Diary of a bodacious dietitian, Fitness, Uncategorized

Common mistakes in the gym

Sometimes it’s easy to have a solidly good workout, and other times? A bit more challenging.

For example, there are days where I can’t wait, I’m dying to, I’m literally craving cardio and kettlebell swings (yes, I’m really serious!). And there are times I’d rather throw myself down the stairs than haul my tired booty out the door. It’s on these days that I really have to focus.

Because once we make it to the gym, and we’re standing at the double doors, we’ve surpassed all the obstacles and time delays. We owe it to ourselves to truly be present.

I wanted to share some gym mistakes I see often. They drive me bonkers, because I know they derail us from our goals.

dropping the kettlebell

Bringing our cell phone on the floor. We have so many distractions in our life. There is always something buzzing, ringing, chiming, flashing pretty pictures…The gym is a place where you should be focused on you. It is a great time to meditate on the day’s concerns, how your body is responding to your stressful lifestyle, or how you are physically feeling overall. Whoever is calling can wait.

Wearing clothes we aren’t comfortable in. This is important for a couple reasons. First, we need to be focused on our form and routine, and wearing something a bit too tight, too flashy or anything that makes us feel self-conscious may drag our attention away from our workout. Also, some exercises may require bending, squatting, fast movements, or flexibility, and being able to work through each movement comfortably is pivotal.

Resting for more than a few minutes between sets. If you heart rate is very, very high (and you will know if it is), then it is just fine to wait until it comes back down a bit before jumping into your next set or cardio session. And research shows resting for a few minutes can be beneficial, but when you feel solid to begin again, please do. I know the gym can be a social outlet for many, but standing around for too long can derail the progress toward your fitness goals. Higher intensity, better results. Using your weight lifting workout as a cardio session by decreasing the time in between sets.

hands on bar

Doing exercises too fast. I noticed there was a whole row of people on the abdominal crunch machines the other day. All of them were racing toward the imaginary finish line. 1,3,5,7,11… I doubt they realized they weren’t really making any strength gains. When it comes to lifting, slow and steady wins the race. It can be pointless or even dangerous to lift too quickly, and by slowing down and working through the entire range of motion, you are giving your muscles a chance to increase endurance and fully activate maximum muscle fibers to fatigue. Translation? Greater gains.

Doing exercises with too little weight. I see this too, too much. Especially in the women’s weight room.  Our bodies are made to adapt to what we ask of them.  In order to increase our tone or muscle mass, we need to challenge ourselves. By lifting weight that we can easily rep for greater than 20 reps, we are only wasting our time. Lifting 5 lbs 15 times is better than staying home and watching television, but if you put the effort into going to the gym, why not maximize your time? We are all busy, and none of us like wasting our efforts. Muscle mass has high energy requirements, and the more you have, the more calories you burn. Pick up heavier weights, increase your strength, increase your metabolic rate, lose weight.

Doing exercises with too much weight. This is typically a man’s issue, and my concern here relates to poor form. Imagine a bicep curl with a heavy dumbbell, and the lifter is swinging his entire body to reach the top of the movement. This action utilizes much more than the bicep muscle it was meant to isolate, and the momentum is assisting far too much. This decreases gains as well as puts the lifter at risk for damaging connective tissue and smaller, weaker muscles (such as your shoulder girdle) that are not meant to accommodate such a heavy load. It is important to lift the proper weight. Put down the 300 lb dumbbell.

Never leaving the cardio room. In the perfect world, cardio workout outs would target fat tissue. For me, because I am pear-shaped, I would ideally like an hour on the elliptical to focus its fat-burning capacity on or around my lower half. Unfortunately, cardio burns indiscriminately. We can’t target areas of our body just as we cannot target one type of tissue. By only sticking to the treadmill and avoiding the weights, we are burning muscle tissue which will inevitably slow down our metabolism. While we sleep, our muscle mass burns 25% more calories for us. Do cardio, but don’t skip on the weights, burn more calories.

girl doing crunches

Practicing poor form. I’ve had three ACL surgeries, so it really concerns me when I see someone performing an incorrect lunge or squat. We only have one body, and we need to take care of it. Take time to learn how to protect your joints, tendons, and ligaments by asking the personal trainer at your gym how to properly perform your exercises. Hire them for a day, and you might even make a new friend.

Not warming up or stretching. Our cardiovascular and pulmonary systems need a moment to catch up with what we are asking of them, and our muscles need to increase blood flow to decrease the risk of injury. Warming up may protect us from injury as well as make our workout more effective. Some professionals say we don’t need to stretch or warm up, and I am sure we have all gone without from time to time. But if you start stretching, doing yoga or Pilates, and giving your body a bit more room to breathe, you will notice the difference. I have found using a foam roller to push out excess lactic acid improves performance and decreases aches and pains as well. If we are asking our bodies to sit for hours at work, jog, lift, hunch over a desk…take care of it. Stretch it out, take a mindful breath.

Doing the same workout over and over. If you can go through a lifting session and not feel delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) 24 to 48 hours after, it is likely that you are not properly training. Sticking to the same old routine for longer than 3 months allows your body to adjust to your demands, and you will not see the results you were hoping for. Try something new. Incorporate at least one exercise for all major muscle groups.  It could be as simple as switching up your weights and repetitions or using dumbbells instead of machines for a change. Whatever you do, try new exercises to keep your muscles guessing, and you will be surprised by the results.

Happy lifting!



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