Working out is part of living a healthful life. Everybody knows that. But sometimes what we know and what we do are two different things. And with workouts, this goes on to an even worse problem when we know how we should be working out but don’t because we either don’t know or because we’re unintentionally making exercise mistakes.
Common exercise mistakes rob your body of the powerful opportunities to strengthen and invigorate muscles, ligaments, blood vessels, and bones. In some cases, your mistakes can even lead to injuries while in others it reduces your fat burning potential.
While these mistakes can be costly to your weight loss goals, it’s good news to know how easy they are to correct. The first step in correction is becoming aware of those mistakes.
Here are those common exercise mistakes:
Failing to Use Proper Posture
The American Council on Exercise lists the “gym slouch” as the worst mistake folks make when exercising. This occurs when people lean over the treadmill or stair master, making their legs do all the work while their upper bodies slump forward. Not only does this round the back forward but it also places strain on the spine from lack of support. This mistake lowers calorie burn as well, but it is far more troubling in the long term back problems it can cause.
Standing tall with the spine erect and the stomach pulled in then engages the core and supports the back at the same time, reducing risk of injury and also increasing the effectiveness of the routine. Hands and arms should be moving free as well, either punching the air in rhythm with your steps for extra calories or hanging at your sides if you’re too tired. You shouldn’t grip the sides or the handlebars unless you must.
For those who are new to treadmill or stair master workouts, it can be hard to keep good posture at first just as it can be hard to not hold onto the sides with a death grip. The key is to keep practicing and slowly reduce the strength and pressure of your grip until you can go without it or just have your hands resting lightly on it.
Skipping the Warm-Up
For those who want to get right into the fat burning benefits, it can seem like warm ups are a waste of time. The slow walking or gentle pulses are nothing compared to the intensity bursts about to come forth, and you may be tempted to cheat by skipping these few minutes. But don’t!
Warm ups help prepare your body for the upcoming workout. It’s like pulling saltwater taffy. To get saltwater taffy to the right consistency and prepare it for consumption, you have to pull it out and stretch the candy. But if you do it too fast, you’ll rip the taffy and ruin the consistency. Your muscles are even more sensitive, and the damage will be far worse. The side effects can even result in long term injuries such as torn ligaments or damaged cartilage according to Caroline Hwang.
Warm-ups, however, should not be the sort of static stretches that runners so often do in movies. Instead, focus on gentle flowing movements that gradually extend the muscle range and light cardio for about five to ten minutes. The warm-up may feel boring, but it will help you have a more effective workout, burn more calories, and prevent injuries.
Failing to Drink Enough Water or Consuming Sports Drinks
Dehydration has been an increasing concern in modern culture, not because we don’t have enough water but because we just don’t take the time to drink it. Muscles need water to be able to contract and release properly, which means that if you don’t drink enough you can wind up with muscle spasms and headaches, neither of which encourage additional exercise.
It’s important to hydrate fresh water rather than sports drinks, however. Sports drinks, even the low calorie ones, are full of sugar or sugar substitutes to increase the flavor. They advertise electrolytes and vitamins, but unless you’re a power athlete or working out more than three hours a day doing intense activities (see below why this is not a great idea in the first place), you don’t need to be drinking these beverages. They’re full of calories you don’t need, and the vitamins and nutrients are best obtained through fresh produce.
Yes, overexercising can be just as dangerous as not exercising at all. Why is this? For one, when we exercise, our bodies create free radicals. These free radicals bounce around our internal systems causing havoc to our cells. Over time, these continual insults on a cellular basis contribute to cardio vascular disease. In fact, a study performed in 2011 out of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found a positive correlation in long-distance runners and the increased frequency of arterial plaquing in the carotid and peripheral arteries of the body. In other words, too much exercise actually can contribute to heart disease!
How much is too much? That’s debatable, but I try to keep my sessions of elevated heart rate under 30 minutes.
Watching out for these exercise mistakes will increase the effectiveness of your workouts and prevent you from injuring yourself in the long run. It’s important to get started right away if you catch yourself doing any of these things. The best workout program won’t give you the results you want if you fail to follow these things. Even Mike Geary’s Truth About Abs, which outlines several powerful fat burning strategies, becomes much more powerful when you remember to take the warm-up, keep proper form, drink lots of water, and don’t overexercise. You’ll be amazed at the results.
American Council on Exercise, “Exercise Mistakes” (2009).
Caroline Hwang, “Oops Proof Your Workout,” Fitness Magazine, (2009).
Mike Geary, Truth About Abs, http://naturalweightlosstruth.com/adtrackzgold/go.php?c=mgprdctrevewtestmonllandpg (2012).