How can you make your workouts better, so that you actually make meaningful gains in terms of fitness and health?
By better workouts and meaningful gains, I don't mean just losing more weight and body fat. I mean working out in a way that makes you actually feel better and helps you to improve your health and make your workouts more enjoyable.
Because as you may know, losing weight doesn't automatically mean improving health!
I don't work out as much as I used to. But now, instead of focusing on quantity of my workouts (how many miles or kilometers, how many hours, how many days I worked out, etc) I like to focus on the quality instead.
I really encourage you to focus on same things, because let me tell you — doing so is WAY better for your physical and mental health. It's also way more fun.
Here are your four steps to better workouts, helping you to actually get healthier from the inside out.
Your workouts should make you feel better, not worse
I know, I know — we're often told that we have to leave the gym, the park or where we are working out, exhausted and depleted because that's the only way to get results. Which mostly means, burning more calories and body fat, and losing weight.
But I'd like to ask: Are these the only reasons for working out?
For many people, yes. But I'd like to change this way of thinking. Physique goals are not bad, but the entire focus should be not on them. Because what if you end up totally neglecting the rest of your health?
Yes, you may lose body fat and weight if you do extremely intense and hard workouts all the time, but what if they don't make you feel well? You're not supposed to feel like you want to throw up after every single workout, or be extremely sore or even in pain.
These days, my workouts make me feel better not worse. I may feel tired after a workout, which is totally fine — we are burning energy when we work out, after all! But I do feel better, physically and mentally, after my workouts. And it feels very different compared to times when I had to stop my workouts half way through because I was just so tired of doing more.
Sleep at least 7 hours the night before working out
Some people say that they feel totally good and ready to go after 5-6 hours of sleep, but my personal experience is different. I used to think I'm doing okay after 6 hours of sleep, because I didn't even know what it feels like to sleep 7-8 hours. And that way I didn't even imagine how much better working out feels after 7-8 hours of solid sleep!
Take your sleep seriously. Your workouts are so much better that way.
Pay special attention to your body when working out fasted
You may have heard that working out fasted gives you best results.
But again, I want to ask: Best results in terms of what? Fat loss and weight loss — yes, probably. I was very successful at losing weight when I worked out fasted. I was also successful at losing my period…
But what about the quality of your workouts? Can you get through them well, or are you struggling? How's your body feeling, not only looking? Yes, you're losing body fat, but are you fatigued, have no energy, your period has stopped?
I'm not saying that working out fasted is never a good idea. It may work for some people perfectly. But a lot of times we're only doing this because of the fat loss reasons, while not admitting that it actually doesn't feel that great.
I can get through a workout when I do it fasted, but it's almost never as good as when I've eaten at least something beforehand. You don't have to eat a huge meal, but have something to energize you.
After I started to eat before working out, my workouts got better. I understand that HIIT training may be harder if you've just eaten, so you want to have some time after your meal and before your workout. But for longer training sessions, eating something beforehand is definitely a good idea. Especially if you're working on a certain skill because these workouts tend to take longer.
Improve your skills and increase your strength
This is totally a matter of preference, but I personally have found learning new skills or increasing my strength so much more satisfying than just doing more workouts — more minutes, miles, days…
Before, I simply didn't have time for anything else besides HIIT, because the focus was on calorie burning. I got more interested in just strength training and then learning new skills because — or should I say thanks — to hypothalamic amenorrhea.
After I had recovered, I tried to get back to HIIT and run a bit here and there (which I still do, but rarely) but things didn't go that well. I would get extremely exhausted, didn't recover, was brain foggy… So I knew I had to change something, bring down the intensity a lot, and do things that worked for my body.
Strength training, and mostly bodyweight training because of my back issues, were the things that I could do without any problems, so I started focusing on them. And it has worked out great, as I've been enjoying getting stronger and improving my form.
Do you want to improve your workouts?
Stop doing so much, stop working out for calories. Eat and sleep, because these are the ways you recharge and fuel your body.
Getting stronger and healthier is not about burning yourself out more and more. It's actually building yourself up. Focus on sleep, food, rest, recovery and quality of your workouts, and you find that you're getting healthier. Your workouts feel stronger and you're making progress that goes beyond weight loss and fat loss.
Don't know how to safely start training again, after you've had hypothalamic amenorrhea? My 16-week bodyweight strength training program, Simple Strength for Women, will help you to start exercising again without losing your period.