Fast times, heavier lifts, and looking better naked are what we all want out of gym experience. So how do we achieve this? What supplements are the Pro’s taking? What shoes are they wearing? What program are they doing? While all those things have an effect on on your performance in the gym there are two things that matter most when seeking to improve your performance and health: intensity and lifestyle.
Often times people ask if they should start running more often to support their training, adding in supplemental work, buying the newest gear, etcetera, etcetera…. These are often the same people that are not attacking their workouts with intensity! Going hard when the workout calls for it is pivotal to seeing improvements in both health and performance. Walking 26 miles and running it under 3 hours are very different things, the same thing applies to mixed fitness. Push hard when you’re supposed to push and you won’t need more volume.
How to push harder?
Taking sips of water during your workouts.
- Humans can live for 3 days without water. I’m willing to guess you won’t die during your 10 minute AMRAP without cracking that water bottle.
Using chalk as an excuse to rest.
- How much chalk do you really need on your hands to make that next rep? Focus on pulling and less on how much your grip has fatigued and you’ll blaze through the workout without even noticing!
Counting warm up sets as working sets.
- Unless otherwise noted your working sets start when it gets hard. If you count your first set of 40kg back squats as your working set you’re doing it wrong. Load the bar and don’t be afraid to have to work for it!
Making a game plan before your workout
- How to break, where to break, how long to rest. Having a goals like this will help you start focused on the task as hand and keep you coming back to the bar when you really don’t want to.
Committing the workout memory before getting started.
- If you don’t understand the meaning or rep scheme of a workout, ask questions! Trying to figure it out in the middle of workout with heart rate up and music blaring isn’t helping you to better understand your scaling options!
Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.
- This stuff is hard. And you’ll have to push to truly find your potential and break past your limits. On the upside, it’s gonna feel all that much better when the workout is over!
The caveat to added intensity is being able to recover from your workouts! You’ve heard it all before, sleep, food, stress; these are the 3 biggest factors that will determine whether you can truly recover from your workouts or not. What you do outside the gym has just as much influence on whether you’ll see improvement as how hard you go in the gym. And how hard you can go in the gym is dictated by how well you recover from your workouts. It’s a circle of gains.
So where to start?
Quality of Food: Stop eating processed foods. Simple as that. Make your own food, stuff that comes from the Earth. Local, multiple colors, and food that requires chewing to get down. Protein sources include chicken breast, pork tenderloin, lean cuts of steak. Quality cuts of meat will rarely need much more than salt, pepper, and heat to make them delicious. Add a splash or olive oil, a small handful of nuts and you’re well on your way to a stronger, leaner, healthier you.
Quality Sleep: Sleeping 7-9 hours is optimal for most adults. Sleeping in a dark, cool, and quiet room will help you stay asleep. Keeping cell phones and screens away from your eyes an hour before bed will help you fall to sleep quickly. No better way to improve performance than to sleep more!
Destress: This looks like different things for different people. Introducing a mediation practice, finding time for stretching, or just laying out in the sun without a care in the world. Learn to unplug and unwind. Scrolling through instagram and watching TV might feel like relaxing but they stimulate parts of the brain linked to instant gratification. Find what works for you, get a routine and enjoy those guilty pleasures in moderation!
Only after implementing these strategies successfully and with consistently should you worry about which supplements to buy and what extra work to put in. Good luck and remember, there are no shortcuts to better health and performance, just good ol’ hard work!