Everyone approaches their health and fitness in different ways. We all have specific diets that work best for our bodies, and we prefer some modes of fitness better than others. You know your body better than anyone else, and I’m not here to tell you otherwise!
Yet, as a personal trainer, I routinely see people making the same health mistakes — over and over again. They’re common mistakes that you may not think twice about, which is why I want to point them out and give you tips on how to change:
1. You're not making the most of your time.
You spend a half hour on the elliptical, half hour on the treadmill and finish with abs at the end because you aren’t comfortable in the free-weight area, don’t know what to do or are afraid to get to “bulky.”
The Solution: If you’re really squeezed for time, try doing a tabata workout. There are tons of apps that you can use to time yourself. You pick ten exercises, do each exercise for 20 seconds, rest for ten seconds and repeat eight times for each exercise.
Don’t have hours to spend doing cardio? Try HIIT! 20 seconds of intense cardio followed by anywhere from 40 seconds to three minutes of rest time. Do this eight to 12 times. This will SHRED you if you do it three times a week on a balanced and healthy diet. Plus, the more often you do it, the quicker your recovery and overall cardio workout will be.
2. You’re eating only “healthy food.”
All you eat is fruit, veggies, 100-calorie packs and salads! A diet like that gets boring and can lead to bad-for-you cravings.
The Solution: Create a food plan where you can build in your favorite things like ice cream, chocolate and popcorn. All foods can be eaten in moderation. Fruit and veggies are great; however, have you even compared a bowl of plain oatmeal to a banana? They may have a similar amount of carbohydrates, but a banana is mostly sugar. If you want to stay fuller longer, go with the option with more fiber and less sugar! If you’re looking for a quick pre-workout carbohydrate, go with the banana.
3. You’re not SQUEEZING your muscles.
Often times you hear or see a cool exercise and want to try it, but you’re not sure where you’re supposed to feel it, or why you’re not feeling it, even though it’s supposed to be “for your abs.”
The Solution: You have to squeeze those muscles! For instance with abs, a simple exercise can help you wake them up so that you can squeeze them while doing your actual exercise, like in a table top position on your knees. All you have to do is contract your abs (suck in your stomach), but the key is to KEEP BREATHING. For those other muscles? You should squeeze while you’re contracting the muscle, like when you’re lifting, and also when you’re lowering a weight. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. BONUS if you squeeze an additional muscle like your butt when you’re doing something else, like your arms!
4. You’re not lifting heavy enough weights.
How heavy are you really lifting? How many reps are you doing? Do you stop when you’re tired, or when you can’t go on? It's hard to know if you're lifting the right amount of weights, for the right amount of time.
The Solution: Depending on your goals, pick a range: Sets of 6-8 repetitions for power or sets of 10-12 repetitions for strength. If you get to the last one in your set, and you feel like you can do another one, you’re NOT lifting heavy enough. The last three reps should feel almost impossible. Are you always doing three sets of 15? Try doing five sets of 10 repetitions, with a heavier weight. Or ten sets of eight repetitions with a moderate weight. Keep your body guessing!
5. You discourage yourself.
You pick up a weight and think, “There is no way I’m lifting this, too heavy.” You stand in the mirror and stare at all of the places that make you wish you had someone else’s body.
The Solution: TRY the heavier weights! If you think you can’t do it, you can’t. But if you go into it thinking, “I’m gonna kill this set,” chances are that you will. Just in case you didn’t realize it, your body hears everything your mind says to it. Respect your body and treat it well for optimal results.