You work out every day, but nothing's happening. Despite years of effort, those lean-toned arms you want still haven't surfaced. Perhaps all you need is a few simple tweaks to your workout regimen. Here are eight common fitness mistakes you might not even know you're making.
1. Reading while working out.
It's tempting. I get it. Gym time equals down time and all you want to do is dive into 50 Shades of Grey while droning along on your stationary bike.
Here's the problem. You're not putting in the work to affect change. Your focus is elsewhere. You'll naturally pick a slower pace while biking allowing you to read better, not pedal better. Put the book down and get your heart rate up.
2. Wearing the wrong shoe.
Running shoes are designed to have more cushion. The sole is built up. Since running involves straight-planar motion, not much stability is built into the shoe. Cross-trainers have a lower profile and more stability built into the shoe. This helps protect the ankle from rolling over during side-to-side jumping.
If you wear a running shoe while cross training, you risk spraining your ankle. Always wear the right shoe for the activity.
3. Futile abdominal exercises.
You think you have to do exercises specifically targeting your abs to create a six-pack, but that's actually not the case. Consistency with balanced workouts alongside clean eating are all you really need.
Abdominal muscles are activated when doing functional exercises since they help stabilize your body. Higher level training, including resistance and plyometric training naturally build abdominal strength. If you have a layer of fat over your abdominal muscles, they won't show regardless of how many crunches you do. Since you can't spot reduce, abdominal exercises won't help unless you first shed that layer of fat.
That's not to say you don't need a strong core. You do! But you're better off doing exercises like Pilates and yoga that work on lumbar stabilization. This will improve overall stability and enhance muscular performance.
4. Performing only one form of exercise.
For part of my career, I worked as a physical therapist inside a gym. During that time, I saw the same people doing the same exercises day after day. Guess what? They looked the same after five years!
I've worked with runners who couldn't lift one quarter their body weight. I've worked with bodybuilders who couldn't run one quarter of a mile without getting winded. Your body needs variety. If your heart and muscles aren't challenged, they won't get stronger. You've got to mix it up!
5. Not lifting the right weight.
I often see men and women performing 30+ reps while strength training. Essentially, they're turning what should be an anaerobic exercise into an aerobic exercise. Lifting weights activates fast twitch fibers which increases muscle mass and strength. If you don't lift heavy enough weights, you won't recruit these fast twitch fibers.
In order to get "toned," you have to increase muscle mass and strength. Therefore, you have to heavy up the weights.
6. Not pushing yourself hard enough.
The body backs off when it gets uncomfortable. It's a primitive reaction. Some folks may put in the time but not the effort needed to get the results they're hoping for.
Out of the hundreds of physical therapy patients and personal training clients I've worked with over the past fourteen years, I've only asked two to slow down. It's time to push harder!
7. Not performing contract-relax stretching.
Why are gymnasts, dancers and yogis so flexible? Because they activate their muscles throughout a lengthened range.
Typical static stretching stretches the muscle without activating it, so the muscle never "remembers" being stretched. This is why your flexibility doesn't improve when doing the same static stretches day after day. To contract-relax stretch, gently stretch your muscle for 20 seconds, lightly back off the stretch, contract the muscle for five seconds and then stretch a little further. Repeat.
8. Not incorporating balance training.
"What?" This is the typical answer I get when I ask a client if they're doing any balance training.
Balance training improves proprioception, the sense of where your joint is in space. The stronger your balance and proprioception, the stronger your functional strength.
Instead of doing a basic standing bicep curl, stand on one leg to do it. Or stand on a BOSU ball and do it. Or stand one-legged on a BOSU ball and do it ... you get the picture.
By recognizing and addressing the fitness mistakes you might not even know you're making, you'll greatly improve your workouts, ability to lose weight and general wellness.