Improving performance even when you’re not training

Improving performance even when you’re not training

We’re all doing our best, but unless you’ve got an outstanding gym set up at home, since the lockdown, your training, like mine, has probably taken a nose-dive in terms of volume or intensity or both. Now that could be due to your motivation slumping (there’s plenty you can do to get you sticking to your home workouts) but it might be because you simply don’t have access to all the kit you need to go HAM on the daily… I’M FINE BY THE WAY.

I am reminded that some movement is better than no movement, and so I remind you not to beat yourself up about the inevitable dwindle in performance through all this - I know; easier said than done, but instead of getting ratty about it, let’s try to do something positive so we can be getting the most out of our new training schedules:

Eat right

Food is fuel. But your fuel should be in tune your physical demands. While I’m at home, try as I might, I just can’t train like I used to at the gym, and so my body doesn’t need so many calories. In no way am I depriving myself, and I’m not suggesting we all switch to super-mean restrictive diets, but reducing portion sizes and backing away from the damn fridge for a bit is probably a good idea if you don’t want to grow your own weight vest.

Good sources of protein like chicken, turkey, fish, and eggs are important (see also peanut butter and legumes for those of the vegetarian or vegan persuasion), and you’ll do better with whole grains energy-wise. And even though you already know, I’m going to say it because I consider myself the queen of fruit and veg: Eat your fruit and veg. 

Drink right

It’s getting warmer out, so worth keeping in mind that sweating off 2% of body weight will cause a noticeable decrease in physical and mental performance. Dehydration, even if it’s only mild, will affect memory, attention span, your ability to concentrate, and your reaction times. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely cannot afford to get any worse at concentrating, so I try and drink ‘enough’ water every day.

What ‘enough’ is differs between people and their circumstances. If you’re exercising and sweating, you need to drink more. If it’s a hot day and you’re sweating, you need to drink more. If you’re sick your body’s losing fluids, and so you need to drink more. Doesn’t have to be water, but other options like fruit juice and energy drinks are packed with sugar, so watch that. Current NHS guidelines encourage us to drink around 2litres a day, and apparently that can come from water, milk, or tea and coffee, which brings me to my next point…


Tea and coffee can count towards whatever your ‘enough’ water is! Hooray! Yes yes, caffeine is a diuretic, which might make you want to pee more, but it’s not to the point where it’d cause dehydration. I like to have a coffee before I train of a morning because it kick starts my heart, but if staving off the gut is your goal, you’ll be pleased to know there’s evidence that it promotes fat burning during exercise too.

I’m not about that low-to-moderate dose, and I drink it quite a bit throughout the day, but apparently it doesn’t take much coffee to enhance performance. It might even help with your DOMS as well. 

Sleep right

I appreciate that putting sleep right under the caffeine recommendation is a little ironic, but I’m not recommending you smash the coffees right through until bedtime, am I?

Between seven and nine hours is the goal. But it’s not just about quantity, the quality of your sleep is important. I’ve been reading about ‘sleep hygiene’ lately, which I thought sounded a bit wanky, but actually is just a wanky word for something that makes a lot of sense - forming good habits to get you ready for bed. That means regular bed times, regular wake times, reducing screen time dramatically before bed, and making sure you’re comfortable and at a good temperature (and apparently that’s about 18 degrees). 

Getting enough shut-eye is important because, in a very general sense (because I am not a scientist) growth hormone production and blood flow increases when we’re asleep. Instead of that being used by the brain, which is less active while we’re sleeping, it gets redirected to our muscles to rebuild and restore energy there.

Move right

With all this extra time on your hands, use it as an opportunity to work on your mobility. You can even do it infront of Netflix. Actively working on your strength and stability through range of motion will be so applicable to your training when you can finally get back to it properly. Iron ankles, be gone!

I use a PVC pipe to move through my oly lifting positions, and I ROMWOD too. I also follow a couple of Yogis on Instagram who are setting some fun daily challenges that rely on strength, control, and a certain level of flexibility (that I simply do not possess) which is fun to practice. For me, working on mobility is more important than flexibility, but again, while I’ve got the time, I’m very happy to be working on both. And you should be too.

Follow Libby Bearman on Instagram: @LiftLikeLibby