#1 Start With a Good Night Sleep the Night Before
A good workout really starts the night before you hit the gym. Make sure you are getting to bed at a decent hour and getting those 7-9 golden hours of sleep. Poor sleep can negatively affect your workouts as well as how many calories you burn and how quickly you bounce back after an intense workout session. (1)
So, make sleep a priority as this is the very first thing you can do to really get serious about exercising and seeing those results.
#2 Pencil Gym Days into Your Schedule
Getting back to the gym takes motivation and commitment, especially after a break. So, pencil gym days into your schedule, making them a non-negotiable. When you have your schedule organized and specific times set aside to go to the gym, you’ll be much more likely to follow through.
#3 Fuel Your Body Before Hitting the Weights
Now that you’ve had a solid night's sleep, let’s talk about nutrition — we need to nourish our bodies properly in order to optimize our gym sessions. So, fuel up on healthy complex carbs before heading to the gym. They will serve as your body’s primary energy source during workouts, so you want to make sure you are giving your body the fuel it needs to power through your weight training.
Make a bowl of oatmeal with some berries and hemp seeds or snack on some avocado toast before hitting those weights.
Oh, and don’t forget to hydrate! Some people go to the gym already dehydrated and get progressively more dehydrated throughout their workout. Hydrating throughout the day is only going to help improve your fitness routine, so stay on top of your water intake.
#4 Stretch For At least 5-10 Minutes
Many of us are guilty of getting to the gym and jumping right into the workout — but, it’s even more important to stretch now that many of us have been out of our normal gym routines for a couple of months. Be sure to stretch your body for at least five to ten minutes before getting started with your workout.
#5 Use Those Free Weights
If you’ve been without weights for a few months, it’s time to get back into using them. Using free weights serves as an extremely effective way to build muscle. Plus, using free weights, like dumbbells with proper form can help target various muscle groups, helping you get back into the game faster.
And, if you’re wondering if you should use the weight machines first, go for those free weights instead. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that free weights are more effective for inducing greater hormone responses than weight machines, giving us reason to focus our training sessions using equipment like those dumbbells and kettlebells. (2)
#6 Log Your Workouts
Logging your workouts can be especially helpful when you are just getting back into a regular fitness routine. It can help you get a baseline for where your fitness levels are right now and is key for setting realistic goals. Logging your workouts is also a great way to track your progress.
All you need is a pen and paper (or you can use your phone to keep a log) and track how many reps of each exercise you do and with what weight.
Be sure to continue to set goals and track your victories. Once you reach a certain goal, reward yourself! Small rewards are a great way to stay motivated towards continuing to tackle your goals.
#7 Enjoy a Protein-Rich Snack Before Bed
Just like a successful workout starts the night before with a good night’s sleep, nourishing your body (and muscles) with protein before you hit the hay can also help support what’s called muscle protein synthesis — this is where protein is produced as a way to help muscle damage. It’s a key part of supporting those muscles we just worked at the gym.
And, casein, is particularly beneficial here as it is a slower digesting protein. You can try blending up a smoothie with a frozen banana, full-fat unsweetened Greek yogurt, and some blueberries for a delicious nighttime snack.