If you’re a busy mum, running your own business and rushed off your feet pretty much everyday (sounds familiar right?!) I urge you NOT to give up on your workouts. They are the one thing that can actually make you feel sane – and like you are doing something for YOU.
That said, it’s so important that you make the most of every training session – when time is of the essence there is absolutely no reason why you can’t have a super amazing workout in 45 minutes. People are often surprised by the limited amount of time I actually spend exercising – three times a week is usually more than enough for me – even when I’m not pregnant!
Here are a few of my top tips to maximise each workout – be prepared to sweat!
Go for big lifts
Don’t be daunted by this – I’m simply talking about big compound lifts that work more than one muscle group at a time (such as a squat, deadlifts, pull ups and so on) rather than isolation exercises (such as a biceps curls and leg extensions) that isolate a single muscle group. These moves will give you more ‘bang for your buck’ and give you a full-body workout because you are working multiple muscle groups at once. The benefits? More calories burnt in a shorter amount of time, whilst becoming stronger all over! Clever eh?
If you’re lucky enough to have a prowler in your gym, add some heavy sprints into your next workout!
Tempo is a great way of varying your workout and a term used to refer to the speed at which you execute the movement – time under tension (TUT). It’s a good way of using your muscles to control the weight instead of using momentum – or letting the weights fall with gravity.
For example, if you were to do a Leg press with a tempo of 3010; The first number represents the eccentric load, so lowering of the weight towards you, stretching the muscle, so this would be 3 seconds. The second number is the time at the bottom of that movement, so 0 is no rest or pause. The third number is the concentric load, so pushing of the weight away from you contracting the muscle, so in this case 1 second. The fourth number is the rest at the top of that movement, so no rest at the top of pushing the weight away from you.
Varying your tempo can bring different results i.e. exploding through a movement, will help you to train for speed and power, whilst slow and controlled movements will help with hypertrophy (building muscle) and strength.
As a rule of thumb, longer tempos improve body composition and can contribute to fat loss because the muscle is under tension for longer. I tend to stick to the 2121 tempo for a lot of my exercises but again it depends on the exercise I’m doing and what I’m working towards. Sometimes it’s great just to throw in more variety to my workouts each week to mix things up.
Engage your brain
I see a lot of people working out in the gym but they’re not really thinking about the muscles they’re working, just moving and throwing the weights around – then looking at their phone or chatting with a pal. This is great if your main focus is just to move and be active, but it isn’t going to necessarily bring you the results you’re looking for, especially if that is to build muscle or shape your body!
Mind to muscle connection is making a connection with the muscle you want to be working, which ultimately comes from good form, technique and really thinking about that muscle you want to be working. It takes practise and can actually take many years to perfect but if the intent is there, you will still make progress. You’re basically sending a signal from your muscle to your brain telling it to contract, which therefore increases the number of muscle fibres being recruited when lifting.
Next time you’re working out either put your finger onto the muscle you want to be working, or really focus on it mentally. This will not only help to improve your body composition but it will also help you to really focus on the job at hand. Give it a go!
My main focus when training clients is to make sure they perfect their technique and feel it where they should!
Think about your Reps
You can vary your training by either doing an exercise for time – or for reps. Sometimes it can be good to just mix things up for fun and have a break from the norm.
If your main goal is fat loss and building lean muscle tissue, then always opt for a combination of resistance training (around three sessions a week), focusing on reps, tempo and appropriate rest periods, as well as HIIT training, where you alternate the intensity from high to low, bringing your heart rate up and down. I like to keep my HIIT workouts short and sweet at around 15-20 minutes once or twice a week, which means I can keep the intensity high and get it done! Interval training is highly effective for reducing body fat and can lead to an increase in lean muscle mass, which in turn boosts your metabolism and helps you burn fat more efficiently – even when resting!
Battle ropes! A great exercise for your HIIT workout!
There’s no reason why you should be having anything other than water during your workouts, so always stay hydrated because water is necessary for both muscle, brain and heart function.
If you are doing a lot of endurance work, then you might want to think about taking on board some electrolytes during your workout – but sugar-laden energy drinks are a no-no and can actually be quite taxing on your digestive system. I always aim to have 4 litres throughout the day, so when it comes to my workout my body is already really hydrated and easily topped up with a few sips of water here and there.
This Electrolyte Blend from NutriStrength is brilliant – get 15% off with my code MIRELLA15
Get your food right
Technically what you eat before your workout isn’t going to fuel you, its more what’s already inside your body and been stored as glycogen (stored energy). For example if you like to workout early in the morning, you might want to think about eating carbs the night before to help fuel your body for the morning. I personally wouldn’t recommend going into your workout starving or with an empty stomach because you will feel fatigued and won’t be able to give it 100%. Also if you like to workout fasted first thing, it’s highly unlikely for most that you’ll get the best out of a big weights session. Cardio fasted is fine though.
When planning your workouts plan your foods in a way that fuels your body – so ideally you eat no less than one hour before your workout – and stick to foods that you know YOUR body can tolerate and performs well on.
For example some of my clients will really thrive of a carb-based meal before they workout. Whereas others, who are maybe more ‘carb insensitive’ find that it makes them sluggish and sleepy. If the latter is you, you’d be better of choosing some lean protein and a piece of fruit as opposed to a bowl of pasta! Consuming too many fats pre-workout can also be hard on your digestive system because they take longer to digestive so keep these to a minimum, as well as fibre-rich foods.
My favourite pre-workout meal (resistance workout) is lean protein such as grilled chicken and quinoa salad, or grilled chicken with apple slices and peanut butter. The protein from the chicken contains amino acids, which is used by the body to restore muscle tissue, whilst the fats in the peanut butter will supply slow steady energy, which are both filling and satiating.
Easy-peasy roast chicken & quinoa salad
You want your body to repair and recover quickly and efficiently after each workout so that you can give it all you’ve got next time you hit the gym. To help with this ALWAYS try to eat within an hour of working out. This doesn’t need to be a protein shake – but if you are short on time and don’t have time to fix anything in the kitchen then this is a great option. Other options are a meal containing lean protein, good quality carbs such as potato (sweet or white), rice or quinoa and lots of veggies. Alternatively, a bowl of porridge goes down really nicely and you could throw some protein powder, fruit & nuts into the bowl to make a little more substantial.
Fancy something sweet PWO instead…try my banana cake recipe!
I hope you found this blog really useful and you’re looking forward to putting it all into practise in your next workout.
If you are keen to learn more about training and shaping your body then my next Ibiza FitRetreat starts in September and is a great way of learning how to lift weights safely and effectively.
You can also join my next 8-Week Fitness Journey in October where I will put together a personal home or gym workout to suit YOUR goals. The 8 weeks leads us up to Christmas just in time to pick out your festive frocks and enjoy all those parties! You will get healthy meal plans to follow with calorie/macros, daily motivation from myself and a private Facebook group, and support to help you unleash your own power within! Find out more here….The Body For You!
Join me in September for an empowering 5 days in the sun!