The streets are flooded with joggers and power-walkers, alike. The gym is packed, and beating someone to that rare, empty treadmill has become a fierce competition. This means one thing… Bikini season is almost here!
Like most other college girls, I don’t particularly desire flabby thighs and a muffin top while sporting bathing suits and shorts during the summer, so I spend my fair share of time at the gym as well. If you are a regular gym-goer, you know this is an excellent place to people watch. My observations have made me realize few women follow a proper and well-rounded workout regimen. Obviously I understand I am far from perfect when it comes to diet and exercise, but I have noticed several mistakes that many of us ladies are making at the gym that are holding us back from optimal fitness.
Your Workout Lacks Variety
I have a very routine schedule. Wake up. Eat breakfast. Go to class… However, the one thing that should never be routine is your workout. Let’s say you run for 10 minutes every day, do the same boring crunches every day, and the same squats and lunges every day. If you complete the exact same workout day in and day out, you are guilty of a very common mistake. A workout that lacks variety can almost be a waste of time. It’s a very simple concept… Your body will quickly adapt to whatever sort of activity you are doing on a routine basis. Thirty minutes on the elliptical everyday will cause you to plateau and see minimal results eventually. Switch it up. Run on Monday. Do upper body weights on Tuesday. Take a spin class on Wednesday, and so on. For variety within a single workout, you can alternate the speed and incline on the treadmill or elliptical to get the most out of your workout. Shocking your body with a variety of exercises is essential to building endurance and strength, and staying fit overall.
Misuse of the Machines
Clearly cardio machines of all sorts are our friends. However, it’s very, very important to know how to use them properly. You’re probably thinking a treadmill is pretty basic and easy to understand. I agree… to a point. I’m as guilty as the next person for holding onto the handles to regain my balance or things of this nature, but that’s not the issue at hand. We’ve all seen the girls that jack the speed and incline to the highest levels while grasping the treadmill handles (to keep from falling off, I presume). There are several problems with this. First, I know exactly what these girls must be thinking: the higher the speed and incline, the more calories burned. But when you grasp the treadmill like you’re holding on for dear life, you are not properly working your muscles and highly distorting the calorie count. If you are guilty of this, STOP IT. For starters, it just looks silly and robs you of a good workout. According to Jillita Horton, a personal trainer and fitness writer, holding onto the handles of a treadmill can cause you to burn 20% fewer calories. The calorie counter on a treadmill is not precise to begin with, throw in a bad technique such as this one, and it’s a toss up how many calories you actually burn. Another problem is the negative consequences on posture and balance as well as hip, shoulder, and knee injuries. Additionally, gripping the handles so tightly increases blood pressure. When was the last time you walked up a mountain grasping handles with your body tilted at an unnatural angle? If your technique on the treadmill does not mimic the technique you would use without the machine, it is probably incorrect. Let go of the handles!
Too Much Cardio, Not Enough Weights
Women are notorious for limiting their workouts to cardio because of several misconceptions. The first misconception being that cardio is the best way to burn fat. While cardio is a great part of every workout, strength training burns more fat. A study by Wayne Westcott, PhD, shows that women who strength trained two to three times a week over the course of 2 months gained more lean muscle and lost about 3.5 pounds of fat. Lean muscle also causes an increase in metabolism, which means you burn more calories all day long, even when you are at rest.
Another misconception is that women will get too bulky. Sure, we have all seen the freakish-looking female body builders, but generally speaking, women lack the hormones to get bulky. Instead, you’ll have definition, and we have all admired Halle Berry’s toned arms….
Strength training has tons of additional benefits that you may not be aware of such as its ability to reduce the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.
These are just a few of the mistakes women commonly make at the gym. The best way to reach your highest fitness potential is to do a little research and consult professionals at the gym you go to. This way, you can ensure you are getting the most of your workout. It’s always better to ask for help than to look foolish and not reap the benefits of an hour at the gym, or worse, put yourself at a high risk for injury.