Whether you're new to working out, or have been doing it for a while, these "rules" will be great in helping you to achieve your goals:
1. Don't compete
- Don't think for one minute that I'm talking about not taking part in competitive sports, because I love those! What I mean is, don't compete with the person next to you in the gym. I'm a ridiculously competitive person; always have been, but I know that if I start trying to be better than someone working out next to me, things are going to go very wrong for me very quickly.
Not only will trying to compare yourself to someone else in the gym possibly leave you feeling discouraged if you realise that they are able to lift heavier weights than you, or run for longer; but it could also lead to injury as you won't be focusing on what you are doing. Your workout needs your full attention to ensure that you are maintaining good form and doing the exercises to the best of your ability.
So what if the person next to you can squat more than you! The only person you need to compete with is yourself. Use that competitive streak to push yourself to improve your strength and stamina, but in your own time...not in a rush to be better than someone else. Just be the best version of you that you can possibly be.
2. Always warm up and cool down
Stretching is essential if you want to protect your muscles and minimize the risk of injury. It also helps with flexibility and circulation, so always ensure that your muscles are warm before working out, and remember to stretch them out post-workout.
3. Eat a snack post-workout
It's a common misconception that you shouldn't eat anything after a workout...why ruin that hard work, right? Wrong. I don't mean that you should treat yourself to a slice of cake though (unfortunately); the best thing to eat after a workout is something high in protein, and fairly high in carbohydrates. This will help your muscles to repair and strengthen, and replenish your body after your workout
Ideally try to eat with 15 minutes of working out, if possible. A great suggestion is a protein shake with a banana.
4. Stay hydrated
I've written various articles about why hydration is so important in general, but it's also essential to keep hydrated during a workout. Hydration affects your body's energy levels and, without adequate water, your workout will be affected, as your body won't be able to function as well as it can when fully hydrated. It also regulates your body temperature and heart rate. Because of perspiration, you lose a huge amount of water during a workout, so it's important to drink plenty of water before and after exercising...and obviously keep topping up during the workout too.
5. Don't assume you can pick up where you left off
If you take a break from exercising, when you get back into it, it's important to remember that you won't be able to simply start where you left off. This is because your body won't have been used to exercising for a certain amount of time, and it's likely you will struggle with the workouts you managed to do before. This is because it obviously took you time to build up to where you were before, so it's going to take you time to get there again.
Be patient, and don't get disheartened. You will get there again.
6. Don't skip rest days
If you workout too much then it can actually take longer for you to see results. When you lift weights you are making tiny tears in your muscles (don't worry - it's ok), and when you rest, your body repairs the muscle and rebuilds it stronger than before, so rest days are vital. Missing rest days can actually make you more prone to injury too, because, if you aren't giving your muscles the adequate amount of time to recover, then they are prone to injury.
7. Don't forget abs are made in the kitchen
Many people start working out, and work really hard, but don't see results; why? Because they haven't changed their diet. Working out regularly will only produce results if you also follow a clean, healthy lifestyle. It's no good spending hours in the gym if you then eat junk when you get home; all you will be doing is eating more calories than you burned during your workout.
It's unlikely that you will ever see results if you don't clean up your diet alongside your workouts, so don't forget that you need to clean up your diet.
8. Change your workout regularly
- To see the best results, you need to switch up your workout routine regularly because, when you do the same thing repeatedly your body starts to become more efficient at doing it, meaning that, although you may struggle initially, your body will begin to adjust to it, making it harder for you to burn the fat. By regularly changing your workouts you will keep it fresh, and your body won't know what's coming so won't be able to adapt to it, meaning you will see results.
There's no suggested amount of time after which you should change your workouts; it's simply when you start to feel like your routine is getting too easy for you, then it's time to change it.