Sunday, October 30, 2011

Make progress at the gym (and at home).

Ah, Sunday. I don't know about you, but this day is typically reserved for week-ahead prep at our house. From the grocery shopping (which I actually did yesterday) to the laundry (almost done) to planning for clients and picking up random clutter that's about the house—we get shi...stuff done in an effort to make some progress on the week ahead. First up, breakfast (because I can't start my day without food).

Apple and Egg Oatmeal. Yep, there's an egg in there. Sometimes I eat my oats and, while they fill me up, they don't keep me filled. So when I know I'm not going to get lunch at my regularly scheduled time, I like to throw in an egg for some additional stomach-fillin' protein. (Another example: Banana and Egg Oatmeal.) Not only does it work, it makes the oats light and fluffy. To these particularly oats, I also added a small, shredded Golden Delicious apple and a half teaspoon each of cinnamon and ground flaxseed. Because you can't have apples and cinnamon without raisins, I threw some of those in, too. So good. Seriously...try the egg trick.

And then go to the gym. Sundays are great days for light workouts. A little walking. Some stretching. Despite all that you need to get done, a little YOU time is good time. And while you're there, perhaps mindlessly walking on the treadmill or pedaling on the stationary bike, you can contemplate more intense workouts which you'll scatter throughout your week. This, of course, is what helps you make progress at the gym.

 1) Take notes. Keep track of what you do in a notebook or by using an application on your phone. Having this history in front of you keeps you aware of where you were and where you are now. To see exactly how much you've been lifting, or how much cardio you've been clocking, reminds you of your end goals. If things aren't changing, you aren't progressing. You can then adjust as needed—and you don't have to waste time trying to remember exactly how much more you should be adding to the weight stack. Or to the clock on the treadmill.

2) Change it up. If you walk into the gym and commence the same routine every single time, you aren't progressing. You're just teaching your muscles to perform certain exercises, which might work for you for a while, but will eventually lead to boredom. For you and for your muscles. But don't feel like you have to perform a completely different workout each and every time you set foot in the gym. Small tweaks go a long way. For example, try using the cable machine for chest flyes instead of your go-to dumbbells. Do squats instead of leg presses, or vice versa.

3) Don't overdo it. Remember, you don't have to work every single muscle every single day. And it really is true that crunches are best done in smaller increments. It's not time spent at the gym that matters, it's the efficiency at which you build and perform your workouts that counts the most.

4) Use the buddy system. If simply getting to the gym is a problem, or if you have no clue what to do...find someone to work out with. Sometimes, two minds work better than one. And let's face it, it's way more fun. Not only can you catch up on the latest this or that, but you can hold each other accountable for making progress and developing the change you seek.

5) Plan ahead. Use your notebook. Reference magazines and books. You wouldn't go into a speech unprepared, now would you? So save time at the gym and walk into it with a plan so you know exactly what needs to be done. And by exactly, I mean knowing the exercises, the weights, the time...know it all to get it all done in a timely fashion. Because if you have to guess, you might not always guess right, which means you might not pick the challenge you currently need.

6) Support your efforts with a great diet. Don't even try to work out on an empty stomach. Prep yourself with some healthy carbs before and after your workouts to give your muscles exactly what they need to progress. And make sure that post-workout snack has some protein in it, too. No, you don't need protein powder.

7) Eliminate distractions. Sure, some of us can concentrate on the cardio equipment with a magazine in front of us, but if you really need to get down and dirty with the weight loss, with the mileage, with the speed...put it away. Focus on the treadmill itself, as boring as that sounds. Focus on your body, and how it responds to that treadmill. Same goes for people. If the buddy system works for you, great! But if you find yourself at the gym at a time when there's just too many people you want to talk to, or that want to talk to you, switch up your schedule if at all possible. Or crank the music. And don't be afraid to say "Hey! I'd love to chat, but I'm on a time limit today. I'll call you, for sure."

8) Have fun. Embrace the experience. If you can't do that, then your body won't either.

Remember that last one. In my opinion, it's the most important one.

And on that note, it's gym time.

Then I have to come back and finish the laundry, prep for my class, carve pumpkins, etc...etc. If you look at the tips above, oddly enough, they can be translated to everyday life, too.

1) Take notes. Make a to-do list and stick to it.
2) Change it up. Shop at a different grocery store, reorganize that drawer to make it more efficient.
3) Don't overdo it. You don't have to get everything done in one day.
4) Use the buddy system. Shop with a friend. Make your kids help.
5) Plan ahead. Anticipating things to come often makes them more doable when the time comes.
6) Support your efforts with a great diet. Where do you think your energy comes from?
7) Eliminate distractions. Turn off the computer, put the phone down, or shut the TV off.
8) Have fun. Yeah, gettin' stuff done can be fun—if you make it fun.

Question: What's your make-progress trick?

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