#FitnesswithKaren: Top 4 Things You Could Be Doing Wrong at the Gym

1. Worrying about other people

As I mentioned in my last article, many of us (myself included!) are guilty of worrying about what others think of us at the gym.  However, fear of embarrassment about how you look when using a machine distracts you from your workout. But everyone at the gym essentially has the same goal: to be healthy and get fit. Since anxiety about your appearance only detracts from your goal, don’t be intimidated by the guys that walk around the weight room like they own the place; rather, focus on improving your own lifestyle. Forget what other people are doing - your health and fitness goals at the gym are what come first and foremost.

2. Over lifting

The Rock didn’t start lifting 2000 pounds on day one and neither should you. Most people start off lifting much more than their muscles can handle. Over lifting, meaning lifting more weight than you are capable of, negatively impacts your joints and muscles. While it is great to break a PR (personal record), it is even more important to be careful and gradually build up weight and muscle instead. And because the gym is not a place of judgement (see point #1), people do not pay attention to how much you lift at the gym. You’re not impressing anyone by damaging your joints, so take things at your own speed.

3. Using the same machine and routines

If you have been consistently going to the gym, setting a routine, and finally feel like you’ve got a workout schedule down - in the words of Kris Jenner - “you’re doing amazing sweetie.” Really you are. When you first start working out, you will most likely see results quickly: your body will grow more toned, you will notice muscle gain, and you will grow stronger. However, after a few weeks, your body will gradually adapt to the same routine and your results will slow down, despite your schedule being the same as the weeks prior. The same weights which made you strain with effort no longer seem so difficult; you no longer breathe so hard when pumping through the same routine. This decrease of muscle-stressing means that your body has reached a stasis. If you do not push yourself further, your body will not grow stronger.

To help you picture this a bit better: imagine a plateau. The uphill climb can represent the first few weeks when you are seeing great progress. After a while, the level will become flat - your body has gotten used to the same routine and workouts. Only by changing your workouts and routines every few weeks will your body be challenged enough to continue achieving high results. My article on how to get a summer body was just one of the many routines I go through every few weeks.

4. Letting the machine do the work

Just because the machine is moving, doesn’t mean you’re the one doing the work. For instance, I realized that whenever I was on the elliptical, the machine would be moving, but I would just ride along with the momentum of the machine as opposed to actually using my legs to work the machine. The machine was doing all the work and I was just along for the ride. Even while I was cycling, I noticed a similar pattern: I would pedal hard in the beginning to get the bike  rolling, but after a while, I was just riding along with the machine with the occasional push of my legs. This is not effective working out! Try putting the machines on a higher level of resistance to force yourself to strengthen those hard-earned muscles as opposed to just cruising for the ride. Workouts are supposed to be challenging! If it were easy, everyone would have a six pack.

5. Phone usage (*not including music*)

This is the perhaps the one thing that I am the most guilty of. If you look at any gym anywhere, I guarantee that you will find someone texting or watching Netflix while working aleg machine. DON’T. That’s a big fat no-no. Not only are you distracted from focusing entirely on your workout (which is kind of why you’re at the gym in the first place), but it also wastes time. I understand the temptation. I admit that there are moments when I think watching Grey’s Anatomy is perfectly acceptable when trying to distract yourself from the pain (literally any cardio machine). But in general, working out is all about bettering your body and soul, and neither of these things can be achieved while you are absorbed into the love life of Meredith Grey.

Of course I have much more advice to share about bettering your gym life, but these four red flags to avoid are the ones that I found to be most prevalent. Believe me, I am guilty of every single one of them so I understand your struggle. But some habits are meant to be broken. I hope you lovelies find this article helpful and stay healthy!