There’s a difference between just going to the gym and training like an athlete. If you’re ready to take your training to the next level, start by making these changes to your workout routine.
Design a Doable Plan
Start by setting both big picture (“do a half marathon under two hours”) and smaller (“bike 50 miles a week”) goals. If you have a target event on the calendar, work backwards to create a weekly structure that you can stick to. The key to athletic success is consistency over time, so be realistic with what you can accomplish in tandem with your social, work and family obligations. Track your progress and repeat workouts so you can see if you’re getting stronger or faster every week. And don’t forget rest days to allow your muscles to recover!
Improve Your Diet
Don’t let your eating habits derail your hard work. Swap out processed foods with more produce, choose healthier fats, and refuel within 30 to 60 minutes of a hard session with a mix of protein and carbohydrates to restore glycogen and assist muscle repair. And ramping up your training doesn’t mean you have to give up your social time—while you’re relaxing, opt for a light beer instead of something heavy. Michelob ULTRA is a good choice, with fewer calories and fewer carbs than other beers.
Do the Right Kinds of Cardio
Instead of just jogging for 30 minutes, get faster by adding in speed work. Start with simple intervals like one minute fast, one minute easy, eight to ten times through. Or incorporate hill repeats (speed work in disguise!) to build strength. Power up a hill—outside or on an incline—for one to two minutes, then jog or coast back down. Repeat a few times in a row and add one more rep each week.
Step Up Your Strength Training
Building muscle will not only help your endurance and speed, but it will also prevent form fatigue and injury. Do movements that complement your sport: If you typically move in one direction (swimming, biking, running), add lateral movements, like side lunges with dumbbells. If you’re focusing on explosive sports (tennis, basketball, volleyball), do plyometric exercises like box jumps and single-leg hops.
Keep It Balanced
As you figure out a training schedule that works for you, don’t forget the importance of rest. Taking a day off from workouts doesn’t make you lazy—it keeps you balanced. Use days off to spend extra time catching up with friends.
Change Your Mindset
If you didn’t grow up as an athlete—or you’ve been on a hiatus for a while—the key to becoming one is to first believe that you already are an athlete. Take your plan seriously and think of your workouts as training, not just exercising, to give yourself that competitive edge.