Man oh man, plugging away on the elliptical every day has your legs feeling like they want to fall off, and after 150 crunches, why isn’t your stomach flatter!? Are you working out, but not seeing the results you’d like? It may not be a lack of effort, but rather some simple, commonly made mistakes. Leaning on the stair climber may help you stay climbing longer, but it drastically reduces the calories you burn and the challenge on your lower body! Yeah, yeah that’s kind of common knowledge right? What about the smaller subtler mistakes you’re making? With swimsuit season in just a month, time is valuable and you want to make sure your workout is…well, working you out! So let’s fix those slip-ups and get you in the best shape ever! Read on for some of the worst exercise mistakes you just might be guilty of
1.)You forget to warm up.
According to WebMD’s Debi Pillarella, MEd, a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise, a warm-up is essential to avoiding injury. "Without a warm-up, you're asking your body to work before the oxygen and blood flow reaches the muscles. This increases the risk for injury. With cardiovascular exercise, you raise the heart rate too fast. Before you exercise in earnest, spend 5-10 minutes going through the motions of your workout at an easy pace to raise your body temperature from the inside out" says Pillarella. Julie Isphording, host of the radio shows Fitness Information Talk and On Your Feet also stresses the importance of awarm-up. She says that not doing a warm-up before lifting weights can risk torn muscles and your ability to lift heavier weights. So it’s a good idea to spend a few minutes running on the treadmill or an exercise bike at the start of your workout. Walking in place is also a good warm-up!
2.) You do 500 crunches… with terrible form.
You may be doing hundreds of crunches and slaving away at that abdominal machine in the gym – but if you’re not in correct form, your body won’t turn from flabby to fabulous anytime soon. Why? Because you’re probably using your upper torso, neck and head to do the work – which won’t strengthen or shape your abdomen. “Do mindful exercise,” says Pillarella. "The contraction should be from the ribcage to the hip bone. Put your mind into the muscles that are working, and keep all the other muscles quiet."
3.) You pretend the gym is the library.
Whether you’re trying to catch up in your political science class or catching up with the latest celeb gossip while you’re on the elliptical, you’re probably not putting your all into your workout. "If you must read, stop about every three minutes and do a four-minute focus interval.” During this interval, "concentrate on picking up the pace, dropping your shoulders, breathing, and using your arms," Isphording says. We all know we’re good at multi-tasking, but at the gym, focus on exercising and reading separately!
4.) You speed through your weights.
Remember…you’re supposed to FEEL the pain! Not excruciating pain… that’s not good and you could be hurt – but we mean the burning sensation you get when you’re using your muscles to lift a weight. A common mistake while lifting weights is doing repetitions too fast. Doing so raises your blood pressure and puts you at risk of joint injuries. Plus the results aren’t as great as when you lift slowly. "The safest way to use strength machines or dumbbells is: in lifting phase, exhale for two counts and hold briefly at the top of the contraction, then return as you inhale for four counts," says Pillarella. "Always exhale during the hardest part of the work."
5.) You forget your water bottle.
For your muscles to contract properly, theyneed fluid. Hence if you’re dehydrated, you’re more prone to muscle spasms or aches which are no good! Keep the water flowing, because if you’re aching, you’ll lose motivation and never return to the gym! Water also keeps up your energy, so drink it before, during and after your workouts. According to the McKinley Health Center at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, you should drink one to two cups of water two hours before exercise. During your workout you should drink half to one cup every 15 minutes and plenty after your workout. If you are thirsty, that means you’re already dehydrated! Don’t guzzle the entire bottle though – if you do, you could get a cramp! Pillarella also says to skip out on the Gatorade: "unless you're a high-intensity athlete who's depleting electrolytes and potassium, you don't need Gatorade. Water is the preferred drink."
6.) You flee the scene as soon as your 30 minutes on the machine are up.
I, myself, do this all the time – mostly because I’m in a rush to get to my next activity at the gym. Well, according to the Mayo Clinic, “easing out of out of your aerobic workout may be as important as the exercise itself.”If you come to a sudden stop at the end of your workout you risk muscle soreness because you haven’t flushed the lactic acid out of your system. Do yourself a favor and take five to 10 minutes to walk it out to let your heart rate come down.
7.) You go on the elliptical for an hour… every day.
If you’re doing the same routine over and over again – chances are not only are you bored, but your muscles have also adapted. Thomas Van Ornum, a physical therapist graduate student at Boston University’s Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences says, “Each exercise stimulates only a limited number of muscle fibers. To stimulate more, alternate your moves every so often so significantly more fibers work in your favor to develop more tone and strength.” An even better fix? Learning two or three new exercises for each muscle group and trying new angles and equipment! Maybe instead of always running on the treadmill, try the elliptical or sign up for a new cardio class at your gym. Working out with friends can also make working out more fun and less of a burden. “Last semester I took beach body workout and this semester I’m taking a fat burning class,” says Caroline Shaw, a senior at Boston University. “I take the class because I like to have an instructor and having a class helps me to go to the gym regularly – I wish I had done this all four years, my 45 minute class makes me sweat more than it would if I went to the gym myself.”
Debi Pillarella, MEd, a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise
Julie Isphording, host of the radio shows Fitness Information Talk and On Your Feet
McKinley Health Center at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Thomas Van Ornum, third year graduate student student in Physical Therapy Program at Boston University’s Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences.
Caroline Shaw, senior at Boston University