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Level up your workout game

It is time to level up your workout game. But you have to start somewhere. And that’s what you will learn here whether you are at ground zero or reaching for that next rung of the ladder.

Why is it important to level up now

If you experience the typical weather cycle, the days are getting shorter, and colder. The desire to go out for a brisk morning walk or jog is trumped by the warmness of our beds and the increasing sluggish feelings. And it is scientific fact that we feel more tired in the winter – reduced sun exposure can dramatically affect your circadian rhythm, causing your body to produce more melatonin (a.k.a., the sleep hormone). So the run of the mill routines are not going to cut it. You need to mix it up to stay motivated.

Opportunity is everywhere for free classes / discounted memberships

This is the season of huge holiday deals – and that extends to gyms and member studios. From free classes to huge discounts on memberships, waiving initiation fees and special perks, I can tell you my inbox is overflowing with offers to try workout classes and memberships on the house. So why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that? These businesses are experiencing a slowdown because it isn’t January yet, but if you get in before everyone hops on the bandwagon you can save major money and be ahead of everyone else! 

Ways to up your game 

Get yourself some new gear (at a big discount)

If you have workout clothes more than 5 years out, GET RID OF THEM. And you will feel better about yourself and be eager to wear your new clothes. Some of my favorite brands are Alo, Koral, Splits59 and Varley. A great place to find a mix of different high-end brands is Carbon38, or the individual designers’ sites. As a new visitor you will usually get 15-30 percent off your first order, so take advantage of that. If you are more low-budget, you can find great options at Nordstrom Rack, Athleta, or secondhand options like ThredUp or Poshmark (remember: wash before you wear).

Galaxy went a little craxy during the Black Friday Sales!

Get a pre-workout boost

You know that feeling like you are ascending to the top of a peak in your energy and like you can just Tasmanian Devil your way through anything! This comes in the form of a pre-workout powder. You can get a ton of different kinds but my favorites is Beyond Raw Lit from GNC. If caffeine is an issue for you, you can get a non-caffeine based pre-workout like one of the brands recommended here.  

five person by table watching turned on white iMac
Suit up and show up – just like you would for your real job. Photo by Jason Goodman

Treat your scheduled workout like an important client meeting

Like, something where no one will get in the way. Not that one extra email you have to answer, not those dishes you need to wash, not that dismissive “10 more minutes” crap. No.

Prep is really important. Figure out what you are going to wear the night before (this is why it is so much better to have good workout gear). Lay it out by your bed “fireman style” the night before. Charge your phone and airpods. If you are working out at home, have your yoga mat and equipment all ready to and laid out. It’s a lot less motivating to get on a Peloton when it is moonlighting as a coat hanger!

The biggest issue we have when making time to workout is time. You can read more of my timesaving tips in this post:

Get your mind right

Believe it or not, sitting still and doing a guided motrivational meditation will totally get you in the zone for an amazing workout. Try a guided meditation on energy on vitality, like this one from Power Thoughts Meditation club:

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You can find more meditations on the DAOFitLife YouTube Playlist

Ways you can step up your resistance training

“Zip your abs” – everyone tells you to engage your core but no one tells you how to do it. No one also tells you that basically every exercise where you are standing or on all fours works your core even if technically it is not an “ab” move. So what’s the deal? How do you “engage your core”? Imagine you are zippng up a pair of brand new super fitted jeans. You know that part of your stomach you have to hold in to get the zipper up? Yep, that. And do it during all exercises, not just abs. 

I didn’t see any real changes in my body until I broke out of my comfort zone with weights.

Get snatched wrists

We all focus on the “sexy” body parts, and wrists aren’t known to be sexy. But as you type up that next email and think, wow my hands are so sore, did you know that incorporating kettlebell swings can improve your wrist strength. Check out this easy workout to swing away in my YouTube DAOFitLife 10 Minute Workout Playlist.  And if you are like, how do I even do a swing, check out this how-to video\in my DAOFitLife Exercise Library playlist (which is an index of how-to videos for different workout moves)

Kettlebell weightlifting athlete woman lifting weight at outdoor fitness gym. Lower body legs and feet closeup of strength training legs, glutes and back lifting free weights.

