"Energy" can mean so many things depending on the context and usage, but one thing stays consistent: Everyone wants more of it. This is especially true when it comes to harnessing the will to crush a workout.
To learn how to best maximize mental and physical drive when it matters most, I picked the brains of a team of experts at ErgoGenix. Here's how they amplify their energy and use it to achieve their goals.
1. Embrace Exercise As Head Clearing
Sometimes, a long day out in the world leaves you wanting nothing more than the hug of the couch. But before you collapse into the cushions, ask yourself: do you really want your day to end like this?
"There are days when I get home and just want to watch TV and tune out," says athlete and U.S. military officer Kyle Warren. "But working out—even just for a little while—is way better at clearing my head and giving me ample energy for the rest of the day. From a physiological standpoint, exercise activates the sympathetic portion of the nervous system, maximizing the way my body utilizes energy both in and out of the gym."
These benefits definitely don't end on the day you train, either. "When you work out, your body produces more mitochondria, and you have more energy on a daily basis," says fitness director Tom Graff.
2. Work Out Your Problems While Training
When you feel like your emotional outlook is sapping your energy stores—hey, it happens—you don't have to simply sit there and endure it. Use the situation to your advantage when the going gets tough in the gym.
"I use negative feelings to push harder and perform better, while simultaneously reflecting on whatever is upsetting me," says Warren. "Reframing your frustration and using it as fuel for improvement can definitely boost the intensity you bring to a workout."
The classic intensity-building techniques of bodybuilding can work wonders here. Emphasize the negative portion of reps to make them doubly difficult, or squeeze out every last bit of energy with dropsets or partner-assisted forced reps.
Leave what's eating you on the gym floor, and maybe you won't have to bring it home with you afterward!
3. RIde The Mind-Muscle Connection For All It's Worth
"Getting stronger" and "getting bigger" are difficult ideas to focus on during a workout. Here's something far easier: Focusing on contraction and feeling specific muscles work, swell, and grow. Not only will this help you activate the muscles you're trying to work, but you might get a few extra reps and a wicked pump to boot
"I try to really focus on the body part I'm working on and feel the increase in circulation and blood flow while blocking everything else out," says figure athlete Stephanie Pond Echohawk. "Exercise and body movement produce endorphins, which help me feel more positive and unquestionably energized."
4. Intensify Your Warm-up
If the treadmill walk to nowhere sounds like misery, then don't do it! A good warm-up should do more than just get you warm. It should get you ready, both mentally and physically.
"Physically, I want to get the blood pumping and the adrenaline going; mentally, I'm getting excited for what's coming next—the sweat, the pain, and the glory," says athlete Jules Arballo.
In addition to stretching the muscles and helping to prepare them for physical activity sans injury, warm-ups have another function. "The initial increase in blood flow from a good warm-up drives nutrients where they need to be a lot faster, and just the initial tension on the muscle fibers causes them to start loading up with energy," adds Graff.
His warm up of choice: burpees. That's right, a finisher can be a workout!
5. End Your Workout In A Positive Headspace
Ending your workout in a positive headspace can also boost your energy stores. Your finisher doesn't have to be a gym-related muscle move, either. It can be a movement that benefits your sport, hobby, or personal passion.
"I use a breath-training app at the end of my workout," says athlete and ocean freediver Rene McGowan. "I find a nice, quiet place in the gym and do the drills on the app. It calms me down and energizes me at the same time."
6. Start Your Day With A Shock
When trying to rev yourself up for the day, try a quick bout of intense cardio to kick-start your energy. "I work a very early shift, but even when there's not a lot of time before, I make sure to fit in 15 minutes of continuous jump rope," says McGowan. "It gets my heart rate up and is a great way to start the day."
If you have enough time to limber up beforehand—don't start the day with a pulled hammy!—sprinting is another way to jolt yourself into a high-octane state. "In order to create the speed and explosiveness in a sprint, your body stores up massive amounts of energy in your fast-twitch muscle fibers," explains Graff. "When you perform a sprint, your body releases all that energy at once."
Translation: an adrenaline high that lasts for hours and makes for a productive day.
7. Eat Energy Foods Often
Sustained daily energy is heavily dependent on what you eat. Skipped meals and sugary foods are a guaranteed recipe for plummeting energy.
"I try to eat a meal about every three hours, plus a small snack in between such as trail mix, an apple, a banana, a rice cake with peanut butter, or just a spoonful of peanut butter itself." says Arballo.
A little natural sugar and constant hydration can also help big time. "Throughout the day, I eat fruit to keep my energy levels up," says McGowan. "I also try to drink at least one gallon of water daily. My body feels way more energized and active when I do."
Above all, skip the junk. The instant sugar rush isn't worth the crash that's to come. "Cookies, candy, and baked goods sap energy," says Echohawk. "The rush of energy I feel initially is quickly replaced with a drained feeling that makes me want to lie down."
8. Find The Right Intensity Level
Look at some fitness Instagram feeds, and you'll get the impression that everyone is at level-11 enthusiasm all the time. If that were true, they'd also all be injured. Those who stay in the game find the sweet spot between ampedand sustainable.
"Pushing through when your body is screaming for rest can cause injury and lead to burnout," says Warren. "In the long haul, you'll have more energy if you give your body what it needs." Ignoring warning signs now can also negatively impact your recovery and even sleep quality, sapping your daily energy stores and leaving you feeling awful.
Long story short: Earn your rest. Then take it.
9. Do Far More Than Just Work Out
What you do in your free time outside of the gym can greatly impact your energy. You need things you're excited about! For Graff, it's recreational football and staying active outdoors. For McGowan, getting into the ocean is key. "I leap at any type of adventure, especially when it involves nature and photography," says Arballo. On some level, these types of activities are what you're training for. If you don't know what yours is, go find it!
10. Get An Extra Boost When It Matters Most
When you're training for an ambitious athletic goal, you need plenty of energy, but you also need energy's crazy cousin: intensity. That's what pre-workouts are for—and make no mistake, they're great at it.
"Before training, I use ErgoBlast to help me focus, get a pump, and have energy that lasts through my entire workout—and even after," says Arballo.
McGowan agrees. "ErgoBlast helps me push—and stay—out of my comfort zone. This is important for athletes! Since I've been using it, my numbers have been exactly where I want to be. I used it to train for a half-Ironman over a year ago, and by race day, I was had dropped from 9-minute miles to 7:30 per mile!"