Photo Courtesy: Cumi & Ciki
Each workout you do should be tailored to your personal fitness goals. Someone planning on running a marathon needs to prepare differently than someone who is trying to increase their flexibility or strengthen their back.
However, no matter what your goals are, you will be more successful if you avoid these common exercise mistakes:
1. Skipping the Warm Up
Warming up before you exercise increases the effectiveness of your workout and reduces your chance of injury. Many make the mistake of assuming that stretching counts as a warm up; while stretching is important, it isn’t enough to get your body ready for the impending strain. After stretching, hop on the elliptical or treadmill and jog at a low intensity for about five minutes. This prepares your body for what’s coming.
2. Avoiding the Weight Bench
There are many reasons people avoid lifting weights. Some are intimidated because they don’t know what to do, while others (particularly women) are afraid it will make them look like a WWF wrestler. Lifting weights is actually a great exercise for almost everyone. Find a trainer or call a knowledgeable friend if you are intimidated by the weight machines.
For women concerned about their appearance, resistance training improves muscle tone and increases muscle mass, which helps burn fat. Without abusing steroids, it is virtually impossible for any woman to leave looking like The Rock, so don’t be afraid to add some weights to your workout.
3. Doing the Same thing Every Day
Whether your goal is to lose weight or to increase muscle mass, variety is your friend. Sticking to the same routine may be easy and comfortable, but eventually you will plateau. Change your workout regimen from time to time so your body can rise to new challenges.
4. Ignoring Proper Form
Being lazy about your form doesn’t just reduce the effectiveness of your workout, it seriously increases your chances of injuring yourself. If you don’t want to spend the next day at the nearest chiropractor, pay attention to proper form. One mistake people make is to arch their backs while lifting heavy weights or doing push-ups.
Other common mistakes include letting your front knee extend over your foot during lunges and forgetting to keep your shoulders relaxed while bench pressing weights. Take the time to learn how to do each exercise correctly to keep your workout safe and effective.
5. Exercising too Much
While regular exercise is an important key to fitness, overworking yourself can lead to fatigue and injury. Intense workouts six or seven days a week may be too much. Your body needs time to heal itself and replenish energy. Everyone is different, so there isn’t a hard and fast rule about how much is too much. Learn to listen to your body. If you feel like you can’t work out safely, it may be time to take a day off.
6. Focusing on Quantity over Quality
Remember that quality is more important than quantity. A short run that challenges you will be more effective than slogging away for an hour without really getting your heart rate up. The same goes for resistance training; if you are doing more than about 15 reps, you could probably be using heavier weights. A few reps with a heavy weight and perfect form are much more useful than 20 fast, sloppy reps that don’t challenge you.
7. Exercising Inefficiently
Everyone is busy these days, so no one wants to waste time doing something inefficiently. Make the most out of your workout time by focusing on exercises that do double duty. Swap out your boring stretches for some yoga that will stretch your muscles and improve your balance.
Instead of just doing lunges, grab a pair of 8-15 pound weights and do simultaneous shoulder presses. Instead of doing crunches, which target just your abs and often leave your neck hurting, try planks. A plank will leave you with toned abs, but it strengthens your back and your arms at the same time.
8. Not Drinking Enough Water
A large percentage of your body is water, so it makes sense that drinking enough water would be important. Don’t wait until you are at the gym. Start drinking water at least a half hour before your workout so you are well hydrated. Water helps maintain your strength and endurance and prevents cramping, so keep it close by while you exercise.
9. Eating at the Wrong Time
It might seem like a good idea to have a quick snack to boost your energy right before your workout, but if you aren’t careful, you may end up feeling like you’ve had all the energy sapped out of you instead. Digestion requires an enormous amount of energy, so eating something right before your workout diverts energy away from your workout and toward pulling the nutrients out of that granola bar. Exercising on an empty stomach may leave you just as drained, so eat something about an hour before your workout.
10. Skipping the Cool Down
It may be tempting to rush straight from the treadmill to the shower after your workout, but the cool down is an equally important part of your workout. Take the time to lower your heart rate by walking for a few minutes, and make sure to stretch so you aren’t too sore to work out again tomorrow.
Make the most out of your workout time by being smart. Avoiding these common mistakes will increase the effectiveness of your workouts and lower your risk of injury.
Michael David is a freelance blogger who writes about a variety of topics including health and fitness. If you read this too late, and ended up with a tweaked back, check out Alberta Back & Neck Rehab for advice and assistance repairing the damage.