Getting up the motivation to go to the gym, work up a sweat, take a class, or lift weights is usually motivated by one thing: our desire to drop pounds and tone up. But somewhere along the road to fitness, most people discover a great side benefit to working out. Their health increases. Maybe your energy improved dramatically, your skin looks better, you’re sleeping through the night or your doctor was impressed with your latest blood test results at your annual physical. Whatever you’ve noticed, putting your focus on wellness as well as weight loss will keep you committed to hitting the gym. Here are five things you can do before, during, or after your next workout to improve your health.
- Fuel up with the good stuff: The benefits of juicing are well documented, and general interest has surged thanks to gurus like Kris Carr and films like Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. We’re not talking about sugar laden fruit juice, but fresh veggie juices or fruit and veggie blends (freggies, anyone?) that deliver a massive nutrient blast to your cells. In addition to nourishing your body, loading up on liquid veggies before a workout will help fuel you through the toughest workouts. Fresh juices are also a great and tasty way to stay hydrated.
- Spend 10 minutes stretching: Start your workout by stretching it out. We don’t just mean a few lunges to loosen your hamstrings. One of the biggest and most depressing side effects of aging is that we lose flexibility and feel stiffer after working out or waking up. One of the easiest ways to combat this is to work stretching into your routine. Whether it’s a simple stretching regimen or something inspired by yoga or Pilates, 10 minutes before or after each work out with leave you limber and relaxed. It’ll also amp up your performance during workouts and help combat a loss of flexibility due to age.
- Listen to a book on tape while you work out: Do you usually zone out to a top 40 list or whatever’s on the gym TV while you work out? What if you used that time to pull some motivational or educational material off the shelf and listen to it? Anything from a Tony Robbins style program to the latest book on health and nutrition will help you yourself with information to more effectively advocate for your wellness. Nourish your mind as well as your body and you’ll find that you look forward to workouts on more than one level.
- Talk to a trainer: Did your gym membership come with an orientation or training session that you never took advantage of? Chatting with a trainer can have several benefits for your overall wellness that go beyond losing weight. Do you have a specific nagging pain? Get advice on how to strengthen those muscles. Need to find productive ways to blow off stress? A trainer can give you ideas on how to shake up your workout, address specific needs, and use your gym time to achieve non-fitness goals (e.g. reducing stress or sleeping better).
- Focus on your goals:Another way that gym time can help keep you well is by giving you time to think and process. In our overly busy world with constant connectivity, it can be a challenge to find time to process everything. Yet taking some quiet time to clear your mind and meditate; to visualize the goals that we want to achieve; or to simply relax our brains and reflect on what we’re grateful for can transform your mindset. If you’re not getting this time elsewhere in your day, consider incorporating it into your workout.
The benefits of hitting the gym go way beyond our waistlines. What are your favorite ways to incorporate wellness into your workouts?
About The Author: Shawn Tremaine is a personal trainer and health and fitness writer, and has reviewed New York Yoga. In his spare time he coaches his sons soccer team, helping everyone learn the fundamentals.