We know the drill—working out on the regular is challenging both mentally and physically. And some days it just feels hard. Like really, really hard. To help you through these slumps, we’ve rounded up some tried-and-true techniques to help any workout feel easier.
1. A proper warmup: Easing into your workout with a legit warmup prepares your muscles and joints for what’s ahead. Do five minutes of light cardio, like jogging on a treadmill or basic calisthenics like jumping jacks, butt kickers, and high knees. Follow this with some active stretching like walkouts or walking lunges. Warming up properly will also help reduce post-workout soreness (aka DOMS), so your next workout will feel easier too. It’s a warmup win-win.
2. Keep on sipping: When you’re busting a move, taking a one-minute water break can feel like a 15-minute coffee break. Don’t gulp copious amounts of H2O, though, just a few little sips to wet your whistle and replenish some lost fluids. Nutritionist Julie Upton calls water “the ultimate performance enhancer” since staying well hydrated helps prevent both muscle cramps and muscle fatigue.
3. Take breaks, but keep them short: Taking breaks between sets and circuits allows the muscles to recover a bit so you can continue to push yourself. But keep those rests to between 30 and 60 seconds. If you rest for too long, you heart rate falls and your body begins to cool down. Plus, you’re likely to lose your motivation as you wander around the gym.
4. Focus on your breath: When the going gets tough, go back to your breath. This will not only help you feel more connected to your movement, but the oxygen also feeds your working muscles. To prevent fatigue, lengthen your spine on the inhale and exhale as your muscles work; so on a bicep curl, exhale as you raise the weight to your shoulder, contracting the biceps.
5. Caffeinate: For an extra energy kick in your sweat session, have a little caffeine before your workout. Studies have shown that having some caffeine before a workout can improve endurance. Rather than loading yourself down with a large cup of joe, we suggest a shot of espresso or revving up with a bite-size Americano coffee square from il Morso with 18 grams of energy-inducing caffeine.
6. Accept the challenge: Sometimes just acknowledging that your workout is hard can help your mind and body prepare for the task at hand. For those moments when the going gets tough, it’s good to have mantra on hand to help you power through. Tell yourself: “You can do anything for a minute . . . or two.” Or: “Don’t let the burpees beat you down.”