One thing that always boggles my mind is how so many people tell me their lives are so busy, yet when they go to the gym, they do so many things to waste time. What if I told you that you could get the results you want at the gym and do so in less time? I know, it sounds like a silly catch phrase that you hear on infomercials, but longer isn't necessarily better when it comes to workouts.
The reason? People don't always work out efficiently. Below are five ways gym rats, however well intentioned, go wrong. Fortunately for the guilty parties, there are also easy ways to avoid these potential pitfalls going forward.
The gym is a great place to meet people and make friends, so socializing in and of itself isn't a bad thing--unless it's preventing you from your primary goal of getting in shape. If an involved conversation distracts you, you may not run as fast or lift those weights as hard as you otherwise would, so save the socializing for before or after your workout, or at least for regularly scheduled breaks.
Same Old, Same Old
A lot of gym-goers find themselves on autopilot, especially after a long day of work. Although exercise in general is a good thing, doing the same routine for months on end limits your overall fitness potential, as well as making you prone to overuse injury.
After doing the same exercises regularly for four to six weeks, your body has adapted, which means you will burn fewer calories and see little to no improvement in strength.
Challenge your body with different types of exercises, incorporating various machines and classes into your regimen. In general, you can change up the number of reps you do, the type of exercise you do for a given body part, the amount of weight you lift, the speed at which you do aerobic exercise and the order in which you do it all.
Leaning on the rails of the Stairmaster, slouching on the stationary bike or doing bicep curls while arching your back: these are all examples of bad exercise form. By taking shortcuts with your form, you're reducing the overall effect of the workout. Not to mention, bad form puts you at risk for injuries.
Be aware of your posture while you're on the cardio machines at all times. Stand tall, pump your arms instead of leaning on them or just keep your fingertips on the railings for balance. Always maintain a neutral curve in your lower spine and keep your shoulder blades back and down.
To make sure you are using proper technique during weightlifting exercises, get someone to spot you (this is where a personal trainer can come in really handy) or use the gym mirrors. Make sure you are never swinging your body or arching your back to lift weights. If you have to compromise your form to lift a weight, then it's too heavy for you. Decrease the weight and keep going. It is always better to do 10 perfect reps than 20 sloppy ones.
Resting Too Long
While resting for a few minutes in between sets of weightlifting exercises helps your body recover and gear up for the next challenge, it can be too much of a good thing. You'll waste time and potentially cramp up, then you'll have to cut the workout short altogether.
If you are training using higher reps and lighter weights, your breaks between exercises can be as short as 30 seconds. Increase your breaks to one minute if you are lifting heavier weights and doing fewer reps. You can also periodically skip breaks between exercises if you alternate between activities for the lower and upper body.
Shunning The Weights
This is for all the women out there who think lifting weights will make you pack on the muscle: weightlifting will NOT make you look like a man. Most women don't have the biology to build bulky muscles. In fact, lifting weights between 10 and 20 repetitions will increase your strength and put enough muscle on you to not only make you look toned and sexy, but also help you burn calories when you're doing cardio. Strong muscles also help prevent joint injuries.
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