Monday, November 8, 2010

Are you making these common fitness mistakes?

By now, you've probably figured out that hardly a perfect person exists. We all make mistakes and thankfully some of us choose to learn from them. But some people get so set in their ways that they fail to see or understand why whatever they're doing is ultimately wrong—this I see quite frequently at the gym. Particularly when I'm working the floor, at which point I essentially become the fitness police. My time is spent quietly observing all the action until I spot someone misusing the equipment, executing improper form or just generally putting themselves in danger of getting hurt. I step in and offer my assistance, politely explaining to the person why I've done so. After which I teach them right from wrong.

Some people respond, others smile and nod before committing the same offense. It's frustrating because I'm really only out to help them. They sometimes can't see that whatever change I've suggested is probably for their own good. Also frustrating—I make the same corrections or offer the same advice over and over and over. And then over again. Sometimes it's just plain hard to crack another person's fitness routine. But really, to get the best results in the gym, you have to be open to new and exciting things. And you must do whatever it is you're doing correctly.

Behold, a few common fitness mistakes. Are you making them?

1) You think cardio is enough. Or you skip cardio entirely. Trust me when I say that the two go together like peanut butter and jelly. Both are acceptable forms of physical exercise, but if you really want to see (and feel) results—you'll experience a combination of the two. Not a fan of strength training? Afraid it'll make you bulky? Well, it won't. It'll define your muscles. And defined (translation: strong) muscles burn serious calories at rest. And for those of you that don't believe in cardio, I give you this: Women's Health reports that just ten minutes of cardio can up your metabolism for at least an hour. 'Nuff said.

2) You don't train your entire body. We all want six-pack abs and a nice butt, but train just those two body parts and you'll look really...well, unbalanced. Train your entire body and you'll ultimately burn more calories while creating a shapely, stronger you. Besides, you use your entire body on a regular basis, so why not train your entire body on a regular basis?

3) You don't clean the equipment before you get started. Or when you're done. Ew. It's germ season, folks! Gyms have all the cleaning supplies out for a reason. Think about how many hands touch that weight knob in a day. Or how many backs sweat all over that bench. Um, gross. And yes, we gym employees try to keep things clean and tidy, but sometimes the daily rush gets the best of us and we just can't keep up. So do your part. And clean that at-home equipment on occasion, too.

4) You crank and crank and crank on the machines. Go easy! If the machine is making a ton of noise, odds are fairly good that you're doing something wrong. Slow and steady does it best. Because only then can you say for certain that momentum isn't a factor. Remember: Momentum takes away from the work your muscles have to do. It's otherwise known as "cheating." And it could also get you seriously hurt.

5) You don't eat to support your workouts. Your car won't move without gas, right? So how can your body move without food? Always have a light, healthy snack (or meal, if it times right) before exercising. Your body needs protein and carbs to function properly, so keep a stash of healthy granola bars in your gym bag for those days when time just gets away from you. Better to have something right quick instead of nothing at all.

6) You don't set realistic goals. Go all out and you'll be primed for failure. Instead, chart out a series of small and easily attainable goals that you'll be capable of (and excited to) reach.

7) You don't have patience when it comes to pounds. Forget about the number and focus on the weight itself. It doesn't matter that you're only lifting X pounds. What matters more is that you're lifting it. And that you're not getting hurt. Lift too much too soon and you'll strain something, which can and will set you back. Remember, it's not a competition!

8) You don't use proper form. While the machines usually describe proper form on their labels, free weights and body weight exercises can be a bit trickier. Right quick, here's a few pointers: knees behind your toes while squatting, keep a straight back when you hinge forward (like in dead lifts), don't lock out your knees or elbows (unless you're doing planks, of course) and always avoid overextending your back and shoulders...I think those are the majors I repeatedly correct.

Now, go. Be active. And if a friendly gym employee comes up to you with some equally friendly advice, be open to what they're saying. They wouldn't approach you if they didn't have something good to say. Who knows, you might actually learn something! In fact, you probably will learn something so pay attention! And have fun with your newfound advice.

Question: How many of the above apply to you? What fitness mistake drives you nuts?

1 comment:

Andrea@WellnessNotes said...

I found your blog through Healthy Living Blogs. Great points! I definitely could do a better job training my entire body. And, I hate to admit it, I don't always clean the equipment before I use it (which is really disgusting when I think about it...).

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