Incorporating exercise into your daily schedule is one of the most important elements of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, exercising in the right way is just as vital as exercising in general, with new research revealing that bad practices in the gym could actually be damaging to your health.
Findings from sports nutrition brand Myprotein have revealed that 70% of Americans go to the gym when they’re sick, and 29% work out more than six times a week, risking illness and injury in the process by failing to understand their body.
So, how do you stay fit and healthy without knocking yourself out? Here are the top seven gym mistakes you could be making and some tips for avoiding them.
- Know your body and work with it, not against it
You might think you’re doing the right thing by powering through illness to keep up your regular gym routine, but sometimes your body just needs time to recover. By ignoring a minor illness, you not only risk doing yourself more harm, you also increase the time your body takes to recover, both from the exercise itself and your illness.
The same goes for over-training. While you might think you’ll reach your fitness goals faster by adding in an extra weekly session, over-training has a number of potentially detrimental effects. It can actually reduce strength and lead to lapses in concentration, both of which can lead to injury.
Advisor to Myprotein, Dr. Orton said: “Forcing a workout while you feel fatigued or achy can overexert your body, meaning you’re probably working on a less-focused attention span, with a higher potential for injury. In addition, a tough training session is likely to slow down your recovery, limiting progress all round.”
- Failing to plan is planning to fail
You’ve committed to exercising to get fit, lose weight or both and you’ve signed up to the gym. But however positive both those things are, it’s important that the planning for your new, healthier lifestyle doesn’t stop there. To achieve your health and fitness goals, you have to plan ahead. Doing so can help you keep your motivation and ensure you know what the focus of every workout should be before you even begin.
Before you start, spend some time reading up on your chosen exercises. Watch YouTube videos to perfect your technique and keep setting new and improved goals that reflect your progress to make sure you stay on track. When you smash one goal, set a new one, and keep mixing things up so you don’t lose interest.
- Form is more important than frequency
Whether you lift weights, run or prefer to use the machines, technique is everything. Nailing the right form helps you target the right muscles, achieve your goals and protect your body from injury. So, before you start any type of exercise, make sure you study the right way to do it effectively.
If you’re not sure if you’re doing it right, don’t copy other people in the gym, bad form is pretty common, and there’s a good chance they’re also getting it wrong. Read, watch videos online or speak to a trainer to make sure you’re getting the most out of every single workout, as well as doing it safely.
- Don’t get stuck in a rut
It’s easy to fall in to a routine when you find something that works but failing to mix up your fitness regime could be preventing you from hitting your overarching goals. Whether you stick to the same work out because you like it or avoid certain exercises because you’re not sure of how to do them, it’s worth mixing it up, especially if your goal is to lose weight or build muscle.
It’s about variety. You might always spend 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer, but you’re unlikely to see major results by sticking to just one exercise. Looking to lose weight? Don’t limit yourself to isolated cardio exercises (elliptical, bikes, treadmills and stair climbers) as these only burn calories at the point of exercise, while resistance training (weight machines, free weights and kettle bells) not only builds muscle but continue burning calories long after you’ve left the gym. Switching your routine between cardio and resistance training keeps you interested and motivated, and you can still work it in to a half-hour slot if time is an issue.
If you’re not sure which exercises you should be doing, speak to a trainer about your goals or do some research online. Even professional athletes mix up their routine to stop them getting bored, so look at all the other training options that might work with your favorite discipline.
- Explore the entire gym
Walking in to a gym packed with complex equipment can be daunting when you’re just starting out. But remember, gyms are designed to give you the broadest workout options targeting all the different muscle groups, so it’s important you understand what everything does and how it could benefit you.
When you first walk into a new gym, don’t be afraid of the vast array of equipment on offer and stick to what you know. Take the time to book an induction and ensure a gym instructor walks you through all the machines, how they work and what fitness benefits they offer. You might just find the perfect equipment to help meet your goals.
- Make sure you get your math right
If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘eat less, move more’. It’s a good starting point but fixating on counting calories won’t do the job alone.
Cardio machines and fitness trackers will give you a rough guide to how many calories each exercise burns, but they’re not 100%. Everyone’s fitness levels and metabolisms are different, so use calorie trackers as a rough guide. Set your meal plans around being balanced and healthy rather than down to the last calorie. You might see better results by focusing on your macros (the amount of fat, protein and carbs you’re eating each day) rather than just counting calories.
- Make hydration a priority and eat right
According to Myprotein, one in 10 people don’t take a water bottle to the gym, which could leave them at risk of muscle fatigue, cramps and exhaustion. Taking on enough liquids before, during and after your workout is key to optimal performance and faster recovery, so make sure you keep your hydration levels up.
Nutrition is important too, to ensure you get the energy your body needs to perform at its best during and between workouts. Supplements can aid recovery, help you feel better all-round and can be a good way to get additional nutrients into your body to help achieve your wider fitness goals.
It’s easy to worry about mistakes when you’re starting out on a new fitness regime, but don’t be afraid to get started. Just make sure you do your research, ask for help and always listen to what your body’s telling you.