8 Useful Pointers to Help Maximise your Workouts
Photos: Nicole De Khors
If you train at Ritual, you probably value efficiency and want to make the most of the little time you have for exercise. We get it, and we want to help you optimize your training, so here’s a quick list of tips on how to maximize your workouts.
1. Tell a coach, ask a coach.
Most people already enjoy the level of personalization they can get during a session at Ritual, especially with the attentiveness of the coaches and the 4 levels of complexity at each workout. However, what some clients might not realize is that you can get even more if you take a little bit of time to talk to a coach before or after a session. Whether it’s about your recent lack of sleep, a question about pull-ups, a tweaked knee you sustained at tennis last weekend, or your desire for more of a challenge, don’t hesitate to ask for some advice. We’re in the business of helping you improve while always being mindful of your time, and we love when clients are interested in digging deeper into health and performance.
2. Warm up well.
Chances are, you’ve just come in to the gym after a few hours of sitting down. Our warm up is designed to open up key areas of tightness like the hip and shoulder girdles, cue postural muscle activation, and prime your body for movement. It’s also wise to drag your warm up into your first work set - this is why our coaches often recommend an “easy first set”. Use the first set to really pay attention to your alignment and get everything firing right and feeling smooth before ramping it up. Trust me, you’ve got plenty of time to get your training effects (and in a safer, more focused manner) in the coming sets.
3. Set your mind right.
There is no immediate glory to be attained in an exercise session. This isn’t a competition, and there is no winner for push-ups today. You’re here for self improvement - you’re here to work on your health, vitality and resilience, and you’re here because you recognize the importance of taking a little bit of time to focus on yourself. Focused effort, performed regularly, is what will help you feel great and look better naked. You’re already here, you’ve already committed to the 20-minute session. You might as well make the most of it. Don’t just go through the motions - focus, and give yourself the best you have for today.
4. Think about your breathing pattern.
Coaches talk about this, but not many clients manage to control this during a session. Oxygen is important (obviously), and intentionally focusing on maintaining a regular, deep breathing pattern throughout each session will enable you to last longer, allow you to sustain your focus throughout, and provide you with an appropriate pacing strategy. With this breathing strategy, you’ll find it easier to calm yourself down and set your mind right in between work sets. A great rule of thumb is to time your breathing with your movements. For example, this could mean that you breathe in on the way down, and breathe out on the way up in a squat.
5. Don’t compromise form, ever.
Maximal intensity means as fast as I can, always, right? Not really. The afterburn effect from HIIT comes from causing a disruption in your body. Usually, people focus on getting this disruption by moving as fast as possible, but that’s not quite the full picture. First of all, you know that at Ritual you get short rest times and multiple work sets. This workout structure is going to stress your system, regardless. So to increase the ‘good stress’, you have more options (and better options) than simply moving faster at all costs. Sure, keep the pace high if you feel you can, but don’t let yourself break form just so you can squeeze out a few more reps. Instead, put your extra effort into demanding perfect alignment and better activation from your body. If you’ve been with us for a while, you’ll know the difference between how 5 fantastic reps feels compared to 15 lousy reps. Focus on getting those perfect reps, over and over again. The best part? You’re not only likely to match the afterburn effect with the increased muscular and structural stress of perfect form, but you’ll also be working on the balanced overall development of your body, increased joint and ligament resilience, and a better functioning body, all while still getting your awesome fat burning benefits. Plus, we get a lot of questions about “core training”, and the simple truth is that if you perform the exercises right, almost every exercise is a core training exercise, so focusing on form will help you develop your core, too.
6. Note that the levels are guidelines, not rules.
The 4 levels you see on the boards every time you walk in to the gym aren’t strict rules. We don’t box people into “you’re a level 2”. The levels are simply progressions of a fundamental movement pattern. Each level up is simply that same basic movement pattern with an added layer of complexity or resistance. What this means is that depending on how you feel, you can rotate and vary the levels you choose with each exercise, each set, and each workout, and still get a balanced training stimulus regardless of what level you train at. It’ll also help you discover which movements you are more advanced at, and which you might want to put a little extra effort into. As a side note, I often recommend clients approach their HIIT in a pyramid format - start at a lower level to get everything dialed in, then ramp up the difficulty or complexity until you feel it’s too difficult to sustain perfect technique, then bring it down a level or two so you can finish strong, at a high pace, with good breathing and perfect alignment. Finishing on a strong, controlled, but challenging note really seems to enable people to leave feeling optimized, without the brain fog and fatigue that comes from pushing yourself too hard.
7. Cool down.
I get it, you’re in a rush, your workout is done, and you want to move on with your day. However, I’d strongly recommend taking a few minutes to calm your breathing down and do the recommended stretches after a session. Taking a few minutes to do this at the end of every workout will signal relaxation in the muscles after a crazy 20 minutes, help with recovery and alignment in the long term, and it gives you a little bit of time to calm down and wrap up your training experience with a clear mind. If you have areas that feel particularly sore or that you want to know how to address, the coaches can recommend some drills to address your needs, too.
8. Pay attention to the other 23.5 hours.
It’s great that you use good posture when you’re training and that you drink a delicious, nutritious shake after a workout, but how well are you taking care of your body outside of this ritual? Are 70-80% of your meals each week comprised of nutritious, whole, real foods? Are you trying to get 8 hours of sleep a night? Do you choose to take the stairs instead of the escalator? Do you stay hydrated? The little things that you do daily add up, and can make a significant difference in your performance and results. You don’t have to live like a monk, you just have to be aware of the fact that your lifestyle choices will have an effect on your body.
I hope these tips help - and before you move on with your day, I feel it’s appropriate to mention here that consistency, above all else, is key. Sometimes you’ll have amazing workouts when you don’t expect to, and sometimes nothing will feel right, and that’s fine. These tips will help, but you’re not going to get great sessions in every single time you train. It’s simply part of the process. It’s not really about how much you can do today, but collectively, how much quality training you can accumulate and how many positive habits you can cultivate over the next few months and years. One baby step at a time, starting with consistency. And, as always, if you have tips to share or questions you’d like to ask, please leave a comment!