3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Workout and Avoiding Injury
Copyright 2012 - Kris Heeter, Ph.D.
Planning ahead before working out can make a world of difference in how you feel during your workout and afterwards.
Whether you're running, walking, playing basketball, swimming, biking or taking an aerobics class, here are a couple of important tips that you can easily implement to get the most out of your workout.
1. Choose the right shoes
Out of all the things you may buy for your favorite exercise activity, it's the shoes that make the biggest difference.
Forget the expensive workout clothes. Looking good at the gym or when you hit the pavement may help you mentally feel good, but physically it won't do much for you. However, your choice of shoes will make a huge difference.
The pair of shoes you choose needs to fit the sport. Fitness shoes are designed differently and vary greatly.
For example, running shoes are designed to give you maximum support for the forward motion in running. They have very little support for walking or lateral movements (e.g., movements done in aerobics classes).
Walking shoes typically have a flatter, wide base towards the heel for more support and stability.
Aerobic shoes (sometimes called "studio" shoes) are designed for a wide range of both forward and lateral movements.
Wearing the wrong type of shoes during your workout can lead to ankle, knee or foot problems, which, down the line, can become serious.
In addition to wearing the right type of shoes, it is important not to wear them past the "prime" of their life. The rule of thumb is: use your fitness shoes only for your workout and after 100 hours of use, retire them and get a new pair. After 100 hours, the support in the shoes starts to break down.
Signs that you need a new pair of workout shoes may include:
- Low back pain
- Knee pain
- Ankle pain
- Sore arches
When you retire you shoes, consider donating them to a good cause rather than ditching them in the trash. Many homeless shelters will take shoes or they can be donated to a place like Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
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2. Hydrate before and after your workout
It's important to hydrate your muscles well in advance before working out. Drinking 8-16 ounces of plain water about an hour before your workout will leave you well hydrated and give you something to sweat out.
I personally find that starting my workout without being well hydrated leaves me feeling sluggish and it makes the workout feel even harder! Why make it harder?
Lack of hydration can also leave one more prone to muscle soreness and muscle damage. If you feel thirsty at any point during your workout, that's a sign that you are already dehydrated!
After exercising, down another 8-16 ounces of water to replace the fluids you lost.
A word of caution: sport drinks and energy drinks are really not the way to go. Most of those are full of sugars, caffeine and/or chemical additives that, in the long run, can be unhealthy.
If you are well hydrated and "fueled" up (see the next section) before you workout, there is no need for an energy drink!
3. Fuel up
Making sure you are adequately "fueled up" before working out will help you get the most out of your workout.
Eating a small healthy and nutritious snack about an hour before will give you energy and will keep your blood sugar from bottoming out.
Healthy snack and foods to consider trying:
Before a morning workout:
- Small bowl of oatmeal
- Yogurt with low fat granola
- Toast with peanut or almond butter
Before an afternoon or evening workout:
- Apple with peanut butter
- Celery and peanut butter
- Small box of raisins
- Small handful of almonds
Small, healthy snacks like these will help your blood sugar stay even and give you a little boost of energy!
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What is your favorite type of exercise?
While I personally don't really like to exercise, I found that I needed to start exercising after a serious car accident 25 years ago. I had to learn how to walk again and I knew that if I wanted to have any sort of quality to my life, I was going to have to exercise on a regular basis.
As someone who hated to exercise, it took me awhile to find something that I liked and something that I could stick with. For me, it's been Jazzercise classes (dance aerobics). I've been taking and teaching Jazzercise for over 18 years now and I realize that it has literally saved my life - it's given me a chance to live normally and enjoy life.
If you are someone that is currently not exercising but knows that you need to do something - the first step is to find something you like. If you end up doing something you don't like, odds are you will not stick with it long term!