HEALTHY LIVING: Know your workout no-no’s

Published 5:33 pm Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Getting yourself to the gym is only half the battle (although it can feel like the whole battle, especially on frigid mornings). It’s what you do once you’re there that determines how successful you are in achieving your goals. Are you sabotaging your own efforts?  Here are some common no-no’s and how to get on the right track.

Rushing through your warm-up.  It’s tempting to dive right into your workout (and, let’s be honest, begin the process of getting it over with) but you really do need to warm up. To introduce the body to more intense physical movement it’s important to increase blood flow to your muscles (which ups your core temperature). More blood flow means that your muscles are better prepared to move quickly, efficiently, and safely.

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Doing a full cardio workout before your training session. While it’s important to warm up, you don’t want to overdo it. If you run for an hour before you start a training session, your body is going to be too fatigued to get any real benefit from your workout routine. Try to limit your cardio to 10 minutes if you’re heading in to a session, or have a weights or circuit routine planned for yourself. And if you think a super-quick run won’t yield any benefits, think again: A 2014 study published in the Journal of The American College of Cardiology found that people who ran for just 5 minutes a day at a leisurely pace gained an additional 3 years of life compared to those who never ran.

Using the scale as your only indicator of success.  If you’re working hard but the numbers on the scale aren’t going down, don’t despair. Many people lose body fat and gain muscle. It’s much more important to pay attention to the way that clothes fit, and how you look, feel, and move. Focus on what you’re newly capable of doing—like owning hills during your run, walking up and down stairs without pain, or hauling grocery bags out of the car with ease. Your weight is going to fluctuate depending on what you may have eaten that day or for childbearing aged women, where you are in your menstrual cycle. Stepping on the scale once a week is a better bet.

Showing up hungry.  Afraid you’ll get sick if you eat before a sweat session? Arriving at the gym with an empty stomach isn’t a great idea.  Your body can’t perform without gas in the tank. Eat some carbs and a little bit of protein, like a piece of whole grain toast with almond butter. It’s enough to give you energy without filling you up too much. And try to avoid overdoing it after you exercise. Perhaps not surprisingly, a 2009 study in Physiology & Behavior found that some people have an enhanced desire for food after exercise, and may overcompensate.

Showing up sleep deprived.  If you truly couldn’t catch a wink the night before, sleeping in might be a better bet than forcing yourself to show up to the gym. Your body needs time to repair and rejuvenate. One study showed that not getting enough shut-eye can lead to impairment in reaction times. Risk of injury goes up due to response time slowing down.

Cranking the elevation on the treadmill too steep. If you’ve ever cranked the treadmill elevation so high that you have to hold on to the bar, you’ve gone too far. This puts your body at such an angle that pressure is great on the back, hips and knees. Instead, bring the elevation down so you can comfortably move without hanging on to the bar, then increase your walking or running pace.

Exercising with improper form.  Using the correct posture and form while exercising goes a long way towards safeguarding you against pain and injury.  Whether you are new to the gym or an experienced regular, it’s a good idea to periodically schedule some time with a certified trainer to guide you on staying safe and getting the most from your fitness routine. 

Take that first step toward a healthier you.  It’s the best thing you will ever do.  Stay healthy my friends.