Whether you’ve just joined a gym for the first time, or have been there for years, chances are, you’re not getting the most out of your work-out. Most of us, newbies and veterans alike, make the same work-out mistakes, and they keep us from reaching our fitness goals, and can actually hurt us. According to Ken Cannon, the Fitness Director at a gym in metro Detroit, these common mistakes are made by men and women alike, and here they are:
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Look at the clock, Cannon suggests. “If your work-out is taking more than an hour, you’re either spending too much time between sets socializing, or you’re spending too much time working out,” he says. That hour should include your warm-up and cool down, too. Load an hour’s worth of great work-out music or set an alarm on your iPod if you’re not sure you can track your hour accurately.
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If you figure you can eat that banana split at Cold Stone for lunch because you worked out for twenty minutes on the elliptical this morning, you might as well not work out at all. Diet goes hand in hand with exercise, and one doesn’t substitute for the other. If you work out, but still eat a diet loaded with fat and sugar, you will never see the results you want.
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This is very simple and straightforward, according to Cannon. “There are no short-cuts,” he says. There is not now, and has never been, a dietary supplement that will replace a good diet and progressive workout, he says. Avoid any product that promises otherwise, because it’s just a waste of your time and money.
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Before working out, you may be tempted to skip breakfast. This is a big mistake! Studies have shown that people who eat a nutritious breakfast regularly have a much lower risk of obesity. Skip the double-cheese Danish and tall latte, though, and choose a breakfast that’s more meaningful, like a bowl of fiber-rich cereal and a banana or some lean protein.
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Back to the protein! To build lean muscle, your body needs protein. Lack of protein can also lead to hormone imbalances, an, maybe even worse, saggy muscles. That’s right, ladies! If you make this common work-out mistake, instead of full, tight muscles, you can end up with saggy, stringy muscles. I’m sure that’s not what you’re trying to achieve! Cannon recommends a balanced diet, including protein-rich foods like milk, cheese, chicken, eggs, and lean beef, to support your body while you tone and build muscle.
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If you want to lose weight or just build muscle tone and endurance, you’re going to need to work out four or five days a week. Once you reach your weight and fitness goals, you can scale back to maintain, but… until then… commit to a plan that includes some form of work-out four or five days a week, EVERY week! Unless, of course, you’re injured or sick…
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Before, during, and after a work-out, you need to keep your body hydrated. You don’t need to slug Gatorade or protein shakes. Water is the best hydrator, but you can also try non-caffeinated teas and juices that don’t contain a lot of sugar. Cannon recommends consuming four quarts of fluids every day, including, of course, the days when you’re working out!
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To reach your fitness or weight loss goals, you may be tempted to cut back, severely back, on the number of calories you consume each day. If you’re not sure how many calories you ought to consume each day, visit mypyramid.gov and use the free calculator there. It will ask for your height, weight, age, and mostly importantly, your level of daily activity. In addition, try to boost your metabolism by eating four smaller meals a day, rather than three large ones.
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Another common work-out mistake happens hours before your work-out begins. Cannon says that most people don’t get enough sleep 9at least 7 hours every night), and this can have a negative impact on their health and on their fitness. “Rest and recovery are vital to fat loss and cell regeneration,” Cannon says. So he recommends setting a bed-time and wake-time that will give you at least seven hours of sleep each night, and sticking to them.
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It can be daunting to ask for instruction on how to use gym equipment you’ve never used before, but it’s important, say Cannon. If you’re using the equipment improperly, you’re at risk to injure yourself. Even if you don’t hurt yourself, you certainly won’t reap the benefits of using the equipment if you’re not using it correctly. Ask for assistance and instruction before you use any piece of gym equipment. Most have pivot points that need to align with your body, and you also need to consider how much weight or resistance is safe to use. Also, make sure you’re WEARING the right equipment — shoes that fit correctly and give you the support you need!
Now that you know the most common work-out mistakes, keep them in mind as you put together your fitness routine. Really, why spend the time and energy working out if you’re not going to see or feel the benefits? Are there any other work-out mistakes you’ve seen? Do you have any other fitness advice to share?
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