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Ten Mistakes I See In the Gym

Skipping the warm up

Warming up prepares our muscle and nervous system for exercise. It increases the blood flow to our extremities and decreases the risk of injury. Warm up by doing anything that gets your heart beating faster and literally ‘warms you up’. Try walking, biking or whatever you prefer for about 5-10 minutes before strength training or more vigorous cardio exercise.

Not having a plan

It’s important to exercise all your major muscle groups – legs, back, chest, shoulders, triceps, biceps and abdominals. When you get to the gym, be sure you’re know what you’re doing and you’re working all of those muscles. I often see people wandering the gym wondering what to do next. If you’re unsure, ask a staff member to show you some machines and/or exercises so you get an effective workout.

Skipping the stretch

Stretching, particularly after exercise, is key to keeping muscles elongated, flexible and to prevent injury. Exercise causes muscle to shorten and thicken. Stretching helps keep the muscles, tendons and ligaments elastic. Tight muscles can also cause pain, muscle tears and joint stiffness. Stretch when you’re muscles your muscles are warm and just to the point of tension, not pain. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. No bouncing.

Thinking it’s too late

You’re never too old to exercise. Of course, the earlier you start the better. Older bodies respond the same way to exercise that younger bodies do. Be sure to include a weight training program for improvements in strength, posture, and ease of movement, among lots of other benefits. Start slow and build gradually.

Performing the same exercises over and over

Our muscles adapt to exercise, making them more efficient. While this sounds like it’s a benefit, it’s really not. We don’t want our muscles to be efficient. We want them to work. Changing your weight training routine frequently ‘surprises’ our muscles, making them work harder. Changes can be made in the exercise itself, the weights, reps, sets or innumerable other ways.

It’s also important to mix up cardio training. When we’re constantly doing the same exercise, our joints create wear patterns which can lead to overuse injuries. Mix it up to avoid that and also to keep it interesting.

Poor form

I can’t tell you how often I see poor form in the gym. Poor form can lead to injuries, of course. But it’s also a waste of precious time. If you’re not doing an exercise correctly, you won’t be getting maximum results from it. Sometimes it’s just a small adjustment that makes all the difference.

Skipping weights

Cardio is the component of exercise that works your heart and lungs. It’s also the fat burning component of exercise. But when it comes to calorie burn, strength training is just as important. Strength training increases muscle mass which helps burn more calories, even at rest. Muscle loss (and the resulting metabolism slowdown) is the primary reason we gain weight as we age. Adding strength training when you’re trying to lose weight also helps ensure it’s fat you’re losing, not muscle.

Doing too much too soon

I’ve seen it so many times. Clients come into gym, ready and rarin’ to go. They want to work out as much as they can, as often as they can, to reach their goals quickly. Sounds good. Except, they almost all burn out. Working out that often is not sustainable for most people. And when they can’t sustain that intensity, they feel like a failure and quit altogether.

Instead, take a good look at your schedule and set a workout goal that you can realistically sustain. Try for two to three weight training sessions each week and two to five cardio sessions, depending your exercise goals. And be sure to include some rest days so you can recover, both physically and mentally.

Forgetting the water bottle

It’s important to be hydrated before, during and after exercise. Water lubricates joints, regulates body temperature, replaces fluid lost through sweat, and helps you perform at your highest level. Being dehydrated can cause lightheadedness and nausea.

Weight training without eating first

While there’s some evidence that doing cardio on an empty stomach may lead to more calorie burn, the same doesn’t hold true for strength training. Particularly if you’re working out in the morning, it’s important to fuel your muscles before lifting weights. You need energy to work hard and not eating can lead to weakness, dizziness and nausea. Eat anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours before your workout. The closer you are, the more easily digestible the food should be.

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