How You Could Be Ruining Your Workout Before You Even Start

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It sucks to finish a workout and feel you could have done more reps or run a longer distance. To truly transform your strength and endurance, you have to train maximally. People tend to focus on what they do during a gym session, but in truth, your pre-workout habits may be sabotaging your workout performance. That’s right—the things you do before you exercise can affect performance. Whether you do body-weight exercises, weight training, or cardio, watch out for these super-common pre-workout habits that keep you from seeing results:

1. Static stretching

For years we’ve been told to stretch before exercise, but research shows that stretching cold muscles can lead to joint injuries and muscle strains. If you’re not familiar with static stretching, it’s basically stretching a muscle and holding the stretch for a duration. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, can be used as a warm-up exercise. Using momentum to go through a full range of motion (for example, stretching the hamstrings with gentle kicks) loosens the joints and gets blood flowing through the muscles. Only do static stretching after the workout, when it will restore muscle length and cool down the body.

2. Overdoing stimulants

In general, consuming caffeine before a workout will improve your workout performance. But too much caffeine can cause anxiety, nausea, and rapid heartbeat—things that will all lower your performance. Drink coffee in moderation before your workout, and stay away from caloric energy drinks.

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3. Long naps

Taking a nap is a good way to relax if you’re tired or sleep-deprived. But napping for too long can backfire on you. According to the Mayo Clinic, long naps will leave you feeling weak and tired. Limit your naps to less than 30 minutes when you’re about to exercise. Lack of sleep can also hinder performance, so get seven to eight hours of sleep every night.

4. Overeating

Food gives the body energy to push through workouts and even enhances muscle growth and recovery. But eating a heavy meal right before a workout can cause cramps, nausea, and even vomiting. Eat heavy meals at least two hours before a workout. If you need to eat something 30 minutes before you exercise, opt for lighter fare, like fruit.

5. Drinking a lot of water

Drinking a ton of water has the same effect as overeating—it can lead to nausea and cramping. Of course, dehydration can also stop you from training maximally. So take a few sips before and during the workout. But don't overdo it; just take a sip when you feel thirsty.

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6. Stressful situations

Yes, exercise is a great stress reliever. But going into a workout in anxiety mode reduces concentration and makes it hard to focus on the workout. That lack of concentration can distort your form and even lead to injuries. Before you start to move, try to take a few breaths and bring your focus to the workout.

7. Starting with ab training

We use the core when performing most exercises, so exhausting it at the start of the workout is never a good idea. Save those core moves for the end—right before you hit the shower.

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