Whether you are a newbie gym goer or a veteran of the weight rack, everyone makes workout mistakes now and then. Even I’ve suffered from fitness ignorance. When I first started running, I didn’t pay attention to a nagging pain in my foot. Cut to a few weeks later, and I’m walking around in boot to cure my tendonitis. That put me out of the running game for eight weeks, during which I was able to reflect upon the error of my ways — not a fun time.
Not only can a workout mistake leave you injured and inactive, it could also keep you from reaching your peak fitness level. When working out correctly, your are able to push yourself and, overtime, become stronger, faster, and better than when you began.
The question then becomes what mistakes are you making and how can you correct them. To answer these important fitness questions, I spoke to Bryan Goldberg, a New York-based personal trainer and co-founder of SuperKid Fitness, a program that helps kids train using hero-based exercises. (Why wasn’t this around when I was a kid?!) He provided me with an excellent roadmap to correcting common fitness mistakes and making the most out of our workout.
1. You Bring A Book Or iPad
According to Goldberg, if you can read, watch a movie, or text a friend while doing it, then you’re not exercising.
“Exercise is all about challenging your body physically in order to elicit an adaptive response,” Goldberg says. “If you would like to make progress, you must put your body under enough stress to achieve that progress.” And you won’t be able to do that if you’re trying to get through the latest Gillian Flynn thriller.
2. You Don't Exercise Frequently
When it comes to working out, the one and done rule does not apply. Goldberg notes that exercising once or twice a week won’t produce the results you desire.
“With each day of exercise you add, you increase your ability to progress exponentially,” he says. And don’t ever try to use lack of time as an excuse to skip the gym.
“In this day and age there are numerous resources for exercises and workouts that don’t require access to a gym or equipment. They can take as little as 20 to 30 minutes and be incredibly effective,” said Goldberg.
Correction: Create a schedule that will work for you, whether that means waking up a little early or trading your lunch break for time at the gym. Add it to your calendar like any other task, as it makes you more accountable.
3. You ExerciseToo Often
“Your body is a complex machine that requires not only an appropriate amount of exercise, but also rest,” Goldberg says. “It is during the recovery time that your body heals and repairs itself. It goes without saying, not resting enough can lead to injuries. Nothing hurts progress like an injury.”
Fortunately, most of us do not need to be told twice that rest is a good idea.
Correction: You should not only take time off from exercising, but also make sure to spread out your workouts as well. Goldberg recommends working out two consecutive days, taking a day off, and then working out two more days.
4. You Don't Set Goals
Whether you want to lose weight, gain muscles, or run faster, it’s important to know why you’re working out in the first place. Then, when you finally know, write it down. “It’s important for us all to have specific, realistic, achievable fitness goals,” Goldberg notes. “It’s with these concrete, specific goals that we can design a program aimed at achieving them.”
Correction: Keep a training journal. Write down your goals on the last page, then turn back to the first page and outline your plan. Then fill in the blanks along the way. Seeing your progression over the weeks not only reassures you of your plan, but also motivates you to keep going.
5. You Do The Same Workout
Isn’t a workout habit a good thing? Well, not necessarily.
“Routine is the enemy of progress,” Goldberg said. “How can you expect change when nothing about your workout ever changes? Your body requires constant challenge in order to prevent plateaus and boredom.”
Correction: To paraphrase Taylor Swift, you have to shake it up. “Add more weights and sets or change the order of your exercises,” Goldberg advises. But make sure you know what you’re doing first. If you’re unsure how to do a certain move or use a certain machine, Goldbergs recommends consulting with a personal trainer.
6. You Vary Your Workout Too Much
“While your body needs variety, it also requires repetition for proficiency,” Goldberg says. “If you’re always doing different workouts, your body will be too confused to truly progress. You don’t train for a marathon and a sprinting race at the same time. Imagine changing college majors every semester. When do you graduate?”
Correction: Pick a progressive program and stick with it. Remember the college major analogy, and don’t bounce from class to class. Changing constantly will help you burn calories, but it won’t necessarily be the most effective way to achieve a strong, healthy body.
7. You're Not Controlling Sleep & Stress
“This is perhaps the most important mistake because it’s the silent progress killer,” Goldberg warns. “You could be throwing away all of your hard work because you aren’t sleeping well or living a high-stress life. Your body and the hormones associated with stress can get in the way of your weight loss and possibly even cause weight gain.”
Sleep more? Don’t have to tell me twice.
Correction: “Get organized,” Goldberg suggests. “Pick a time every night that will allow you to receive enough sleep. Before you go to bed, write down your tasks for the following day, your feelings, anything that comes to mind that will help you prepare for the next day of life. Then read a good book and go to sleep.”