Going to the gym several times a week is a great thing, but if you’re not seeing results week after week, chances are you’re wasting time by not maximizing your effort. The problem isn’t the exercise, or the amount of exercise, but the way you exercise. We talked to fitness experts who revealed some common fitness mistakes people are making at the gym. Here are some frequent mistakes to avoid so that you won’t undermine the effectiveness of your workout.
Fitness Mistake #1: Spending too much time on cardio machines
Frequent aerobic exercise is definitely beneficial to your health, as it decreases obesity and the risk of diabetes while strengthening your cardiovascular system. However, many people aren’t getting the maximum benefits from solely doing cardio for a number of reasons. For one, they may not be pacing the exercise correctly or they may be using the machines wrong. Sometimes putting too much resistance on the machines can ruin your posture, creating tension in your joints. Make sure you maintain a natural gait. Also, staying on cardio machines for too long means you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. Decrease your time on the machine while increasing resistance to make the most out of your workout.
Fitness Mistake #2: Sticking to the same routine
We all like familiarity and routine, but if there’s no progress, there’s no result. Doing the same workout over and over again gives your body no chance to grow, since you’re working the same muscles, which probably have gotten comfortable with the exercise. To keep yourself challenged, get away from the machines and routines you’ve been doing. Focus on strength training one week; the next, try aerobic exercises or a new machine. Change your program regularly.
Fitness Mistake #3: Doing too much, too soon
The quickest way to become overly sore, and even injure yourself, is to jump into an exercise too soon and over-exert yourself. Ease into the process of daily exercise little by little so you can grow stronger gradually. Too much too soon can have a detrimental effect on your motivation and result in longer recovery time. You want frequent visits to the gym, and less time being too sore for your next workout.
Fitness Mistake #4: Catching up on your reading
People who think they can read a book while at a machine are probably not getting a very good workout. If you’re reading something, you have to stop every three to five minutes to turn the page — you’re focusing on something else rather than your breathing form or pace. Leave the book at home or at least put it down and focus intervals.
Fitness Mistake #5: Rushing your reps
During weight-lifting repetitions, you need to maintain a constant, steady pace. Doing reps too fast only increases your risk for injury while also compromising your results. A general rule of thumb is to exhale for two seconds during the lifting phase, hold briefly as you return, and inhale for four counts. Exhale during the hardest part of the contraction and don’t rush.
Fitness Mistake #6: Stretching before a workout
Heading straight to the stretching mats before your workout is a common mistake. Your muscles need to be nice and warmed up before stretching will have any effect on them. Save the stretching for after your workout, when your body is warmed up from physical activity. If you stretch them when they are cold, they will not stretch smoothly and it may be extra painful. Instead, prepare your body for exercise by lightly jogging, walking, or doing stretch straps or foam rollers.
Fitness Mistake #7: Lack of intensity
Leaning on the machines, just going through the motions, and slumping backs are all things that can all be spotted at the gym. People may look like they’re working out, but if the intensity is not where it should be at, the workout may be a total waste of time. Increase your intensity level and reduce the amount of repetitions if you have to. Increase weights, distance, and inclines, and explore cross-training options. Don’t hold on too tightly to cardio equipment, as it restricts arm movement and contributes to slouching. Focus on posture and maximizing the weight each time you’re at a machine.