Are you making the best use of your time in the gym, or are you making costly exercise mistakes that may be sabotaging your long-term fitness goals? Check out my top 5 workout mistakes and suggested fixes.
I recently wrote about some common exercise mistakes. With your overwhelming response, I’ve decided to tackle this topic again and tell you about more common exercise mistakes and how you can avoid them. Sometimes people have no idea that the bad habits they fall into may be holding them back.
So many people go to the gym and get onto the treadmill at a slow pace while watching TV or reading a magazine. They exert no real effort and just plod along. I’ll admit, doing this is better than sitting on the couch and doing nothing at all. But the truth is, if you’re going to make time in your day to exercise and you want to improve your fitness level, then you need make the most of your time. The calorie burn of doing this slow, distracted style of workout is very minimal.
Fix: Train on the treadmill with a purpose and at a pace that challenges you to pay attention. Vary your speed and gradient often to keep your body challenged. If you always start your gym routine with the treadmill, consider breaking your habit and try a new piece of cardio equipment. Or, you could do a dynamic warm-up followed by a resistance-based routine. If you truly enjoy watching TV while on a stroll, do it as your cool-down to get your mind relaxed before you leave the gym.
Bending over while hunched up to pick up or put down weights (even if the light ones) can put a lot of unnecessary stress on both your upper and lower back muscles. This is especially true if your day involves sitting at a desk for long hours. Prolonged periods of sitting or slouching at a desk can cause weak and relaxed back muscles. If you combine this with incorrect weight lifting, you could sustain an injury or cause avoidable muscle imbalances.
Fix: Always adopt an athletic posture. Use your glutes and bend your legs to help pick up and put down weights.
Many people spend a lot of time working small isolated muscle groups. This is especially true of the vanity muscles like biceps or rectus abdominals. Having an occasional muscle-focused session can be beneficial, but if you always work small muscle groups, your workout calorie burn and overall fitness level may not be impacted as effectively.
Fix: Don’t waste time training just your vanity muscles, such as biceps and triceps alone. Maximize your gym time by doing combination exercises that involve large muscle groups, so that you get the best possible calorie burn during your session. Also, consider adding some cardio to your planned gym session if you are focusing on small muscle groups.
Many people spend too much idle time chatting in between sets when doing a weights session. You should allow the muscles you’re working to recover in between sets, but try to stay focused.
Fix: Stay on the clock—or if you want to get more out of your session, do a cardio activity in between each weight set and keep your heart rate elevated. Don’t get carried away in conversations while you’re taking a rest.
Many exercisers skip their warm-up and jump right into their session. This can lead to injury and you won’t feel your best throughout the entire workout session.
Fix: Understand that the aim of a warm-up is to get your body ready to perform at its best during your workout. Try a dynamic warm-up with some light cardio moves. If you’re in a rush, you can do a lighter version of your workout exercises as your warm-up. For instance, if you plan on doing weighted squats in your workout, do body weight squats as your warm-up move.
Spending a few minutes before your session to prepare your body and mind for your workout, may give you better overall results. I find that when I spend a good amount of time warming up, I feel less sore the next day.
My goal as a trainer is to help people find effective ways to maximize their time and make fitness part of their lifestyle—not just a temporary fix to reach a goal weight. I encourage you to avoid these five common exercise mistakes, so that you can get the most out of each and every training session.
Samantha Clayton is responsible for all activities relating to exercise and fitness education for Independent Herbalife Members and employees. Through in-person training sessions, educational tools and materials, and her blog (www.discovergoodfitness.com), she ensures that the important role of exercise as part of a healthy, active life is understood by all. She also helps create, organize and promote employee fitness programs and activities as an integral part of the company’s corporate wellness program.
A native of Liverpool, England, Samantha initially worked as a consultant for Herbalife for two years and led the Herbalife24-Fit program, the company’s first comprehensive fitness training program and DVD series.
Before joining the corporate ranks, Samantha was a professional athlete. She represented Great Britain in the 2000 Sydney Olympics in both the 200m and the 4x100m relay events. Prior to the Olympics, she won two medals in the Olympic AAA trials – a silver medal for the 200m and a bronze for the 100m – as well as a silver medal in the 4x100m relay during the European Junior Championships in 1997. Her personal records include 11.40 seconds in the 100m and 23.02 seconds in the 200m.
Samantha is a personal trainer and group exercise coach through the American Fitness and Aerobics Association (AFAA) and International Sport Science Association (ISSA).