If you’re a beginner, your body isn’t prepared for the types of strains exercise can place on it. As a result, engaging in an exercise program with little foresight and planning can lead to burnout, frustration and injury. If you want to maximize your workout, it’s going to take a combination of motivation and the correct information. So let’s review the 10 most common mistakes that can be easily avoided.
1. Skipping the warm-up
Muscles need time to adjust to the demands placed on them during exercise. Before hitting the gym or jumping into your regular cardio workout, you should take a few minutes to gently walk, cycle or whatever you choose to prepare the body for heavier activity. Breaking a light sweat will get your blood pumping, warm up muscles and ligaments, greatly reduce your risk of injury and increase the effectiveness of your workout.
2. Skipping the cool-down
Due to time constraints, many people head straight to the showers after their last repetition or as soon as the timer on the treadmill dings. Instead, take a few minutes to lower your heart rate close to its resting rate. This will reduce your risk of injury and give you a few minutes to incorporate some relaxation into your routine.
3. Not stretching
Flexible muscles are far less likely to be pulled than tight ones. Stretch before a heavy workout or after your workout as a warm-down. Never stretch a muscle without warming up first to reduce your risk of injury even further. Regular stretching greatly increases your flexibility.
4. Lifting too much too fast
Placing demands your muscles are not prepared to handle is the best way to injure yourself. Gradual, progressive resistance is a far more effective and safe way to increase muscle strength. You should select a weight that allows you to do 10-15 repetitions. If you cant do 10 reps, the weight is too heavy. If you can easily do 15, then increase the weight by five percent.
5. Using too light a resistance
If you are doing over 15 reps or have not increased your resistance in over two weeks, it is time to progress. If you want to improve, you have to keep your muscles stimulated. If you continue to do the same weights with high reps, you will maintain your current physique and not advance.
6. Being a Weekend Warrior
The mistake of the person who tries to fit a week’s worth of exercise into a Saturday afternoon! For weight loss, it’s more effective to sustain a moderate workout for longer periods of time than to exercise intensely for only a few minutes. There are many sites for workouts and weight loss tips, so Google it! For others, the expectation that a workout must be intense to be effective can lead to burnout or injury while others abandon their training altogether.
7. Waiting until you are thirsty to drink
Only camels can go without water! For the rest of us, it’s a necessity! Don’t wait until you feel thirsty because you are already dehydrated at that point. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout.
8. Using bad form
It’s much more effective to choose a lower level, speed or weight and perform the exercise properly than it is to go too fast or too heavy and use poor form and momentum. Lower the intensity to the point at which you can maintain good posture. An example of poor form would be leaning on the Stairmaster handrails or swinging the dumbbells during a bicep curl.
9. Resting too much
While it’s true you don’t want to overdo it, taking too much time in between exercises can decrease the training benefits and set you up for injury. Allow for about 30 seconds between toning exercises — which is usually just enough time to move to the next station and set up. You should exercise intensely enough to work up a light sweat, get your heart beating and feel a sense of satisfaction for having completed your workout.
10. More is better
It’s not necessary to spend over an hour doing cardiovascular exercise. Studies show that the risk of injury outweighs the benefits after 60 minutes. Sessions of around 45 minutes most days of the week are recommended for weight loss.
Remember, exercise is only ONE link to a complete program of well-being. Mental, spiritual and psychological “workouts” are just as important. Your body will repay you! The only thing left is to just do it… safely.