Although most of my fitness routines up until a few years ago have been monitored and created through my participation in athletics, my knowledge in what is most effective has still been a roller coaster ride just like everyone else’s. You hear one thing, read another…it can be incredibly confusing and frustrating – especially when you’re not seeing results. SO, I decided to create a 3-part series with my blog to share what I’ve learned and prevent you from making the same mistakes that so many people (including myself) get trapped into. I’m starting with mistakes in the gym, but will continue on with mistakes in the kitchen and finally…in the diet. Because we’re all in this together and I want YOU to be able to get the most out of your time and effort at the gym…and beyond! Enjoy:)
Mistake # 1: You “don’t have time” to get a good workout in
Excuses, excuses, excuses!!! First of all, something is always better than nothing. Second, you can get a great workout in in as little as 20 minutes! Ever heard of HIIT? (high intensity interval training) Listen up…
Anytime you head into a workout, keep in mind this quote, “Fitness is intensity dependent, not time dependent.” While low-intensity cardio may burn you a few calories during the time being, it is overall not very effective and let’s be honest…so BORING! High intensity intervals, even for as little as 15 minutes, requires effort and oxygen that will not only burn more calories in the moment, but it will also keep your body working and burning calories for up to 48 hours after your workout. Learn more about this concept of EPOC (excess post-exercise energy consumption) and EPOC training here (http://www.bloomtofit.com/epoc-training).
So while I do applaud the fact you decided to spend time on the elliptical as opposed to the couch…the fact you can read and chat with your neighbor while working out is your first red flag. Second red flag is that it took you over an hour to get a work out in. I’m here to break it to you that while you were fluffing around at a slow, steady pace for 2 hours, I got a 20 minute high-intensity interval training workout done and am on to the rest of my day. So the next time you hear someone say they spent “so much time” at the gym, don’t be so impressed! Finding workouts like these are as simple as googling, “(insert amount of time) HIIT training workouts”. Don’t have a gym? Add “at-home” to that Google search and get rid of those excuses for good! Quality over quantity – engrain that in your mind.
Mistake #2: You think quantity is greater than quality
This concept of quality over quantity also applies to lifting and performing exercises. A lot of people sacrifice quality form in order to perform more. Let me tell you that while you may be pounding out a large number, if you’re not using proper form you will not only hurt yourself, but you’ll also be missing out on the many benefits these exercises are intended to give. If it means going down a few pounds on your weights, so be it – you will look a lot less cool trapped under a bench press than you will with a few less weights…and I bet those heavy plates on the sides of your bar will be a lot less appealing once you throw your back out. Point is, toss your pride aside and do your research on the exercises you’re performing. Be smart and do them right to maximize your muscle gain, fitness potential, and prevent injuries from keeping you out of the gym.
Mistake #3: You’re relying on machines for strength training
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but those machines that are all lined up at the gym are providing you more rest than they are anything else. They isolate movements, restricting your natural range of motion and prohibiting your body from fully engaging. As a general rule of thumb, stick to dumbbells, kettle bells, bars, med balls, bands, and BODY WEIGHT exercises to keep you on the right track. You want to maximize your results by engaging as many parts of the body at one time as possible, so don’t you think an exercise that begins with you sitting down is probably not a good start?
Mistake #4: You repeat the same routine over, and over, and over
Okay, so above all else…heading to the gym is supposed to be fun! How are you supposed to be motivated to get to the gym if things are never new and exciting? Between the classes I attend and the workouts I self-create, I’m always heading to the gym with something a little different than the time before. Granted, it is beneficial to bring the same workouts around to track your progress…but if you’re doing the same routine for more than 3 weeks, I would suggest switching it up to keep things interesting, prevent overuse injuries, and continue to challenge your body.
Mistake #5: You’re overestimating how hard you’re working
As much as we want to believe the treadmill really does do magic and can accurately calculate our calories burned, chances are it’s incorrect. The only true way to tell how hard you are working is by measuring your heart rate. There are lots of fun devices and gadgets to help you track this as you workout, including Polar-brand watches and products like my new Micoach Adidas HR monitor (thanks, mom and dad!) that syncs to my phone. Find your target heart rate zones and monitor yourself through your workout to get the most of your time in the gym…and better yet, an accurate calorie reading!
Mistake #6: You’re doing isolated exercises
We’ve all fallen into this trap at one point or another. We do a million crunches expecting to eventually get those six-pack abs…and a good looking rear-end is the result of a few donkey kicks…right? NO! Isolated exercises simply don’t burn enough calories and your body works as a whole, so the more functional, full-body exercises you can incorporate into your regimen…the better. Engaging your whole body is a huge metabolism booster and will get your heart rate up so you can burn more calories. More calories burned, the thinner that layer of fat lying over your muscles will become. That fat will not disappear by doing isolated exercises. Get your cardio in, and use as many full-body-strengthening exercises as you can!
