Whether you’re brand new or have been exercising for years, everyone is guilty of mistakes now and then. Maybe you didn’t realize you’ve been doing the same routine week after week or that you’ve stopped pushing yourself as much during workouts. Mistakes can set you up for injury, lack of results, boredom and plateaus. To get the best results from your hard work, it’s important to reexamine your routine regularly. Have you fallen victim to any of these common blunders?
Blunder #1: Skipping the Warm-Up, Cooldown and Stretches
This is one of the most common bad habits of exercisers. You’re stretched for time, so you jump right into the workout without warming up and then you skip the cool down and stretch so you can run to your next appointment. After all, those low-intensity segments aren’t that important, right?
Not true! Warming up, cooling down and stretching should be the foundation of your exercise program. They are a transition into (and out of) exercise, allowing your body and mind to prepare for (or recover from) activity. When you don’t warm up, cold muscles do not absorb shock or impact as well, and are more susceptible to injury. When exercise ends abruptly and you don’t cool down, blood pressure also drops, which could cause dizziness or fainting. Some of the benefits of a proper warm-up, cooldown and stretch include:
- Muscles and connective tissues loosen to prepare for the stress of exercise
- Joints are lubricated to allow for better performance
- Quicker reaction time
- Improved coordination
- Gradual reduction of heart rate and body temperature
- Muscle soreness is prevented and/or reduced during and after the workout
Fix it Tip: Warm up with a low-impact exercise for five to 10 minutes. Follow your workout with five to 10 minutes of light exercise to cool down and then stretch. Learn more about the differences between these workout components by checking out articles on warming up, cooling down and stretching.
Blunder #2: Looking For Instant Gratification
Expecting fast results from a new fitness plan is normal; unfortunately, it’s a mindset that can lead to disappointment. Exercise provides many great benefits, but the results are often seen weeks or even months after you begin. When you go in expecting results within the week, you could be setting yourself up for frustration and a quick exit from your routine when you don't see or feel any difference. When you are consistent, though:
- Your body will adjust to the stress of exercise and you’ll feel more rejuvenated
- Your immune system improves to help prevent sickness
- Your strength and endurance improves, making exercise (and daily tasks) easier
- Your mood and energy levels stabilize throughout the day
- You sleep better at night
Fix it Tip: Don’t throw up your hands if you don’t see the results you were expecting. Instead, focus on other improvements such as how you’re feeling or what you’ve learned. Although progress might be slow, by establishing habits you can live with long-term, you’re more likely to make physical activity a lifelong habit.
Blunder #3: Inconsistency
You exercise for two weeks, then you have to work overtime, so you take a week off. You get back to the gym for another week, and you’re feeling great. A few days later, you have to go to your son’s basketball game, and a few days after that, your parents are in town for the weekend. Your exercise routine quickly falls low on the priority list. Does this sound familiar?
Fix it Tip: You don’t have to exercise every day to be consistent, but you do need a plan that incorporates fitness into your weekly schedule. When you schedule it and make the commitment, you’re much more likely to follow through. Start by finding 30 minutes, three times a week to block out in your schedule for physical activity. If 30 minutes is too much, start with less and build over time. When life gets in the way, don’t beat yourself up. Rather, learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward.
Blunder #4: Lack of Variety
When you start a new activity, your body responds more readily and you start seeing results–especially if you're brand new to exercise. Maybe you lose a little weight, begin to see muscle definition or notice you are getting stronger. After about six weeks, your body acclimates to this new routine and it’s no longer as challenging as it was. To keep your body from hitting a plateau, it's important to seek out new challenges often and be sure that the work you're doing doesn't feel like you're just running through the motions.
Fix it Tip: If you want to start seeing results again (or just continue the progress you’ve made), change something about the activity you’re currently doing. For example, if you walk, add some speed intervals, increase the distance or add hills to your route to keep challenging your body. Change your strength training routine by increasing the amount of weight, experimenting with new equipment or adding balance elements.
Blunder #5: Misunderstanding of Exercise Intensity
Intensity is one of the hardest things for many exercisers to understand. You don’t want to work so hard that you become exhausted early in your workout, but you also don’t want to take it so easy that you don’t break a sweat. When you start with a pace so challenging it’s impossible to sustain, you risk injury and it’s difficult to build endurance. Although sweating is just one indicator of intensity, if you aren’t working hard enough, it could lead to frustration from lack of results.
Fix it Tip: There are simple ways to measure the intensity of your workout. At the height of your workout, you should be sweating and breathing hard. The talk test is a favorite among trainers for gauging intensity from one minute to the next. For moderate-intensity exercise, you may be able to talk but you shouldn't be able to sing your ABCs; vigorous intensity means you're only able to get out a word or two before having to catch your breath. Thus, if you're walking on a treadmill and can easily tell your friend all about the drama happening at work, it's time to increase the intensity. If you prefer a more technological approach, you can also measure intensity with a heart rate monitor. Target heart rate will tell you if you are working at the right intensity.
To prevent mistakes like these from happening to you, ask questions! The PeopleOne Health Community is a great place to learn from our coaches and get tips to make the most of your workouts.