cardio-workoutsGetting the most out of your workouts means more than just showing up to the gym or taking a walk around the block. If not done right, you could literally work out for months without anything to show for it. Here’s a guide to getting the very most from every part of every workout.

Before Your Workout

First, decide if you are a morning, lunchtime, or afternoon/evening workout person. Once you set a schedule, treat it as a longstanding, important appointment like you would with anybody else.

Don’t eat heavy meals before working out; you want your blood to be available for your muscles, heart, and lungs – not your stomach! Also, make sure you drink a couple of cups of water or a sports drink before exercising. Dehydration, even mild, can make exercise harder.

During Your Workout

Be present in your workout! In other words, no cell phones, no magazines, no books while you exercise. Why? Because climbing onto a piece of exercise equipment and spending an hour on it while reading a magazine and never breaking a sweat is one of the least efficient ways to burn calories and get into shape. Focus on repetitive intervals of training hard and then recovering. Breathe deeply – that’s what stokes the body to burn calories – and concentrate on correct form and using as many groups of muscles as you can.

Mix up your exercise routine if possible. If you find yourself getting bored with your activities, chances are your body has grown comfortable, too, and is not burning as many calories as you’d like it to. Challenge yourself with a new piece of exercise equipment, an exercise outside of your normal comfort zone (fencing, anyone?) or sign up for your first 5k. The idea is to keep yourself interested in, well, yourself! Many people also keep themselves motivated by exercising towards a specific goal, like running for a charitable organization or cause.

After Your Workout

Always cool down and stretch after every workout. This gives your body a chance to power down certain systems and get rid of cellular waste from exercising. It’s also the perfect time to improve your flexibility since everything has been warmed up, so to speak. Rehydrate to help your body recover and, if hungry, eat some protein along with some carbs so your body can repair and refuel efficiently.

If you follow these tips, you can rest assured that you will be getting most you can out of each and every workout.

Additional Resources:

Fix your cardio workouts by Women’s Health Magazine

Cardio workout guide by Fitness Magazine