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The More The Better? 7 Wise Ways To Workout That Help You Make Progress

The More The Better? 7 Wise Ways To Workout That Help You Make Progress

Ever felt that your motivation to exercise and workout is directly proportional to the progress you make? The motivation soars until the day you realize you’re not getting any better. Most of us exercise to live a healthy life, and workouts need to fit into the time available through the day. Doing more to break through the plateau is not an option most of us can afford. So how does one make effective progress efficiently?

1. Stick to the program

Sohee Lee, NSCA Certified Trainer, advises against changing your workout schedule too much. This is common practice among people who aren’t seeing immediate gains from their workouts. Consistency is the key for making progress. You must trust the chosen program and follow it diligently for at least 4-6 weeks before deciding if any changes need to be made. It doesn’t have to be the latest and greatest fitness magazine program.

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2. Increase the frequency

If you can only spare a couple of days a week to workout, you’re unlikely to see progress. Working out a couple of days is a great starting point. But this isn’t nearly enough for the changes to last. Shawn Arent, Professor at Arizona State University, advises that depending on your physical fitness level, the number of workout days needs to be increased to 4-5 days a week. However, this also doesn’t mean not doing anything on other days. You must strive to be active on those days too. It doesn’t have to be a high intensity cardio or a run, just a walk should suffice.

3. Add productive exercises

The biggest bang for the buck exercises are compound or multi-joint movements. These movements recruit more muscle fibers and thus burn more calories. These exercises are also great for building overall strength and body balance. Some of the best compound exercises are bench-press, squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, and military press. According to Wayne Lambert, author of “maximize your fitness potential” the effort required to perform these exercises also helps you get a cardio workout at the same time.

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4. Warm up

Not warming up before an exercise routine is inviting trouble in the form of injuries. A systematic review of over 32 studies revealed that warming up (excluding stretching) is known to improve exercise performance (1). A warm-up only needs to engage the muscles involved in the day’s exercise routine for about 5-10 minutes.

5. Progression training

Your muscles grow when stimulated through resistance training. However, your muscles also adapt to stimulation. Doing the same number of repetitions and sets at a comfortable resistance isn’t going to do much for you. You must strive to increase the workout intensity in the form of higher repetitions, higher resistance, or reduction in rest time between sets. This is called progression training. The number of maximum repetitions performed per set will depend on your goals. Researchers from American College of Sports Medicine suggest increasing the resistance by up to 10% when training for a specific number of maximum repetitions. However, performing the exercise with proper form trumps added load anyday.

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6. Perform high intensity cardio

High intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a more efficient cardiovascular exercise solution than low-moderate intensity high volume cardio exercise. HIIT is characterized by short bursts of all-out effort or sprints followed by slightly longer periods of recovery, e.g., a 20 second running sprint followed by a 1 minute light jog. Interval training is proven to boost athletic performance by increasing the size and number of mitochondria (2), the energy production components of a cell. Higher density of mitochondria results in greater levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy molecule in cells. This means more energy is available to the working muscles. A 20 minute HIIT cardio session is likely to result in better results than a 45 minute steady state cardio session.

7. Track your workout

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” -Peter Drucker

For you to know what isn’t working for you, it is important to track your workouts. Whether it’s using an app or just a good old notebook. Tracking your exercise schedule will give you vital clues as to what changes need to be made to the program when progress halts. Track resistance/weight, workout duration, number of sets and repetitions, type of exercise, rest time, and mood. You can then gauge which variables to tweak to put you back on the path to progress.

References

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  1. Fradkin AJ1, Zazryn TR, Smoliga JM 2010 Effects of warming-up on physical performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis, Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24 (1):140-8.
  2. Gibala, M. 2009. Molecular responses to high-intensity interval exercise. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 34 (3), 428-32.

Featured photo credit: Skinny Guy Goes 2 Gym via skinnyguygoes2gym.com

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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