11 Things You Should Do Before Every Workout

Illustrated by Norah Stone.
So you're ready to work out? That's awesome! Just one question, though: Are you really ready?

The truth is that in order to get the best workout, you have to do some preparation, physically and mentally. You probably know that warming up your muscles is important for preventing injury, and making sure you feel physically ready to tackle the challenges ahead. But many of us forget about preparing our minds. The way to do both is to create a pre-exercise routine that fully prepares you.

We spoke to two badass certified personal trainers — Kira Stokes and Alex Silver Fagan — to nail down the general components of the perfect workout prep. Ahead, here's what you really need to do to stay safe and get the most out of your sweat session.
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Illustrated by Paolo Delucca.
Check In With Your Body

Here's the thing: Some days you're just not going to be up for a workout, period — and that's okay. Other days, you might feel up for some gentle cardio, but definitely not more strength-training as you had planed — that's also okay.

Point is, part of your pre-workout routine should be checking in with how your body is reacting to your previous workouts and the rest of your life, and adapting based on that. "Take note of how you're feeling, and if and where you're sore," says Silver-Fagan. "That way you can push to your max and also choose your workout accordingly."
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Illustrated by Paolo Delucca.
Don't Forget To Pee

Sure, you're scoffing now. But there are few things as uncomfortable as trying to power through a workout with a full bladder.

"It sounds silly, but no one wants to run to the bathroom in the middle of their workout," says Silver-Fagan. "It gets you out of the zone and it's just annoying."

Instead, follow your mother's advice and just "try" before starting that 45-minute sweat session.
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Illustrated by Norah Stone.
Find Your Motivation
One of the hardest parts of working out is finding your focus. For that, Stokes suggests taking some time for reflection.

“Just take time to step away. I like to grab a pad and paper, and visualize my workout,” Stokes says.

You can also find a motivational quote or try writing in your journal before the workout (or even the night before) to prepare yourself mentally. “The key is to find something to take you away from technology and help you focus,” Stokes says.
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Illustrated by Norah Stone.
Start Your Playlist
This may seem like a no-brainer, but picking the perfect playlist can really have a major impact on the intensity and pace of your workout.

“It’s motivation,” says Stokes. “Always listen to your favorite song that gets you stoked or in the mood to get moving.” Her favorite workout songs include Van Halen’s “Jump” and “Sirius” by Alan Parsons (which is the song the Chicago Bulls use to get pumped up, in case you were wondering).
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Illustrated by Norah Stone.
Get Dressed Early
If you’re one of those people who come up with excuses for skipping a workout or get easily distracted before heading to the gym, Stokes has a solution: Get dressed early.

“Get dressed in workout clothes an hour before your workout. That way, if you get caught up, you see you have your leggings on, and you’ll have no excuse,” Stokes says. Just make sure you’re wearing the right gear for the workout ahead of you.
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Illustrated by Norah Stone.
Have A Plan Of Attack

This might sound like a no-brainer, but always make a game plan before you hit the gym. “If you don’t have a specific class plan, then you’ll get in there and, before you know it, you’re on your phone,” says Stokes.

To avoid any distractions — and get straight to work — Stokes recommends plotting out how much time you’ll dedicate to different workouts. Maybe it’s 45 minutes of cardio and a half hour of lifting. Maybe you’re going to focus on a specific muscle group. Whatever the case, Stokes says, “Get that game plan in your head before showing up to the gym.”
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Illustrated by Norah Stone.
Use A Foam Roller
You've probably heard this one touted as a good thing to do after you work out, but "rolling out" before you get going can also be helpful. "It’s definitely something that’s important to do before you start your official regimen," Stokes says. "It improves your mobility, makes you more efficient during your workout, and increases blood flow, which aids in efficiency in your workout."
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Illustrated by Norah Stone.
Hydrate The Right Way

We all know that staying hydrated is important. But if you really want to stay healthy, the key is to make hydration a priority all day long — not just an hour before you hit the gym.

What you don't want to do is walk into your workout running low on fluid: "Your energy level is low when you don’t drink enough water," Stokes says. But you also don't want to chug a bunch of water needlessly. Stokes says that she finds that working out in the evening can be better since you've had all day to hydrate appropriately.

The good news: as long as you're listening to your thirst, and drinking when you feel the urge, chances are you're not dehydrated. Just be sure to keep listening to your thirst during and after your workout, too.
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Illustrated by Norah Stone.
Make Your Warm-Up Dynamic
Dynamic stretches are those that involve movement, as opposed to static stretches, which are the kind you get into and hold. The former are generally better to do after your workout as a cool-down activity, but a dynamic stretching routine instead raises your heart rate and improves your range of motion.

"These are active stretches that mimic some of the movement you’ll do," Stokes explains. This can include things like jumping jacks, arm circles, and high knees, but you should pick the warm-up moves based on what you plan to do for the main event. "It’s prepping your body with the work you’re going to do that day," Stokes adds, so if you're going to do a bunch of core work, be sure to do a few planks before you begin also.
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Illustrated by Norah Stone.
Fuel Your Body
You can't exercise without fuel. "Just remember every person is different. I can eat 10 minutes before [working out] and feel fine," says Stokes. "The optimal time is one hour before. But play around with it, and see what feels best for your body."

When it comes to what to eat, Stokes recommends something with both complex carbohydrates and a little protein. Her favorite pre-workout snacks: Oatmeal with almonds, an apple with almond butter, and avocado cucumber sushi rolls with brown rice.
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Illustrated by Norah Stone.
Put Your Phone Down
We've all done it. You decide to go to the gym, but once you look down at your phone you get sucked into an Instagram or Facebook black hole for an hour.

"We’re all guilty of it. We bring our phones with us when we’re working out. And instead of focusing on your workout, your focusing on your social feed," says Stokes. "I ask my clients to put it down 20 minutes before your workout. I won’t let myself look at it [20 minutes before my own workouts, either]."

We know it's hard, but your body will thank you for the focus.
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