When it comes to working out, getting to the gym on a regular basis is only half the battle. The other half? Making the most of your time while you're there. By paying closer attention to your form, routine, nutrition and more, you'll be better able to achieve your fitness goals, not to mention avoid injury and weight-loss plateaus. Read on to make sure you're not committing any common fitness flubs, and if you are, learn how to fix them.
Mistake #1: Not Eating Enough
Keeping yourself properly fuelled is vital to a successful workout. Yvonne Castañeda, group exercise manager and private trainer for The Sports Club/LA in Miami, says that many times, when first embarking on a weight-loss journey, her clients skimp on meals. "Working out with little to no food in your system is like embarking on a 300-mile road trip with only a quarter-tank of gas," she says. "Too often we make the mistake of thinking fewer calories will lead to optimal weight loss. But being properly fuelled is essential to making the most of your training."
Solution: Eat a well-balanced snack that involves proteins and carbohydrates at least two hours before you hit the gym.
Mistake #2: Not Resting Enough
Chris Sims, a private trainer at The Sports Club/LA in Miami, emphasises the importance of rest. He says not resting or working out too hard can be a very dangerous mistake. "Overdoing this healthy outlet can be detrimental to your overall health," he says. "Working out seven days a week or even twice a day isn't good for you—your body has to reach recovery mode in order to repair the muscles and help them develop." If you overuse your muscles, you risk injury, loss of appetite and fatigue.
Solution: Simple—get some rest! Working out three to four times a week is definitely sufficient when trying to meet your goals. On the days you don't exercise, if you still want to be active, take the kids to the park, walk the dog or work in the garden. You can also maintain a healthy mindset by cooking nutritious meals for yourself.
Mistake #3: Not Incorporating Resistance Training
You might be intimidated by those huge weight machines and dumbbells, but next time you hit the gym just for the treadmill, reconsider. The benefits of resistance training are endless, Castañeda explains: "Resistance training helps build muscle, which in turn promotes fat burn, leading to a lower body fat percentage in the long run." In addition to cardio, strength and resistance training are essential to getting in shape.
Solution: Don't be afraid to approach a trainer. That's what they're there for! He or she can demonstrate how to use the equipment and also discuss how to incorporate those types of workouts into your fitness plan two to three times per week.
Mistake #4: Slacking on Technique and Form
Many people have trouble figuring out the correct way to perform strength-training exercises. "It's imperative to be smart when approaching a new fitness regimen that includes lifting weights over your head and pushing weight off your chest. You want to avoid injury at all costs," Castañeda says. In addition, proper form is the key to making your workout effective.
Solution: If you don't work out with a personal trainer, feel free to ask them questions while you're at the gym. Find out how many sets, reps and rests between sets you need. Trainers can also give you feedback on your form. Another great source is the Internet—"you can discover information on technique, form and effectiveness of different exercises for your body type," Castañeda notes.
Mistake #5: Focusing on
Quantity Over Quality
It's easy to think that more is better when it comes to working out, but that's not necessarily the case—especially with weights. While doing more repetitions with a lighter weight is definitely better, according to MadeMan.com, you should be focused on form—not numbers.
Solution: As a gauge, "your muscles should be close to or at the point of exhaustion after 15 reps with the appropriate weight. If you can get through 35 without breaking a sweat, then you need to slow down each repetition while upping the weight."
Mistake #6: Not Varying the Types of Workouts
We're all guilty of falling into a routine. While working out is a healthy habit to have, not mixing up the number of reps and types of exercises is no good. "Sticking to the same routine for more than six weeks will cause your body to hit a plateau and you'll no longer see the changes you saw at the beginning of your programme. Your body, believe it or not, likes to be shocked, and putting it through new and challenging exercises is the best way to surprise it and wake it up," Castañeda says.
Solution: Make sure you vary frequency, intensity and repetitions. Another great way to get the most out of your workout is to try new things. Check out your gym's schedule for cardio and strength-training classes that strike your fancy, and take advantage of exercise DVDs as well as websites, like Exercise TV.
Mistake #7: Setting
Come the new year, it's easy to think those holiday pounds will just melt away in two or three months, or that you'll be able to run a half marathon in a couple of weeks. However, setting goals with big results in little time can quickly lead to disappointment. "Sometimes it takes years to put on a significant amount of weight and other times the weight can creep up on you in a matter of months. But when it comes to losing, it doesn't come off quite as easily nor as quickly," Sims says.
Solution: When crafting your workout plan, set goals that are attainable and realistic. "This way there's a better chance you won't give up and won't be disappointed," says Sims.
Mistake # 8: Not Stretching
You've probably heard how important warming up and cooling down is, but the most important part of both is stretching. Castañeda notes that it's vital to reward your body after a workout by stretching for at least 10 minutes to prevent soreness and promote recovery and repair. "Not stretching after your workout may cause uncomfortable soreness and impingements—consequences that will hinder the effectiveness of your next workout," she says.
Solution: Yoga is one of the easiest ways to incorporate stretching into your fitness programme. "The poses will help you release a significant amount of tension in your muscles and will help you feel more relaxed," Castañeda says. Check out some basic yoga poses or Denise Austin's essential stretches for moves you can do in a quiet corner at your gym.