When you’re working out, it can be easy to get into your own little world and forget that there are other people around you who might not know what they’re doing. Of course, in most cases this doesn’t end up being an issue, but if you’re new to fitness or starting out with free weights in the weight room, it’s possible that you could be making common mistakes that could lead to muscle strains or even damage to your joints. Here are 10 workout mistakes you might be making (and how to avoid them).
1. Wear your heart rate monitor
If you don’t have a heart rate monitor and are doing cardio exercise, wear a watch. Monitor your heart rate throughout your workout, and aim for an average of 75% of your max heart rate. For example, if your maximum is 160 beats per minute (bpm), then you should aim for around 112 bpm on average. This will help ensure that you’re using about 80% of your max capacity and getting an effective cardio session in without pushing yourself too hard. Keep in mind that it may take some time to figure out what 75% feels like—and there may be some trial and error involved as well. However, once you find your target range, you can use these numbers each time you work out so that they become more of a habit.
2. Follow a structured workout plan
Structured plans make sure you get in your workouts, no matter what life throws at you. When it comes to working out, it’s easy for things like staying up late watching TV or enjoying a glass of wine with friends can derail even your best intentions. But a structured plan will help you create workouts that fit into your schedule—and stick with them.
3. Set achievable goals
Make sure your goals are realistic and achievable. For example, if you want to lose weight, a goal of I’m going to lose 20 pounds in one month is both unrealistic and unachievable; a more attainable goal would be something like I’m going to do 30 minutes of exercise every day for a month.
4. Warm up before you exercise
An effective warmup gets your heart pumping, prepares your body for strenuous physical activity and increases blood flow to muscles. Although it doesn’t take much time—about 10 minutes is plenty—and only requires a little leg-stretching before you go running or lift weights, many people either don’t do it at all or rush through it without getting results. A good way to approach warming up is by doing three light sets of 10 reps of an exercise you want to work on that day.
5. Stay hydrated
If you’re feeling tired or short of breath during your workout, it could be a result of dehydration. If you don’t drink enough water while working out, your body can lose as much as 2% of its total fluids per hour. Aim for eight 8-ounce glasses per day when exercising—and always stay hydrated. Water is a fantastic source of hydration. Other good hydrators include coconut water, Gatorade and other sports drinks that have electrolytes, like potassium and sodium.
6. Incorporate HIIT training into your routine
By doing shorter, more intense workouts, you’ll build muscle while burning lots of calories in a short amount of time. In one study from Arizona State University, researchers compared two groups, one that did eight reps of a leg exercise at a traditional pace and another that performed four reps of the same exercise with 30 percent less rest time between sets. The HIIT group burned about 20 calories a minute on average and doubled their post-exercise metabolism for several hours after exercising. Weight Loss Tips for Women Over 40!
7. Track your progress using MyFitnessPal
It’s tough to keep track of how many calories you’re burning when you’re in different types of workouts, whether that’s a gym session, boxing class or mountain bike ride. MyFitnessPal is an easy way to monitor your overall calorie count for your workout and make sure you don’t fall off-course for your goals. Here are some ways it can help
8. Exercise regularly for the best results
The best results don’t come from a single workout—they come from consistency over time. If you want to see real results, focus on your exercise routine and find ways to fit it into your life regularly. For example, aim for 10 minutes of exercise three times per week, rather than an hour once a week. A handful of workouts sprinkled throughout each week are more effective than one big workout each month.
9. Get enough sleep each night
Not getting enough sleep can have a detrimental impact on your workout performance. It’s recommended that you get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. If you’re not getting enough sleep, consider cutting back on late-night TV watching or staying away from computer/phone screens before bed time. If you start feeling sluggish during your workouts, it might be time to reevaluate how well-rested you are.
10. Don’t forget to stretch!
It’s a common misconception that stretching won’t give you toned and flexible muscles. Don’t forget: Stretching helps you avoid injury! Incorporate 20 minutes of dynamic stretching into your workout routine. Dynamic stretching, which involves moving your body through a full range of motion and holding each stretch for about 15 seconds, will help improve flexibility and mobility, says Jessica Matthews, NASM-certified personal trainer. Here are six dynamic stretches you can do before or after your next workout