As a trainer, I see so many people making mistakes when it comes to optimizing their workouts. Don’t be like them! If you’re carving out an hour every day for fitness, you want your workouts to count, right?
Quit these 12 habits to maximize the effects of your workouts:
1. Eating full meals before a workout.
Eating before a workout gives the body energy to push through, but that doesn’t mean you should gorge yourself. Full meals before a workout can lead to cramps and nausea. Eat a healthy snack about 45 minutes before exercising. This could be fruit, nuts, Greek yogurt or a whey shake. If you have to eat a full meal, eat at least three hours before the workout.
2. Taking long rests between sets.
Chatting with friends or using the phone between sets is not a good idea. Long rests cool down the body and make it hard to execute the next set. Take short breaks of one to two minutes. You may rest for three minutes if you’re training bigger muscle groups like the legs or back.
3. Training without a plan.
When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Heading to the gym without an outline of your workout is a recipe for disaster. You’ll get distracted easily and won't have an efficient workout. Come up with a game plan the night before and jot it down on your phone or a piece of paper. Familiarize yourself with your routine so you start your workout with goals and a clear beginning and ending.
4. Repeating the same routine.
When you repeat the same routine over and over, it becomes less effective and just plain boring. You need to continue to challenge your body to see results. Try performing fewer repetitions with heavier weights. If you’ve been working on endurance, try a cardio workout with sprints. If you’ve been cycling, give running a shot. Constantly switch things up to keep your body guessing.
5. Overexerting your body.
It’s common to see people pushing themselves too hard and not giving the body enough time to recover. Research shows that this kind of training causes stress, fatigue, loss of muscle and injuries. Perform exercises within your strength level and train around five hours a week. Give your body a break when you’re sore. Rest days are OK!
6. Drinking energy drinks during a workout.
Energy drinks contain a lot of calories, sugar and chemicals. Instead of consuming energy drinks, just drink water.
7. Not stretching after workout.
When you strength train, your muscles contract and become stiff. Stretching after the workout helps reset the muscles to their natural position. Studies also show that stretching aids in muscle recovery. Set aside five to 10 minutes after every workout to stretch.
8. Drinking too much water.
Okay, I know I said to ditch the energy drinks for water, but drinking too much H20 before a workout can have the same effects as eating a full meal — cramps and nausea. Drink a maximum of two glasses before the workout and take sips during the workout.
9. Performing too much cardio.
Cardio is an effective way of burning fat, but studies show that excess cardio leads to loss of muscle and injury. Aim for cardio workouts that last for 45 – 60 minutes per day.
10. Not doing enough strength training.
I see it every day: people spend hours running, but never perform strength-training exercises. If you're one those people, you'd likely get better results if you add strength training to your routine. Strength training helps to increase lean muscle mass and boosts the resting metabolic rate.
11. Training alone.
Exercising alone can be fun sometimes. But a workout partner could help to keep you motivated and accountable. This study found that having a partner who is fitter than you will motivate you to perform better.
12. Performing weak reps.
Most people tend to ignore proper form. They do half and quarter reps, instead of completing a full range of motion. This kind of training leaves a lot of untapped potential. You will burn more calories and build more muscle if you execute a full range of motion. For example, instead of doing half squats, squat until your thighs rest on the calves.
Avoid these 12 bad habits, and build on your healthy habits, like stretching before and after a workout, hydrating properly and creating a plan for each and every workout. You'll notice results as you become more focused on your fitness.