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Get active and fit

10 easy steps to make the most of your exercise routine

Ready to take your workout to the next level? Then know that what you do before – and after – your exercise regimen can greatly impact your “sweat success.” These easy-to-follow tips will help you get maximum benefit from your workout, regardless of what that may be.

Use the “Take action!” column to write down how you plan on incorporating these steps into your own routine. Use our “Take action! tip” column to get some ideas.

Just remember… It’s always a good idea to speak to your healthcare professional before starting any new exercise program.

Pre-workout prep

Step

Why it’s important

How to do it

Take action!

Take action! tip

1. Schedule it

Scheduling a workout guarantees that you’ll carve out the time needed to stay in shape.

Write it down in your calendar the same way you would a doctor’s appointment.

 

Tip: Set your digital calendar to prompt you an hour before your scheduled workout to give yourself plenty of time.

2. Plan it

Having a plan ensures that you won’t waste time hemming and hawing when you should be hoisting and huffing.

While you’re scheduling your workout, include the activity. For example, cardio (walking on treadmill 30 minutes) plus abs (crunches, three sets on ab machine).

 

Tip: Don’t be afraid to schedule five minutes for something you’ve never tried before – like that recumbent stationary bicycle nobody seems to use. You may love it!

3. Play it

Feeling blah? Music is a great motivator – especially a song or two that really push you into action.

Once you’ve played your get-up-and-go “playlist” and are raring to go, recall your personal reasons for exercising, whether it’s to lose those few extra pounds or lower your LDL-cholesterol.

 

 

Tip: Create a different “playlist” for different workouts. Listening to heavy metal before a yoga class may not put you in the right mood.

4. Fuel it

It’s never wise to work out on an empty stomach.

The perfect pre-workout meal should be consumed 30 to 60 minutes beforehand and consist of complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat pasta or a piece of fruit.

 

 

Tip: Dedicate a space in your fridge or kitchen cupboard for preworkout food items.

5. Warm it up

It’s important to prepare your body for a workout by allowing your heart rate and respiration to increase slowly.

Before you charge into your workout full-speed ahead, warm up gradually for about 10 minutes with a slow walk or light cardio, for example.

 

 

Tip: If you’re headed to the gym, walk or ride your bike instead of taking the car.

Post-workout planning

Step

Why it’s important

How to do it

Take action!

Take action! tip

6. Rev down

Cooling down after a workout is just as important as warming up. Stopping an activity abruptly can cause cramps, soreness and other problems.

To help your heart rate return to its resting rate, give yourself at least five minutes to move around until you stop sweating and your skin is cool to the touch.

 

Tip: If you work out at home, take this time to check your mailbox or make your bed.

7. Stretch out

Once you’ve cooled off, stretch the muscles you’ve used during your workout to help relax the body, reduce muscle soreness and promote flexibility.

Without bouncing or holding your breath, hold the stretch for 10 to 20 seconds and then repeat it one to five times.

 

Tip: Roam your local book or video store for information on muscle- or sports-specific stretches.

8. Refuel

Eating after exercise helps your muscles recover and replaces their glycogen stores.

Wait at least 15 to 60 minutes to eat and do eat a meal that contains both protein and carbohydrates within two hours of your exercise session if possible. A tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread, for example, is an ideal post-workout snack.

 

Tip: Keep a stash of healthy snacks (like unsalted mixed nuts) in your gym bag for those days when you’re on the go and won’t be home for hours.

9. Replenish

Even if you don’t feel thirsty, water is essential for replenishing your fluid levels.

To stay hydrated, experts recommend that you drink another two to three cups of water within two hours after you have finished exercising.

 

Tip: Invest in a post-workout water bottle that’s filled and ready to drink when you hit the change room – or your fridge.

10. Revel in it!

Whether you jogged 10 km through the pouring rain or dedicated 10 minutes to practising yoga poses, you deserve a moment of self-congratulation.

Whether you take a minute to smile and give yourself a mental high-five or buy yourself a small reward like a new headband or shoelaces, know that you’ve done your body some good!

 

Tip: Think big! If you’ve stuck to your routine for a month or so, reward yourself with a massage.

Make the most of your exercise routine
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