When it comes to working out, many people have this standard flow to their regime — rock up to the gym, get changed, hop onto a treadmill for awhile, get off it and head to the weights section, pump out a few sets, finish with ab crunches then pack up and leave.
While it’s great to commit to a routine towards better health and fitness, but doing it the right way is ultimately going to allow you to sustain it and get even more joy out of it.
As a personal trainer who’s helped numerous people to achieve breakthroughs in their health and fitness, I’ve realised there are a handful of most common mistakes taking place on the gym floor.
I’ve come up with 5 common mistakes you must avoid when it comes to going through your fitness regime so that you are mitigating the chances of setbacks, potential injuries or burnout.
Mistake No. 1: Static stretches before a workout.
We’ve always been taught to do static stretches as a way to warm up anywhere from our school PE classes, martial arts classes to team sport activities.
Take the most popular hamstring stretch where you straighten your legs, touch your toes and hold for 20 seconds, then the shoulder stretch where you have your arm crossing over your chest, locked in with another arm and held for another 20 seconds before moving onto another side.
Sounds familiar? And more often than not, when an injury ever occurs, the blame is always placed on the stretch not being done properly.
The truth is that static stretches might do more harm than good if done prior to a workout or sporting activity!
Research has shown that static stretches can potentially cause injuries because it causes muscles to be lengthened and weakened which then lead to reduced joint stability. Additionally, strength, power and speed output were also shown to decrease.
So what can be done instead?
This is when dynamic stretches which proves to be more effective comes into the picture.
A few examples of dynamic stretches include arm circles, bodyweight squats and lunges, PVC pipe mobility drill and ground-based moves like the Scorpion or Crab Reach (depending on the specificity of your sports).
While there is an abundance of online resources where you can find out the most suitable dynamic stretches for your activity and physical condition, investing in a great personal trainer to guide you through especially you’re new to this will payback in multiple folds.
Mistake No. 2: Insufficient warm up
To many gym goers and workout enthusiasts, the focus has always been finding the best workouts for maximum calorie burn or muscle gain, but quite often, taking the time to go through a thorough warm up seems like a luxury.
I know it can be boring and even some of my personal training clients had the tendency to rush through it.
But I always enlighten them with the perspective of a workout regime or program can only be great if the warm up routine is done well.
The amount of time taken for a warmup comes down to a few things but the most important one is to judge based on your activities throughout the day before you show up to your workout.
Let’s put it this way, a completely sedentary office worker who spends eight hours hunched in front of a computer in a cubicle will definitely need to spend a longer warm up period compared to a housewife who spends the day on her feet running after kids, going for grocery shopping and doing house chores.
Therefore, going on a treadmill for a quick jog and thinking it is enough might not serve you as well.
Instead, take the time to go through a series of dynamic stretches, activation exercises, movement preparation and breathing work is something I will always educate my personal training clients with.
In fact sometimes, I will never start our first set of workout if I feel they need more time. This will help mitigate any injuries caused by stiff and underactive muscles while getting our mind focused.
Mistake No. 3: Lack of mindfulness
With technology and instant gratification taking place anywhere we go, it could mean that our attention span and the ability to be mindful are being compromised.
When it comes to performing a great workout, mindfulness can take us a lot further in terms of safety, efficiency and effectiveness.
The lowest hanging fruit to achieve mindfulness towards your workout is to first put your mobile device out of sight and on mute. Once that’s done, the next tip is an interesting one.
I know it’s great to strike up conversations with your sweat buddies or trainers because the social element of going to the gym is important to many.
But overdoing it in the middle of your workout might not be ideal because it might take you away from paying full attention to the posture, form, technique and breathing pattern necessary for a workout movement to be performed effectively.
Treat your workout session as a time where you connect with yourself and cultivate stillness and this might help restore the balance between the constant output in life and the input that is much needed for you to feel wholesome.
Mistake No. 4: Not having the right techniques
Calorie burn is the holy grail of many workout regimes which proclaim to promote effective fat loss.
While that is debatable, here I would like to shine the light on what needs your attention the most instead.
When exercising, it’s not just about what you do, but how you do it. Especially when it comes to performing resistance training movements that have actually been proven to improve your resting metabolic rate by increasing lean muscle mass.
Therefore, taking the time to learn the right techniques is the first step and the second step is to actually have the discipline to stick to it.
I am extremely adamant when it comes to this towards my personal training clients and many times it’s either I have to help the new clients unlearn what they had or I had to step in to remind them to watch their techniques in the middle of a set of movement repetitions.
Being open is the first step to mastering anything in life and this is especially true with fitness.
Lighter weight doesn’t mean easier, going slower doesn’t mean easier either.
So sometimes, if you truly wish to challenge yourself, a bigger weight is not the only way. Go lighter and slower, you will feel it!
Mistake No. 5: Pushing through the pain unknowingly
“No pain, no gain!” The mantra that has been motivating millions around the world to push beyond their comfort zones in gyms.
While it is necessary to do so in order to make new gains. But here’s the thing. Not all pain is created equally! There are the ‘Good Pain’ and the ‘Bad Pain’ and you’re about to reveal in 3, 2, 1 second!
A ‘Good’ pain is often the burning sensation in the muscles when going through a series of repetitions which quite often takes only a few seconds of resting to subside.
But when it comes to a ‘Bad’ pain, it lingers around minutes after and sometimes… hours later! A red flag is raised if you feel it around your tendons, ligaments and joints.
If you happen to have just started your workout and a ‘Bad’ pain takes place, you have all the right to stop immediately and have it addressed with a personal trainer, or a personal trainer nearby if you are working out alone.
I won’t recommend you to assume it will subside by working through it. If it is a mild one, icing it ten minutes on, ten minutes off might help.
But again, if in doubt, please refer to a trusted physiotherapist, chiropractor or physical therapist.
As we stand for a lifelong and holistic breakthroughs for humanity and therefore it is our very purpose to ensure essential knowledge gets out there.
What you can do on your end is to stand for the same when it comes to your own well being.
Don’t treat fitness as a sprint, treat it as an ever growing area of your life where not only you’re consistently showing up at the gym, but you’re committed to learning a better way whenever possible!