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Health & Safety

Top Ten Fitness Mistakes

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So you want to get in shape? Starting a workout routine is an admirable effort, as there are countless benefits to a healthy lifestyle. Before you head for the gym, make sure you are aware of these 10 common fitness mistakes so that you can avoid making them. 

Having Unrealistic Goals

Infomercials will tell you that you can lose a pant size in your first week, or get washboard abs with only 8 minutes of crunches per day, but such goals are not realistic. Before starting a workout routine, write realistic goals on a calendar so that you can monitor your progress. Having unreachable goals will only end up discouraging you. 

Doing Too Much, Too Soon

You're probably excited to get started with your new routine, but be sure to ease into it.  For example, if your goal is to train to run a road race, you will want to slowly increase your mileage.  Increase it too quickly, and you may end up with shin splints or tendonitis that will set your progress back weeks. 

Not Wearing The Right Gear

Wearing the proper gear for your sport is of the utmost importance. Your gear will protect you and prevent injuries. There are specific shoes for running and for walking, and these are designed to provide the right amount of support and cushion. Shoes are also important during weight lifting for traction. Aside from shoes, some sports, such as cycling, require a helmet for safety. When running or cycling outside, you should wear reflective gear and layer your clothing. 

Skipping Warm Ups Or Cool Downs

Warming up is essential because it raises your body temperature and thus reduces the possibility of muscle strain and injuries. You should warm up before stretching, as stretching while your muscles are cold is not very effective. Following your workout, a cool down is necessary, even if it's just a few minutes long, because cooling down allows your heart rate and blood pressure to decrease gradually. 

Not Cross-Training

If you always stick to the elliptical or the treadmill, your body will become accustomed to this workout and you will eventually stop seeing results. This effect is known as reaching a plateau. Your body now knows what to expect, so you must surprise it every so often by switching up your workout routine. Give the bicycle a try, or adjust the resistance and incline on the treadmill to get off that plateau and keep your workout from getting too repetitive.

Not Strength Training

Focusing only on cardio workouts and skipping weight training is detrimental to your progress.  No matter their sport, many Olympic athletes swear by their strength training routines. Studies have shown that athletes perform better when their workouts include both cardio and weight lifting.  Additionally, muscle mass continues to burn fat after your workout has finished – about 50 calories per pound of muscle each day – so be sure to hit the dumbbells. 

Not Strength Training Correctly

Many people don't realize that the slower you lift and lower weights, the harder your muscles have to work, causing them to grow faster. For this reason, you'll see gym goers doing crunches or bicep curls as fast as they can, even though this is hardly effective. A good rule of thumb is to count to 2 while lifting the weight, and counting to 4 as you're lowering it, making your muscles work much harder. 

Spot Targeting

A lot of gym goers want to have abs they can show off, so they'll focus entirely on crunches and isolate their stomach muscles while ignoring other muscles in the area. This creates an imbalance in your body. What you should also do is strengthen your lower back and all core muscles. Also be sure that you're burning enough calories to reduce the amount of fat that is covering the ab muscles you're developing.  

Not Sticking With It

New Year's resolutions get thousands of people flocking to the gym each January, but by mid February, those numbers have dwindled significantly. Sticking with a workout routine can be challenging, especially because it takes weeks to see visible results. You can stay motivated by having a workout buddy who can keep you on track, and by monitoring your progress on a calendar. 

Always Working Out At The Gym

That's right - leave the gym every once in a while. The treadmill can be dull, and gym memberships can be expensive. You should try to workout outdoors when you can. In fact, research shows that outdoor activities are more effective. The University of Stockholm did a study of athletes, and asked them to run at what they thought was the same exertion level on an indoor treadmill and then on an outdoor track. The athletes ran faster when they were outdoors. Besides running faster, being outdoors also provides you with fresh air and vitamin D from sunlight.

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