Photo by Matt Korinek for Lululemon
Recently, I've noticed that a few little things have actually made a big difference to my fitness. You might think it's all about working out, but a couple of the things actually have nothing to do with exercise. My list is probably blindingly obvious to some of you, but I thought I'd still share my thoughts.
Disclaimer: the below is not intended to be professional advice (I'm not a qualified health or fitness professional - I'm a lawyer, which is probably why I'm adding this disclaimer). I'm just sharing my experience to give you some ideas to consider.
1. Sleep Well
You may not think sleep has much to do with fitness, but from everything I've read it's pretty essential for proper recovery. I find that when I consistently get about 8 hours a night in a dark room, I recover faster and have more energy (black out blinds or one of those sleep masks you wear on the plane help if you have a light room). To get a good sleep, I avoid caffeine after lunchtime and usually stretch for about 10 minutes with the lights off before going to bed. It relaxes my body and mind and I find that stretching out any tense muscles before jumping into bed stops me from tossing and turning trying to find a comfortable position.
2. Eat Plenty Of Vegetables And Adequate Protein
I'm not a vegetarian, but I find that the more vegetables I eat, the more energy I have when training. I gradually started to notice this happening time and time again: if I'd been eating less 'colours' (i.e. not getting a range of different coloured vegetables), I would gas out faster during my training sessions. Same thing happens if I haven't been getting enough protein from quality sources. I personally get my protein from small amounts of grass-fed, free-range meat and often use a natural protein powder to supplement this for the sake of convenience (like one of my protein balls straight after training).
Training video from earlier this year where I'm starting to gas out ... I hadn't been eating that well (needed more vegetables!)
I always think it's important to find an activity that you enjoy and then do it regularly. It doesn't have to be a 2 hour session or anything crazy, just some form of movement that you don't mind doing a few times a week. I find that the longer you go without exercising the harder it is to get back into it. So sometimes you just need to push yourself to get to a session, then you'll find it's a little bit easier to get there next time.
4. Incorporate Some Interval Training
Regular interval training seems to get me results. The Muay Thai training that I do incorporates a lot of intervals, e.g. 3 minute rounds on the bags, pads or sparring with a short rest between rounds. I've also recently been doing a lot of shorter interval training with Ruan at F.I.T.E Training, e.g. at the end of a session when I'm pretty wrecked, punching flat out on the bag for 1 minute, then taking 30 seconds rest and repeating a few more times until I can't continue (at which point I need a little lie down on the ground in my pool of sweat). It definitely helps having a trainer looking over your shoulder making sure you push as hard as you can, or you can just do it with a friend so at least someone is holding you accountable. On the rare occasion that I go for a run, I also incorporate similar intervals (i.e. run flat out for 30 seconds, walk for 10 seconds to rest and then repeat until you're spent).
Ruan pushing me with bag intervals to finish off a tough session (I'm dying a little bit here, shoulders burning...)
5. Change Up Your Workouts Regularly
It's amazing how your body adapts. I remember when I first started Muay Thai, my arms and legs would be shaking like leaves after every training session. But after 6 or so months of training I stopped getting sore. Then I remember I did a CrossFit class one weekend for the first time in about a year and the emphasis on added weight left me unable to walk properly for a couple of days. My legs had forgotten how to deal with more heavily weighted exercises. So now I try and incorporate some different workouts every couple of weeks. I might do some free weights, a reformer Pilates class or a longer run to keep my body guessing.
So that's what has worked for me. What do you do for your fitness? I'd love to hear if you feel like commenting below.
This post originally appeared on the Lilian Dikmans blog Real Food Healthy Body.