to process it.
As a basic rule, if your urine isn’t clear in the lead up to a big workout, you simply haven’t drunk enough water.
Make the most of your session!
5. Do the right type of warm-up
A proper warm-up before exercise is essential and will improve your muscle’s output and reduce your risk of injury, however if you do the wrong type of stretching the reverse will happen!
Static stretching (holding a stretch for a period of time to improve the length of the muscle) is one of the most common forms of stretching and has been shown to increase the risk of injury and prevent the muscle from working at its peak.
The best type of warm-up is a dynamic warm-up which includes activity-specific exercises (running/jumping/ball handling skills etc) and dynamic stretching (stretching while moving).
6. Do the right type of exercise
By this point you should have set a few goals and know exactly why you are exercising and know what areas you want to improve in.
If you want to bolster your fitness or get bigger and stronger, you need to make sure the type of exercise you are doing is tailored to meet your goals.
The key to any type of exercise is to challenge yourself. After each run you should not be able to take another step.
After each set at the gym you should not be able to crank out another repetition.
If you get to the end of your session and you still have fuel left in the tank why not sprint the last 200m or just keep lifting the weights until you literally can’t do any more.
You’ll have a much greater sense of achievement if your body gives out before your mind does.
7. Take a breather!
In conjunction with your primary exercise days, you need to ensure you are having adequate recovery sessions.
Rest days are an important component to any exercise routine, especially with weight programs, but rest days don’t mean you should just sit on the couch and binge on Netflix.
After a big session at the gym, your muscles will be slightly damaged (the healing of which is what makes them stronger) and they won’t be ready for another solid workout the next day.
Compliment your main sessions with a different type of exercise. If you smash out a big weights session on Monday, why not go for a run on Tuesday and then get back to the gym on Wednesday.
If you’re training for the city to surf, throw in a long ride a couple of days a week.
Don’t feel guilty about having a day where you just go for a casual stroll now and again to give both your body and mind a chance to recharge, because there’s no point in diving head first into an exercise routine and burning yourself out after the first month.
Optimise your recovery!
8. Nutritional recovery
Rehydrate: As mentioned above, your body can lose tremendous amounts of fluid during exercise, especially if you’re working hard on a hot day.
Your body can only hold so much water so even if you drank a heap prior to exercising, chances are you will still be dehydrated once you’ve finished.
It’s not uncommon to keep sweating for a good 30 minutes after a big workout as your body keeps working on getting your core temperature back down.
Sports drinks like Gatorade, Powerade etc. are idea because they replenish the electrolytes and salts lost when you sweat as well as the fluid, but there’s nothing wrong with simply sculling a big bottle of water when you get home and sipping on a water bottle for the rest of the day.
Refuel: Your muscles need an energy source to work and will deplete your stores of carbohydrates, fats and proteins in order to keep pumping.
Once your workout is finished your body uses the same energy stores to repair itself, which means if you’ve used up your energy supply during your exercise and haven’t replenished them, you’re recovery is going to be severely compromised.
Ideally you should re-stock your reserves within half an hour of finishing exercise, so taking a protein shake in the car with you to have on the way home from the gym or having one in the fridge ready for after your run will ensure your body can kick-start its recovery process ASAP.
9. Body recovery
Just because you’ve walked out the doors to the gym or the final siren has sounded and you’ve had your protein shake doesn’t mean you can sit back and relax just yet.
If you’ve gone for a hard run or ride, make sure you take 5-10 minutes walking around to help flush some of the blood and waste products out of your legs and leave you feeling fresher the next day.
If possible get down to the local pool where the compression and cool temperature of the water will make this process more effective. If your muscles are feeling tight add some stretching in as well.
If you play a contact sport like footy or rugby, or even a non-contact sport like netball (which if you’ve played it you know you’re going to cop a couple of elbows), you may end up with some bumps, bruises and/or muscle tweaks which need to be addressed immediately after the game.
The RICE principle is the easiest, simplest and most effective acute management process for most injuries.
10. If in doubt, ask the professionals!
Most of the time if you’ve sustained an injury whilst exercising you will know about it, even if you’re in denial about it.
Pain is your body’s way of telling you to seek help so make sure you listen to it!
A bit of soreness after a big session is normal but if you’re still hobbling around after a couple of days make sure you get yourself seen to.
If your sporting club or gym has a trainer or physio down there have a chat to them or head down to your local physio or GP.
The sooner you get seen to and started on a rehab program the less time you’ll spend out of action, so if in doubt, get checked out!