Workout with Mel: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at My Go-To Fitness Routine

By Melinda Nicci - 00:00

Today is National Fitness Day in the UK and as a Sport Psychologist, professional trainer, and exercise fanatic - fitness is a subject near and dear to my heart. I always feel my absolute best after exercising - and when I'm having a bad day the one thing that rejuvenates me the most is a good workout. That's why I'm taking you behind the scenes today for a sneak peak at my go-to workout routine - from what I wear to how I prepare, plus a look at my favorite ways to refuel. Enjoy!

Step 1: Look the part

In order to fully prepare for a workout I need to feel like I am dressed and ready to perform. It's something small but it really does make a difference. I like to follow this mantra: if you look the part, you'll play the part. Here's a glimpse at what my gym outfit looks like, from head to toe:
  • For my hair: I swear by these ponytail holders from L. Erickson - I won't use anything else. These elastics won't pull or tear and they're strong enough to hold up my ponytail, which is an impressive feat in itself. I recommend sporting a low-sitting ponytail for any exercise, as it will be much gentler on your hair than a high ponytail or bun. 
  • For my body: I always wear a similar outfit when I exercise. I aim for clothes that are lightweight, breathable, and of course comfortable. This collection from Sweaty Betty is a great example of my trademark exercise outfit: capri leggings, a loose-fitting tank top, and a full-zip jacket to keep me warm both before and after exercise. 
  • For my feet: I like to treat my feet well - so my must-have footwear for any workout is a pair of  Nike Free Flynit trainers combined with their Dri-Fit socks. The shoes give me just the right amount of support and stability that I need without restricting my movement, and the socks are breathable and sweat-wicking so my feet never feel uncomfortable. 
Step 2: What's in my bag

I go everywhere with my Longchamp Tote Bag, and that includes the gym. It's sturdy yet stylish, and spacious but still lightweight. I'd be lost without it. Here's what I keep inside. 
  • Baby2Body water bottle - I only drink water during a workout and of course I use my Baby2Body branded one! Are you interested in a Baby2Body water bottle? Let us know here!
  • Philips ActionFit Headphones - I've had mine for 5 years and they're still amazing - they stay put, they're sweat resistant, and the sound quality is excellent.
  • Eos lip balm - my personal favorite is pomegranate, but EOS provides a lovely selection to choose from. I find that the gym can really dry me out, especially my lips so I like to have this on hand after a good workout to add a touch of shine and needed hydration to my lips.
  • Bioderma Sensibio cleansing wipes are incredibly convenient when it comes to quick cleansing and makeup removal. They're great for all skin types and the micellar solution removes any makeup with a few swipes. I use them on my face, neck and décolletage both before and after workout to keep my skin as clean as possible. However once I'm home, I always follow a proper cleanse, tone, and moisturise routine. 
Step 3: The warm-up

An effective warm-up should slowly raise your heart rate and "wake up" the muscles you are about to use. Most importantly, a good warm-up will reduce your chance of injury by helping to loosen your muscles and joints. I'm a fan of hopping on an elliptical to get my body ready for the strength training circuit ahead, and I'm sure to squeeze in some cardio while I'm at it:
  • 10 minutes (easy pace) - My initial goal is to raise my heart rate up to 100 beats per minute and maintain that for 10 minutes
  • 25 minutes (fast pace) - Next I increase the intensity to get my heart rate up and tackle the cardio section of my workout. My target HR zone for this is around 140-160 beats per minute.
  • 5 minutes (easy pace) - To finish it off, I go back to my starting pace so that my heart rate can gradually slow down before I hop off and head into a weight training workout.
Step 4: The workout

I tend to vary which muscle groups I focus on, but if I were to do a full body workout in one trip to the gym, this is what it would look like:
  • Upper series - using 4-kg weights and kettle bells
    • 10 bicep curls
    • 10 tricep dips
    • 10 upright rows
    • 10 lateral raises or arm flies
  • Repeat upper series
  • Lower series
    • 10 squats
    • 10 lunges per leg - alternating sides
    • 10 side lunges per side
    • 10 hip lifts on each leg
  • Repeat lower series
  • Floor series
    • 4 sets of 30-second planks
      • 15 second break in between sets
    • 2 sets of 1-minute planks
      • 30 second break in between sets
Step 5: The cool down

An effective cool down is crucial for safely lowering your heart rate and preventing post-workout dizziness. It's also a great time to work on improving your flexibility - because your muscles are warmed up and primed for stretching. My cool down usually lasts about 15 minutes and I love following this simple yoga flow to finish off my gym session:
  • Warrior pose - both sides
  • 2 sets of Sun Salutations
  • Downward Dog
  • Crow Pose
  • Pigeon pose - both sides
  • Butterfly pose
  • Supine spine twist - both sides
  • Bridge pose
  • Cat and cow pose
  • Child's pose
Final notes: How I fuel and refuel after a workout
  1. For early morning workouts, I'm not afraid to have a small cup of coffee beforehand. Not only does it help wake me up, it's been shown to make exercise more effective! Check out the research here. Of course if you're pregnant, you may want to start your mornings with a caffeine-free protein smoothie to a get a boost of energy.
  2. If I'm feeling hungry before a workout, I'll go for a banana as a snack. The research is still inconclusive regarding how much food you should have in your stomach during a workout, but one banana can give you a jolt of energy without filling your stomach too much. Plus, the potassium reduces the likelihood of cramping.
  3. After a tough workout, I refuel on lean meats and other healthy protein sources. My typical post-exercise meal includes salmon, chicken or a bean salad. I pair it with a tall glass of water that has some fresh orange slices cut up in it so I can rehydrate and replenish my balance of electrolytes at the same time.

Want to know more about my typical workout routine? Ask away in the comments below and I'll answer any questions in a follow-up post!

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