Working out may not be rocket science, but when it comes to reaching fitness goals, so many of us fall short, simply because we weren’t properly informed from the get-go. Here are some of the most common mistakes made at the gym, and how to avoid making them.
1. NOT UNDERSTANDING YOUR BODY AND GOALS
You may not technically need to know the number on the scale to see results, but before diving right into things understand what areas you want to work on. Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to build muscle? Either know numbers like your weight, height and BMI or work with a professional on what workouts and meal plans are right for your fitness goals.
2. NOT HAVING A PLAN
Possibly the biggest culprit to falling short on any fitness journey is doing everything without structure–this goes for both diet and exercise because often times many people have a workout plan in place, but aren’t seeing results because their diet isn’t up to par. No structure equals no commitment. Besides, there’s nothing worse than walking into the gym with no agenda–that’s like walking into a grocery store with no shopping list.
Although many gym-goers and athletes prefer to meal prep and write out every workout on a calendar, you don’t have to be that in detail to stay on track. Your “structure” can be something as simple as committing to cooking healthy meals six days a week and cutting back on soda while you work out your legs one day and alternate with upper body on a different day.
3. INCORRECT FORM
No one wants to be “that guy” who thinks his push-ups are top notch, but he’s been doing them wrong for years. Not only does this lead to zero results, but poor form leads to serious injury, which means less time at the gym, and no one wants that. Incorrect form can be completely avoided by asking questions and doing your research beforehand. Whether that means confiding in a personal trainer to actually demonstrate different exercises or looking up workouts on YouTube, there are many outlets to help you find answers.
4. NOT WARMING UP AND COOLING DOWN
We know you don’t have all day, but just like with proper form, skipping the warm-up and cool-down of your workouts can shock your muscles and cause injuries, according to Men’s Journal. If you have a least 30 minutes to spare for a workout, spend two to five minutes warming up and cooling down, whether that’s fast walking on a treadmill to build your heart rate up or stretching your legs after a tough leg day. By making these things part of your typical workout routine, you’re allowing your body to respond to what it’s doing.
5. DOING TOO MUCH CARDIO AND NOT ENOUGH WEIGHTLIFTING
Alas, one of the biggest workout misconceptions. This applies especially to women and those who are trying to lose weight. Many women stick to cardio and avoid weight training with the fear of looking “bulky,” when in fact weight training builds strong muscle definition and increases fat-burning capacity. For people who are trying to lose weight, the initial instinct is to hop on a treadmill and mindlessly run until your legs fall off.
The same fat-burning concept that applies to women, applies in this case as well. According to Health Magazine, the more muscles you have, the more calories you burn while at rest. Yes, cardio ensures you’re not out of breath after walking up a flight of stairs, but too much of it can actually hinder your progress by eating your muscle mass and increasing your appetite, which means your body burns less fat, you have a slower metabolism and you’re more prone to overeating or unnecessary snacking. So, if you’ve been trying to lose weight, but you’re not seeing results, this could be why.
6. DOING CARDIO BEFORE STRENGTH TRAINING
It’s tempting to get cardio over with at the beginning of your workout, but it’s also tiring which means that if you hit the treadmill before you hit the free weights, you’ll be exhausted a lot quicker, your weightlifting session won’t be very productive, and you’ll have poor form. According to Men’s Journal, this is easily avoidable by lifting weights first then doing some interval running and cooling down on a treadmill–this way you’re not neglecting cardio, but you’re not doing too much of it either.
7. SPENDING HOURS AT THE GYM
The gym is a beautiful place and we’re sure that you want to spend your entire life there, but you don’t need to in order to see results. A 45-minute sweat session three to six times a week is about the time you should spend at the gym and is much more effective and efficient. Work harder and smarter.
8. WAITING FOR EQUIPMENT
When the gym is packed, that usually means that most of your go-to machines are taken, and we know that can put a damper on your usual routine, but luckily, there are many different exercises you can do with just a little space, your bodyweight and the occasional free weight. Always have a back-up plan or go-to bodyweight exercises in mind for situations like this. Get creative and find alternatives.
9. BEING IMPATIENT
This goes for doing too much in a short amount of time–whether you’re doing a thousand reps in one sitting, sprinting way too fast on a treadmill or you’re trying to bench press an insane amount of weight because you want results right this very second. First off, results don’t show up overnight unfortunately. Second, lifting an insane amount of weight looks cool if you can actually do it. Otherwise, it looks like you’re setting yourself up for a trip to the hospital. Third, we know you have places to be and want to breeze through your workout, but going slow, focusing on proper form and upping the weight a little are what will actually reveal those muscle gains. Focus on quality not quantity.
10. USING THE SAME MACHINES AND DOING THE SAME REPS
Doing the same workout all the time is not only boring, but it will eventually make you dread exercise and will stagger progress because you’re not challenging your body. If you’re someone who’s made fitness a constant factor in your life, but you haven’t seen results yet, this could be why. Mix up your routine and challenge different muscles by trying a body pump or spin class here and there. If a certain amount of weight feels too easy, up the number a little bit–whether that’s an increase in the number of reps you do or the weight itself.
11. NEGLECTING A HEALTHY DIET
Although this mistake isn’t made at the gym, there’s a misconception that you can eat poorly because you exercise regularly. Unfortunately, you will not see results this way because you can’t out-train a bad diet, and sometimes a clean diet dictates whether or not someone sees results. You can do as many sit-ups as you want, but you won’t see those abs if your diet is all junk food. Abs are made in the kitchen.
12. NOT RECOVERING AND TAKING TOO LONG OF REST PERIODS
Recovery is just as important as the workout and if you don’t give your body a breather, then you will injure yourself. This is why it’s usually advised to do legs one day and upper body a different day so that different muscle groups have time to recover. On the other hand, resting for too long during your workouts not only drops your heart rate, but it’s not effective or timely. Avoid this mistake by keeping your resting periods under 30 seconds so that you keep your heart rate up and bust out your workouts in a timely manner.