Be a gym genius - Avoid the 6 most common mistakes everyone makes
The gym is a more popular place to be than ever before, and with summer holiday season right around the corne (we're excited too!) we're all working out and boosting our fitness so we look and feel great all summer long. But are you really a gym genius, or are you guilty of any of these fitness faux-pas?
#1. Using the wrong weights
Our recent article on dumbbells highlights how important it is to choose the right weights. Women shouldn't fear 'bulking up' from lifting - we have less testosterone in our bodies than men and it's that testosterone plus a high-protein diet which helps men to add bulk at the gym. But are you using the right weights?
- Low weights and high reps are the key for toning and shaping - ideally you want to be doing 2 to 3 sets with 12 to 16 reps per exercise. That way, you muscles will be tired out so they'll change shape without bulking up
- If you want to build muscle, heavier weights and lower reps are the way forward - aim for 2 to 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps
#2. Treadmill abuse - there's no excuse
We've all seen that gym-goer who heads straight for the treadmill and spends the next hour running. Yes, a treadmill workout is a great form of aerobic exercise but 20 to 30 minutes is enough for most of us. Make sure you explore the programmes your treadmill offers, rather than just punching the Quick Start button, and think about the amount of effort you're putting in, rather than the time you're spending running. At the end of your run, you should be breathing hard and feel hot and sweaty but still be able to talk - that means you've made the most of your treadmill time.
#3. Lack of goals and planning
We're all guilty of this at some point, but recognising you're making this mistake is the key to making the most of your workouts. Exercising without a plan or goals leaves you just wasting time on the cross-trainer or treadmill. It's important to have a workout plan and goals to work towards. This way you'll be able to focus on the right equipment to use and the exercises you need to do in order to smash those goals! A personal trainer can help you devise a plan and motivate you to meet your goals, if you're struggling!
#4. Rushing your reps
Are you guilty of pushing through reps as quickly as possible? It can mean your muscles don't have enough time to react properly to the exercises you're doing. Everytime you exercise, your brain sends a signal which allows your muscles to work. If you're powering through reps too fast, your brain doesn't get a chance to signal your muscles, increasing your risk of injury. By the time you reach your final set, the last 3 to 4 reps or so should feel like hard work. That way you can be sure you've exhausted your muscles.
#5. No life beyond the gym
It's important not to stay in the gym for too long - 45 minutes to an hour at least 3 times a week is ideal for most of us. Anymore and you risk losing your social life! By the end of your workout, you should be hot, tired and sweaty, finishing on an 8 to 9 on the effort scale of 1 to 10 (where 10 is you working your hardest). It's healthy to workout, but don't push yourself too hard or you could suffer an injury.
#6. Failure to warm up and cool down
Failing to warm up, cool down and stretch before and after your workouts is one of the top gym mistakes - you always need to warm up and cool down.
Ideally this should last for three to six minutes - it's designed to prepare your body and brain for your workout. Your brain releases extra hormones needed by your muscles and joints to prevent injury.
Your cool down and stretch
After your workout, cooling down and stretching slowly returns your heart rate and body temperature to normal. It also helps to flush lactic acid (which gives your muscles that burning feeling) from your system. Stopping exercising without cooling down means blood flowing around your body will drain towards your legs, and you could have sore muscles and feel unwell the next day.
The first step to avoiding these mistakes is to recognise when you're making them. Changing your gym habits can take some time, but start small and eventually you'll be a gym genius!