With an increasing number of people finding themselves stuck working behind a desk all day, taking the time to visit the gym and get some exercise has never been so important. Whilst the government are running campaigns telling us how to eat, nobody is telling us how to exercise.
Sure, just turning up at the gym and exercising is better than sitting at home doing nothing, but the best way to get fit is to follow a personalised workout plan, and avoiding the seven mistakes below that so many people make.
Table of Contents
Not Having a Workout Plan
Everybody will have their own reasons for going to the gym. Some may be trying to lose weight, whilst others may be working on increasing their fitness and muscles. Many people will fall somewhere in the middle, going to the gym aiming to make themselves look and feel better all around.
The best results will be achieved by using the right equipment – there is no use lifting weights to try and increase cardio fitness, whilst spending the whole time on a treadmill will not do much to help either the size or strength of arm muscles.
People with a target tend to stay more motivated and enjoy their time at the gym more. Visiting the gym 3 or 4 times a week takes up a lot of precious time, and if there is nothing to aim for, it can quickly feel rather pointless. Set realistic goals, and talk to somebody about the best equipment to use to help reach these goals.
A good way to stay motivated is to have a long term goal, but set several smaller ones along the way so that it does not seem like a distant impossibility.
Using the Wrong Weight or Speed
Using a weight that is too light will limit the benefits gained, whilst using a weight that is too heavy can lead to injury. Similarly lifting weights at the wrong speed will result in less muscle growth if done too quickly. It may take a few attempts to find the best weight to use, and this is likely to change over time, however getting it right will mean quicker results.
The ideal number of reps should be between 8 and 12. Any fewer than this the weight being used is too heavy. Being able to do more than 12 reps means it is time to add a little weight and push a little harder in order to get results. When lifting these weights, try not to do so too quickly – a slower, more controlled movement will not only reduce the chances of injury, it will give the muscles a better workout as less emphasis is put on momentum.
Sticking to the Same Workout
Whilst it is important to have a plan, it should be varied, involving several different routines. Everybody will have their favourite piece of equipment, and it is easy to spend too much time on this and not enough time working on the rest of the body. Doing the same routine every time will not only start to get boring, it will become less effective over time.
The most obvious thing to do is to change the types of exercises with each session. Whilst this is good, varying the order of exercises and the number of repetitions can be just as effective. To avoid reaching a plateau where results are no longer being achieved, change routine every four to six weeks, perhaps spending one day doing circuit training or high intensity training for a change.
Not Warming Up
Too many people turn up to the gym and head straight to their favourite piece of equipment without bothering to warm up. What they don’t realise is that muscles do not stretch or contract fully until they have been warmed up. Heading straight into an intense routine is going quickly lead to tears and pulls. Whilst most of the time a pulled muscle will only take a few days to heal, a torn muscle can set a goal back by months.
It is easy to avoid making this mistake, by simply starting by doing something that will gradually increase muscle temperatures, for example a slow, flat walk on a treadmill, or a few sets of reps with light weights. It should go without saying, but ensure that the warm up is relevant to the muscles that will be used for the main exercise.
On a similar note it is important to remember to stretch, both before and after a workout. Stretching increases the body’s flexibility which will not only help keep injuries away, it will in time increase athletic performance too.
Copying Somebody Else’s Workout Routine
It can be tempting to copy somebody else’s workout routine, especially if they have a desirable figure. Because everybody’s workout routine is tailored to what suits them best, what works for one person may not work for another. Their body may be the result of a different routine that they have recently changed, and pushing too hard by copying somebody considerably fitter is likely to lead to injury.
As a routine should be changed frequently, there is no harm in taking note in what other people are doing and researching whether or not this can be incorporated in the next change of routine, but don’t try to do too much too soon when trying something new.
Making Up For a Missed Workout
Even with the best intentions, we all have weeks where we are particularly busy and may not be able to find the time to go to the gym. It can be tempting to make up for this by having an extra-long workout session at the weekend, however this is more likely to lead to soreness and injury, impeding next weeks gym sessions than it is to help.
When there really is no time to go to the gym, there are always small things that can be done to help. This could be something simple such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, or getting off the bus or train a few stops earlier than usual. If this is not possible, try to do spend as much time as possible standing up rather than sitting down, as this slowly works on your core muscles and burns considerably more calories than sitting down does. Going to the gym regularly enough should mean that missing a couple of sessions will not have too big an impact on overall fitness.
Using The Gym to Socialize
Many people choose to go to the gym with friends or relatives. Whilst it is good to have somebody to go with and some healthy competition as to who can make the most progress, anybody that can have a chat whilst they are working out is not pushing themselves hard enough. Everybody will improve their own fitness at a different rate, leaving one person sat on the side-line whilst the other is still working out.
There is nothing wrong with having somebody to travel with, however don’t let their busy timetable be an excuse not to go alone. The time to chat is on the way to and from the gym, not whilst trying to complete a suitably challenging workout.
Bearing all of the above in mind when going to the gym will lead to a more enjoyable experience and fewer injuries, resulting in more sessions being attended and a better overall level of fitness.