Intelligent Exercise: Ways to Workout Smarter, Not Harder

two people working out in the gym

We live in the “hacking” age, where we try to do things faster and smarter. Nothing good comes easy, but that doesn’t mean you have to experience pain along with your gain when it comes to building muscle, shedding fat, and getting in better shape. Leave room for intelligence when you exercise and you’ll find you don’t have to work harder, just smarter. Consider the following ways people are engaging in intelligent exercise.

Happy Medium

Sure, you have to push your body to get in better shape, but you don’t want to overdo it to the point that you’re damaging muscle tissue or overexerting yourself. You want a workout to exceed what you did the time before, but don’t try to crush your former self. Give it some time and make progress in smaller rather than larger increments. For example, you may want to use the same weight for arm curls but try to do more repetitions per set rather than try and graduate to significantly heavier weight.

Good Stretch

Stretching ensures your body is ready for the coming workout. You don’t need to be as limber as someone who practices yoga, yet there are plenty of benefits to that too. It is extremely important to stretch before and during workouts. Otherwise, it’s going to be a lot easier to pull a muscle or overexert a muscle group. If you’re not dedicating at least ten minutes to stretching before engaging in weightlifting, a cardiovascular exercise, or a sport, you’re doing it wrong and not working smarter.

Necessary Sleep

If you’re partying until 4am, getting up for work at 8am, and then heading to the gym at 5pm, you’re being a bit of a hypocrite. Sure, it’s great that you want to get to the gym rather than go home and be lazy, yet you’re expecting too much of your body. Your body needs sleep and time for muscles to rebuild. Those who are serious about getting in shape and maintaining a great physique don’t neglect getting a good night’s rest. Missing a few winks on occasion is okay, but be smart about getting sleep, and make resting your muscles and entire body an important part of your lifestyle.

Limit Alcohol

It’s not that one beer or a glass of wine with dinner is going to undo all the hard work you put in at the gym, but those who regularly consume alcohol are abusing their bodies. Limit the amount of alcohol you intake to a few drinks per week. If limiting alcohol seems to be a problem, then think about getting help from a counselor or psychologist. There be be an underlying issue that is threatening your health.

Essential Recovery

When you break down your muscles you need to let them recover so they get stronger. However, timing is a factor in addition to the way you facilitate the recovery. Along with necessary rest, particular foods and drinks can help dramatically. Research online to learn more about using a recovery drink to supplement foods like bananas and potatoes. Read up on “active recovery,” which means engaging in low intensity activities, such as walking or throwing a frisbee with friends, rather than vegging out on the couch and doing nothing on your days off of the gym. Stimulating blood flow and not hitting a plateau of idleness actually helps you workout smarter.

No Stress

Avoiding stress seems like a no brainer, but for some personalities, it takes more effort. Stress is bad for emotional comfort but it’s also bad for the body. Scientists have linked high levels of stress with the development of cancer cells. Stress also takes its toll on the body’s ability to recover and get the most out of a workout. Do your best to avoid stress in your life, which could mean doing more things that make you happy or learning how to avoid particular mind states through meditation.

Two Heads

It’s understood that two heads are better than one. Consider finding a workout partner. Firstly, it will keep you from getting lazy; if you don’t feel like going to the gym, your partner can inspire you to get off the couch and get going. Secondly, there is a lot more you can do with with a partner regarding routines and activities. Also, a potential partner may have a different exercise background from you (They trained in a martial art) and can teach you a number of other ways to build muscle and get in shape.

Mike Fogarty is a co-founder of First Endurance. He is an avid cyclist who regularly competes in races. When he is not busy with endurance sports, he enjoys fly fishing during his downtime.