Are you making mistakes when you exercise that make your workout ineffective? Or worse yet, are you doing things that could lead to costly injuries? Whether you’re a veteran or novice at exercising you need to be sure you’re getting the best workout possible.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) surveyed 3,000 certified fitness professionals and asked them what are the biggest mistakes they see people making in the gym– but you don’t have to work out in a gym to make some of these top ten fitness fumbles:
- Not stretching enough. It’s always a good idea to stretch for a few minutes prior to exercise concentrating on the muscles that will be used during the fitness activity. Most importantly, spending time stretching after a workout for about 8-10 minutes, while your muscles are still warm and pliable, will reap major benefits. Muscles that are flexible are far less likely to be injured than tight ones.
- Not warming up prior to aerobic activity. Stretching is just part of the warm-up equation. Your entire body needs to be gradually warmed up to prepare it for the added demands of aerobic training. During warm-up your body re-routes blood to your extremities to efficiently deliver oxygen to the working muscles, your heart-rate gradually elevates so it can meet your increased need for oxygen, and your muscles gradually prepare to help you hit your peak stride. So, start out slowly for the first few minutes, your workout will be much more effective.
- Not cooling down after any type of workout. Just as your body needs a warm-up it also needs a cool-down. Take some time to gradually let your heart-rate lower. Stopping aerobic activity abruptly can cause a number of problems such as blood pooling in your lower extremities or making you feel light-headed. Now is also a prime time to get in a good stretch that will provide you with lasting flexibility.
- Lifting too much weight. This is a sure-fire way to an injury and a painful one at that! Too much weight will contribute to poor form when lifting and create injury to other areas of the body in addition to the muscle you’re targeting. Know your limits. The most effective workout is gradual progressive resistance training.
- Jerking while lifting weights. Lifting too much weight can contribute to jerking. The best way to strength train a muscle is by using slow, controlled movement. If you’re jerking your weights you’re inviting injury, especially to your back muscles.
- Exercising too intensely. The days of “no pain, no gain” are gone! If you’re looking for effective weight loss, longer periods of moderately intense workouts are most effective. Short periods of high intensity training are fine when integrated into a circuit training workout or when used for athletic training. But for the average fitness enthusiast, too much intensity will only lead to soreness and burnout.
- Not exercising intensely enough. If you’re looking for results you need to put effort into your fitness program. You don’t want to overdo it, but you do want to get your heart elevated into it’s target training zone.
- Leaning heavily on the stairmaster. If you find yourself leaning on the stairmaster you’re cheating yourself out of an effective workout. Focus on setting the intensity level at the point where you can stand up straight while lightly resting your hands on the rails for balance. If you want to really improve your balance and workout, practice taking your hands off the rails and moving your arms as though you’re actually going upstairs.
- Not drinking enough water. Contrary to most sports drink advertising, unless you work out for more than two hours per day, water will fill all your fluid needs. Be sure to drink at least 64 ounces of water per day, that’s eight 8 ounce glasses.
- Consuming energy bars and sports drinks during moderate workouts. Most fitness professionals agree that unless you’re exercising for more than 2 hours a day, energy bars and sports drinks aren’t necessary. Unfortunately, high-energy generally means high-calorie when it comes to these products. Sticking to a healthy, well rounded eating plan and drinking plenty of water should meet most exercisers needs.