Do you have a summer race coming up? Or are you trying to get—and stay—in shape this summer? Here’s a checklist of fitness hacks you should be doing to prepare.
Follow this checklist of fitness hacks to keep yourself motivated, clean up your diet and get the most out of your training. This is how you prepare like a Spartan.
- If you haven’t done so already, sign up for the race now.
It’s easy to put off training for a race you’re going to run “someday.” Having a deadline forces you to focus and motivates you to get serious about your training.
- Stay standing throughout the day.
In the world of fitness hacks, this is an easy one. Work while standing up. Stay standing for as long as you can, then sit down for a half-hour before standing again. By standing throughout the day, you can easily burn a couple of hundred extra calories a day—but more important, you’ll build endurance in your legs and lower back. [Editor’s note: Standing all the time is just as inadvisable as sitting all the time, so be sure to follow John’s advice to do both in intervals.]
- Keep your kitchen clean at all times.
When your kitchen is clean, you’ll cook more often. The more you cook at home rather than eating out, the healthier your diet will be.
- Sleep in complete darkness.
Modern fitness hacks include good sleep hacks. Even a little bit of light can impair sleep quality. When you sleep in total darkness, you’ll get deeper, more restorative sleep.
- Train the way you’ll race.
Your body’s adaptation to fitness is highly specific. Your workouts should mix endurance running with circuit-style weight training in order to mimic the conditions of an actual race.
- Occasionally, do something brutally difficult.
Once a month, do something that seems really hard to do. Maybe that’s a three-hour workout or fast for two to three days straight to recalibrate your sense of difficulty. When the time comes, your Spartan obstacle race won’t be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.
- Tell yourself that you want to work hard, not that you need to.
People who think in terms of want rather than need are more successful at reaching their fitness goals. Make a habit of framing fitness as a choice, not a reluctant obligation.
- Shop smart (like the King of the fitness hacks).
You can fight temptation once a week at the grocery store or many times a day at home. If it’s not part of your healthy diet, leave it on the shelf instead of putting it in your basket.
- If you don’t love to cook, start prepping food in bulk.
Cook four to six servings of healthy low-calorie food at a time (assuming you’re only cooking for yourself) once or twice a week. Save the leftovers in the fridge so that any time you’re hungry, your most convenient food option is a healthy one.
- View willpower as an infinite resource.
Willpower tends to work however we think it works—it’s only limited if you believe it is.
- Train at the same time of day that your race will take place.
Over time, your biorhythm will become entrained to your usual workout time, and you’ll start to have more energy around that time of day.
- Start darkening your environment two to three hours before bed.
Your brain uses light and darkness as signals about how high your energy level should be. Darkening your environment will signal it to start winding down and producing sleep hormones like melatonin.
- Follow the “crowding out” principle.
Crowding out is one of the more simple but also effective dietary fitness hacks. Beyond not keeping junk food in your home, you don’t need to put too much effort into not eating junk food. Instead, by adding in more healthy foods, you keep yourself full and displace the junk foods from your diet.
- Keep your workout gear ready.
If you work out at home, keep it sitting out in the open in the room where you work out. If you go to a gym, keep your workout gear packed and have the bag either in your car or sitting next to the front door.
Meditating for five to 10 minutes a day will help lower stress and anxiety. Aside from making it easier to sleep at night and generally feeling good, meditation also lowers cortisol, helping your body to recover more effectively from workouts and strengthen itself for your upcoming race.
- Kick your caffeine addiction.
The last thing you want while running a long race is to start craving caffeine when none is available. Ditching caffeine addiction has many of the same benefits as meditation—less stress, lower cortisol, better sleep and faster recovery—but it will also raise your baseline energy level without the jitters caffeine causes.
- Practice embracing the suck.
Embracing the suck is a concept from military training. It means, quite simply, to learn to embrace difficulty and appreciate challenging situations and the growth opportunity they present. Spartan races are hard; a challenge-seeking mentality is practically a requirement to complete one.
- Eat only when you’re hungry for healthy food.
It can be hard to differentiate between true hunger, in which your body needs nutrients, and psychological hunger, which is simply a craving for your favorite foods. The surest sign that your body genuinely needs food is that you feel hungry enough to eat healthy food and not just hungry enough to eat your favorite foods.
- No matter how busy you get, do as much as you can.
Sometimes life gets in the way—you get busy with work, or you get sick, or family obligations pop up. You don’t need to prevent that from happening, but you need to know how to deal with it.
- Get involved in the Spartan community—or any community.
Few things are more motivating than being surrounded by people who are working hard toward the same goals you are. In addition to reading our articles, follow Spartan on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Look for a regional Spartan Facebook group for racers in your area, and most important, start meeting and befriending other racers.
This post originally appeared on Life.Spartan.com.
Editor’s note: Be sure to consult your health care professional before making changes to your diet and fitness regimen.
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