 Grip better

Part of why resistance training can seem daunting is because there are certain basics that get overlooked in the interest of just getting the movement down. But both wrist strength (above) and a good grip can really get you further in upgrading your weight level and number of reps. And guess what, kettlebells help with that too. If you go to any gym with trainers, you will often see their clients carrying two heavy kettlebells down a runway or in a straight line. That is called a “farmer’s carry” (I guess like when they carry buckets of water?) and that is great for your grip. It also came in very handy the last time I landed in Schipol airport in Amsterdam and had to carry two suitcases up 4 flights of steps! If you are a frequent traveler you definitely will appreciate the extra grip strengths for all kinds of reasons. 

Mix it up

 If you traditionally do high rep, low weight, try fewer reps with more weight. 

Or if that is your starting point, try fewer reps and more weight. Instead of a fixed numbers of reps and sets, do AMRAP (as many reps as possible) which I explain in my post on strength training – essentially, it’s as many reps you can go until failure. It also helps if you are short on time – you only do each exercise once.

 If you rush through your reps, try going slower – more muscle time under tension builds more definition, according to this article in Popsugar.

Try a new, challenging workout

A new type of bootcamp workout – whether it be Orange Theory or Barry’s, will really help you step up your weight training game with a mix of HIIT, cardio and weights. I have reviewed both of these below:

Or you could try something off the beaten path, like indoor rock climbing, pole dancing, or aerial yoga. Whatever you need to do to get out of your rut, even if it is something you don’t come back to regularly, will reignite your focus and mind-body connection.


There are so many different ways you can wear these to “next level” your workout. 

Now that it is getting dark earlier and much colder, treadmill and indoor cardio is a great option to stay motivated. But let’s face it, treadmills and ellipticals can be BORING. So here is how to level it up.

Innovate on the treadmill 

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Walk backwards 

This is like “huh” at first and I will admit I never would have even thought of this. Until I saw this totally ripped woman in the gym doing this. She was on the treadmill walking backwards and slow as I walked upstairs to my yoga class. As I walked down from the class, she was still walking backwards! 

I believe some of the best ideas for fitness are what you learn by watching trainers and really fit people in the gym. I decided why not give this a go. I got on the treadmill and walked backwards gingerly at first. The amazing thing about this is that I felt SO sore in my hamstrings with muscles I had not really been engaging.

It turns out walking backwards does have many benefits, including working different muscles, but also improving your hip strength and gait which is especially important if you are a runner or essentially any kind of participant in an athletic sport.

Plus, the mind-body connection you get is amazing. You have to focus or you will fall. You can’t constantly fiddle with your phone and so I usually just listen to a podcast or a YouTube video where I don’t have to see the screen, and before I know it 35 minutes go by easily. 

Side to side 

Side shuffles work both your inner and outer thighs, while also toning you calves and doubling as a cardio exercise. Walking sideways on a treadmill can be extremely beneficial for improving strength and mobility of the hips and legs while simultaneously improving lower body coordination. Doing so is also rather mentally engaging and is a great way to add variety into your treadmill exercise routine.

Vitleo @ Adobe Stock

Do interval training on the Elliptical

So Elliptical has a reputation for being a boring side piece to the treadmill, usually. But if you mix it up the right way, you can have your blood pumping and get a great high-intensity workout. Think of it like spinning, but standing up.

You can find an example of a good interval workout from this article in Women’s Health Magazine, but it’s not rocket science to put this together yourself. All you have to do is warm up for about 5 minutes, and then alternate between going all out for 1-2 minutes and recovery. 

HIIT it up 

HIIT training isn’t just about burpees – you can do HIIT with rowing machines, battleropes, the stairmaster, and the exercise bike by just following the format above. Here are a few examples of my interval workouts on the Woodwayand Skierg:

HIIT Examples

The Woodway

The Skierg.

Pilates, Yoga and Barre

You can up your game in these areas, also. One trend that has resurfaced are the Bala Bangles. 

Incorporate ankle and wrist weights – I have been using my “bala bangles” which are basically these wrap around ankle and wrist weights, you can see a picture of them here: 

You can barely see the Bala Bangles on my wrists, but they do so much to make a precision-based workout more challenging.

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