Training 1 to 2 hour(s) a day, 5 times a week, gives you a lot of time in the gym. Sometimes, that alone is enough to reach your fitness and wellness goals. Many people, however, continue to struggle to accomplish the goals they’ve set out for themselves; whether that is your first ring muscle-up, stringing together butterfly pull-ups, hitting a #405 back squat, or PR’ing on Fran by 30 seconds. When you look at the big picture, the average time you spend in the gym (box) only makes up about 3-6% of your total week. That leaves you plenty of “extra” time to be either up to no good, or practicing good habits that will in turn contribute towards reaching those goals you work so hard for. Let’s start…
1. Stretching – Taking the time and making the habit of stretching on a daily basis will aid you infinitely in this sport. Not only will it improve your range of motion (which we all need), but it also promotes muscle recovery, decreased soreness, and to some extent can decrease your risk of injury just by increasing blood flow supply and nutrients to your muscles. Adding to that, stretching consistently (especially as you get older) helps to maintain flexibility and can help to prevent atherosclerosis. Elite weightlifters stretch daily, you should too.
2. Drinking water – Yes, we all do it, obviously. But chances are you probably aren’t getting quite enough of it considering your level of physical activity. Waiting until you are at the box to start drinking water (especially in summer) is not the way to do it. By that time, you’re probably already in the hole. Did you know that as little as a 2% reduction in body weight due to dehydration will significantly hamper your performance? Not drinking enough water will thicken your blood which means your heart works harder and you’ll fatigue more quickly. That doesn’t exactly allow for an intense training session. Make sure you are drinking up throughout your day and keep a water bottle handy with you wherever you go. A good benchmark for ounces you should be taking in is your body weight X 0.75.
3. Making Sleep A Priority – If you are not able to sleep as much as your body needs, you are not going to reap the benefits of exercise you deserve. Plain and simple. A lot of us underestimate the importance of a good-night’s sleep. Not sleeping enough will decrease your energy and can have an impact on your hormone levels, slowing down the rate at which you recover from workouts and increasing the risk of injury. Both are extremely counterproductive towards reaching any of your goals. Make it a priority to get to bed a little earlier, and try to limit blue light (artificial lights emitted from your phones, computers, TVs etc) just before bed. Cut down the amount of time you spend scrolling through Instagram at night and hit the sack a little earlier tonight. Your body will thank you for it.
4. Finding The Passion In It – Staying motivated is sometimes the most challenging thing, especially when progress stagnates. Making the habit of staying motivated and defining your passion will prove to be critical to your success. If you can find something to train for, something that is tangible such as a men’s basketball league or competing in the RX division for your next competition, you will find a renewed vigor in your training to keep you pushing on. Having poorly constructed goals like "trying to fit in that wedding dress in 4 weeks" or "I want a six-pack for this pool party next month" will most likely, eventually, result in gaining the weight back and being in a worse place than when you started. We’re talking about making habits that result in lasting changes after all. Find the passion in it, and make it a habit of always having one.
5. Learning As Much As You Can – Does your local community college have a class for personal trainers? Or perhaps a general health & nutrition class for nursing? If so, try and organize your busy schedule to allow yourself the leisure time to seek further education. You would be surprised at what you can learn and apply to your health and fitness. Those who are most likely to succeed and achieve their goals make huge efforts to learn everything they can to help them get to where they want to be. In CrossFit, it may be learning everything there is to know about the technique and mechanics for weightlifting. Lifting with bad form will decommission you quickly, so make the habit of learning as much as you can. Don’t sabotage your duteous efforts.