If you’re like me, you are constantly searching the Internet for what you should be doing to get stronger, fitter and ultimately healthier. You can find a million and one things to do, but I have always believed that it’s basic fundamentals and hard work that will bring you closer to your goals. I have compiled a list of 5 things you should be doing to improve both in and out of the gym.
1. Stretch smart
Before I even start to workout, I always put my body through a good warm up. It will usually take 15 minutes, but I always do it.
There’s a difference between warming up and stretching. Warming up your body does wonders. It makes your muscles more pliable and can do things such as increase your range of motion, makes your muscles more pliable, and even can help prevent injury. When you don’t properly warm-up you risk major injuries, especially when you are trying to go for that personal record!
Think about your body like a car. Before your car is ready to be driven in the winter you have to let it warm up before she’s ready to be driven. Give yourself ample time to warm up so you’re ready to attack your workout.
2. Drink more water
You may think this is simple, but I cannot state how important it is. Think about your body and its composition. Up to 60% of your body is made of water, but more importantly, your most important organs, your brain, heart and lungs are made up of no less than 75% water. So there must be a reason why they are comprised of so much water right? When you neglect proper water intake, you are compromising major things such as joint health, your skin, your bones even your mind! And for those of you out there trying to shed a few pounds, it even helps you lose weight! So drink more water, and shoot for at least a half-gallon per day.
3. Squat more
When it comes to fitness, I believe that things like bicep curls and tricep extensions are a bit of a waste of time. I believe we should put more emphasis on basic movements that we use on a daily basis: sitting up and down, putting things over our heads and picking stuff up from the ground. These three basic movements are what we have always done as a society.
I can’t say enough about the benefits of squatting, both from an athletic and aesthetic point of view. Obviously part of the reason everyone works out is to look good, but no other exercise achieves this better than a squat.
For one, the squat IS a full body exercise. When executed properly, it forces you to use your legs, your core, your back and more. Interestingly enough, your body utilizes over 200 muscles when performing a squat! Another huge benefit from squatting is the hormone response. It stimulates the release of two major muscle-building chemicals in the body, testosterone and growth hormone. Plus squatting is fun, so start squatting and see the gains.
4. Eat your vegetables
Yes you heard this from your parents growing up, but they were right, eat your veggies! Vegetables contain so many different vitamins and minerals that we all need in our diet. No amount of chicken or meat can deliver even close to the same nutrients. “Vegetables contain vitamins, nutrients, and phytochemicals that can help to regulate blood pressure, effect disease-related molecular processes, stimulate the immune system, promote healthy bone-growth and leave us feeling full for long periods of time” (3). Not only will vegetables help you in the short term but also they can help you lead a healthier life in the long run.
If you’re like many, you might hate vegetables. My best advice is finding 2-3 you enjoy (or don’t mind) and eat those. For me, its spinach and brussel sprouts. Make sure to have veggies with every meal and your body will thank you.
Yes I said it, sleep! When it comes to recovery, nothing works better than a good nights sleep. We all should know what it’s like when you don’t get enough sleep, your groggy, delirious and have little energy. But those times you get a good night sleep; you’re ready to take on the world. As doctors will tell you get at least 8 hours a day and reap the rewards. Nothing feels better than being refreshed and recovered from the day before.