HOW TO OPTIMISE YOUR TRAINING RESULTS
6 TRICKS TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR TRAINING
FAILSAFE RESULTS IN A NUTSHELL:
The Holy Trinity of training is pitching it hard and heavy (resistance), intense and quick (cardio) and then maximizing the recovery with rest and great nutrition.
Winning the trifecta may be the target but don’t expect to score every time. We are human after all and, by that token, gloriously messy, imperfect, wilful and often somewhat twisted (side serve of self-sabotage anyone?). The point is, this doesn’t matter one jot. What does however, is the intention behind your efforts followed up by its soon to be best mate, consistency. Maximising your efforts is going to mean a smidge of trial & error to find what works for you now & then actioning it.
We as humans are meant to be fat-burners (clean fuel), yet the majority of folk are stuck in an energy sapping carb cycle (petrol). Carbohydrates are not the enemy; we require them for energy, however, carb load should be proportionate to the intensity of the session, ie, if your exercise session is going to be an endurance one such as a run, bike ride etc you want to work towards doing it fasted. This means not having eaten for several hours or overnight prior to the session. If you are fat adapted you should be able to train for 1-2 hours on water alone. The previous meal should contain a balance of protein, fat & carbs.
If the session is to be a highly intense one, such as HIIT or heavy resistance training you could try adding a small, easily digestible snack containing fats & carbs beforehand such as a banana dunked in nut butter. The fat will slow down the release of glucose from the carbs sustaining you better during the workout. Carbs provide the muscles with glycogen for those spurts of highly intense effort.
Be specific about what all this hard work is for. Building strength is not the same as hypertrophy (muscle growth) just as increasing endurance requires a different approach to developing power or speed. Fat loss? A whole other beast. This is not to say there won’t be some overlap – tailoring your training & getting royally stuck in can lead to multiple benefits both physical & mental however, choose what to put your energy into & then you can tweak as you progress.
If you have either a) been doing the same routine for longer than 6 weeks &/or b) are not seeing the results you want, mix it up! The body is super smart & adapts quickly so try stepping away, adopting a different approach safe in the knowledge you can always return. This serves to force your body to adapt to new stimuli & prevent boredom & with it, less than optimal effort creeping in.
We tend to gravitate to what we are good at. My observation is that what we actually need is quite the opposite; the exercises we find tricky & awkward are the ones our body requires to improve &, in mastering them we wire new synapses in our brain keeping it healthy.
Get dooooown! The downtime between training sessions is when the magic happens in the body and the re-building occurs in the muscles. Put simply, exercise, and especially intense resistance exercise, applies stress to the muscles.
The body repairs the damaged fibres by fusing them, which enables them to grow bigger and stronger.
Good nutrition and rest are the two key items to focus on post training.
If you train three to four times a week at a medium intensity then the timing of your food post exercise is less important. Simply eat a balanced meal when suits.
If you train 5, 6, 9, 10 etc times a week or for extended periods then this part is key in order to fire up and hit the next session hard. Take your rest seriously by maximizing your sleep and including recovery sessions in your training where the intensity is light. Periodise your training so that you have lighter weeks after 4 or 5 intense ones again to give your body (muscles, ligaments, joints, tendons, adrenals, yes, everything…..) a chance to repair, rest and avoid over-training issues.
Get friendly with a foam roller. Those who are already acquainted will know it isn’t an easy relationship – the love just seems so hard to come by and yet, stick with it, keep rolling those knotty spots and your body will thank you even if your mind is still yelling “Noooooooooo!”.
Consider adding epsom salts to your evening bath to help relax the muscles, draw out toxins & aid recovery. Epsom salts are basically pure magnesium, a known muscle relaxant & can therefore be a useful tool to support your post training recovery.
5. POST TRAINING
This is arguably your most important meal of the day particularly if you train a) hard and b) often. Here is where you need to include some starchy carbs to replenish your muscle’s glycogen stores particularly if the session has been hard & intense. You have a window of opportunity here – aim to consume a balanced meal of protein, non-starchy carbs, good fats & starchy carbs ideally within a couple of hours of training. You don’t need to rush as the body’s energy will initially be focused on getting oxygen to the working muscles. However, by consuming a great, well-balanced meal within the one to two hour window you give your body the best chance to recover ready to train optimally again at your next session.
POST TRAINING MEAL
Ideally eaten within 1-2 hours of training.
Note the order of macronutrients above – protein is the building block of muscle & as such, vital for recovery. How much is optimal? General guidelines provide a baseline but most folk are not eating enough so aim for 1.2 – 1.6g/kg/day to hit the target. Try including the protein of your choice the size & thickness of your palm (≅ 30g) with each meal but especially your post training one.
What does 30g of protein look like?
1 bowl of cooked beans
1 chook boob
6. TRACKING PROGRESS
Have a purpose to your training, both an overall direction in which you are heading but also a point to the workout in front of you. This helps get you through the gut-busting 3rd, 4th, 7th set….mile……hill.
A training diary can be a powerful motivator. It helps keep you accountable but also, allows you to reflect back on your progress & celebrate just how much you have achieved. I see this all too often ignored as people race towards an often intangible goal.
Photos can be a powerful tool to assess your progress if your goal is weight loss or hypertrophy. Much better than looking in the mirror where we tend to pre-judge what we see: “Hot damn, I feel 80 today so definitely look 104!”. How your clothes fit is as significant as the number between your toes, however, I would pay close attention to the noise between your ears & how you feel. It pays to remind yourself why you started this journey & relish the seemingly small wins along the way.
Wearable technology provides all manner of data such as resting heart rate, sleep quality, miles covered, hills climbed & calories burned and most people seem to have one strapped to their wrist. I do too, however, may I suggest a modicum of caution in ruling your life by the clipboard of figures. Learning to check in with yourself & monitor how you feel physically, mentally, emotionally & spiritually should provide you with all the information you need to take the next step. Learn to LISTEN!
Finally, appreciate that the human body is a complex system that is in a constant stage of exquisite recalibration. It will tell you all that you need to know: when to push & when to pull back. Trust yourself.
GET STUCK IN!