Mistake #7: You wear baggy clothes to the gym, and beyond
Ladies and gents, let how you look be motivation for you whether it’s trying to revamp whose in the mirror or maintain it. I realize not everyone grew up in a pair of spandex like I did, but hiding who you are under baggy clothes isn’t the way to go. Switch from sweats to a pair of shorts, or even just short-sleeves. If you’re feeling up to it, get some tight-fitting workout gear and watch them start to fit you differently as you tone up. Think about it…are you motivated to do anything when you wear sweats? Camp out, watch a movie, grab some snacks…that’s about it. Give yourself even more reason to get to the gym by investing in some new gear and for goodness sakes stop hiding yourself under all those clothes!
Mistake #8: You don’t plan ahead
We’ve all said it before…“I’ll figure it out at the gym”. A crucial mistake many people make is failing to PLAN. A good way to avoid this trap is go to bed with your bag packed, meal laid out (if you go in the morning), and workout ready to go. Not doing these things gives you waaaay too much wiggle room. Next thing you know you created an excuse, pushed your workout to “another time” or maybe you actually did make it to the gym but had no idea what you were going to do and wasted half your time figuring it out. This is one reason why classes are nice because the instructor does the hard work for you…but if you’re doing your own thing, plan ahead and have your workout laid out before you even head out the door. I only have 45 gym-minutes in the morning before I have to start heading to work, so making the most of my time at the gym is crucial. I head to bed with my workout already mapped out so I can get up, get on my way, and pound it out. Fail to plan, plan to fail.
Mistake #9: You’re camped out on a cardio machine
Although cardio is an important part of the weight loss equation, it is most certainly not the only part. I will admit going through this phase…but I’m so glad I’ve learned and moved away from this mindset! Girls: lifting weights and strengthening your body isn’t going to make you “big”. We simply don’t have the testosterone that men do to bulk up with big muscles. But what it will do is tone you up and help you achieve your weight-loss goals by BURNING MORE CALORIES! Yes, that’s right. Muscle burns up to 3x as many calories at rest than fat, so start taking those selfie flex pictures and see your muscles grow!
Mistake #10: You’re not competitive
I realize not everyone so easily has this gene…but I assure you it’s in there somewhere and is a crucial ingredient in your fitness journey. Let the ripped, tan, marathon-runner to your side be nothing more than motivation. Find someone around you to compete with, even if it’s as simple as competing with yourself. Make it a goal to improve every single week and be motivated by even the smallest progress. Progress is progress whether it’s a pound or just a second better than the week before. People will see your habits change and try to drag you down with negativity and doubt. Use it as motivation and PROVE THEM WRONG. This is a huge one for me. There is no bigger motivation than someone telling me I can’t do something. College taught me a lot about mental toughness. I pride myself in knowing that my body can do whatever my mind tells it. I believe 100% that your biggest tool is above your shoulders. You’ve heard the quote – “Whether you tell yourself you can, or you tell yourself you can’t….you’re right.” Now light a fire under your tush and GET AFTER IT! 🙂
Mistake #11: You’re on someone else’s plan
This goes for your diet as well, but finding a workout routine catered to your OWN self is so important in creating a healthy lifestyle. Just because your friend can pound out 4 miles on a treadmill and look great doesn’t mean it’s for you. There are lots of ways to get good exercise and build strength so don’t ever think there’s a one-way street to being fit. Some people just aren’t meant to run distance. Some people aren’t designed to be good sprinters. In fact, some of you just aren’t runners at all!! Maybe you can tear it up in the pool or on the bike. Like to dance? Sounds like zumba may be up your alley. Need some stress relief? Try kickboxing. Whatever it may be, find your niche and what drives you and motivates you to get your sweat on.
Mistake #12: You’re underestimating the role of your diet
In my opinion, this is the BIGGEST factor that holds people back from accomplishing their goals. The minute you start treating food as fuel and stop treating your body like a waste basket, you will not only feel better, but you’ll finally get to see your results pay off. Nothing is more frustrating than feeling like you’re putting in work and getting nothing out of it. I’ve always worked out and been active, but I was oblivious for so many years as to what my poor eating was (or wasn’t) doing for me. I promise you that eating clean will be the best and most rewarding change you ever make. Good habits are just as addictive as bad habits but MUCH more rewarding…so stop making trips to the gym out of guilt and start rewarding your body with exercise instead of food.
I eat clean because I want to see results, I want to feel good, and I want to stick around for awhile. Although my fitness routine IS much more focused now than it was before, it’s my eating habits that have allowed me to finally look like I work out….and nothing is more motivating than seeing your hard work pay off. Progress is addicting, so cling to every bit that you have.
Stay tuned for the next parts of this “mistakes” series. Meanwhile, is it seriously almost February? Happy Friday!
Breakfast Quiche (I’ve literally had this everyday as a mid-morning snack!)