When I first got serious about exercising, I just kind of jumped in and learned as I went along, putting all my faith into the person leading my workout class. But believe me, as time went on, I came to realize there were plenty of things I was doing, or not doing, that were preventing me from having a successful workout. So I want to share some “don’ts’ to follow if you want to have a safe, successful, and injury-free workout. I guess my first “don’t” is don’t always rely on the instructor leading the class, as she usually has new people coming in all the time. Unless you are lucky enough to have a personal trainer, you may be missing out on small, but important, things you need to know.
Here are 10 other important things to know to ensure you will have a successful workout:
- Don’t wear improper footwear. Improper footwear increases the pounding on your joints and can lead to injury. When purchasing shoes, shop at stores that specialize in athletic shoes and choose shoes specific to your activity. If you don’t know, then ask the salesperson. And always replace the shoes as soon as they begin to show signs of wear.
- Don’t try to burn fat only in an isolated area. You can firm muscles in an isolated area, but you’ll be unsuccessful if you attempt to isolate fat burning to one part of the body. Such as your stomach, thighs, hips, or arms. Incorporate cardio into your workout with the goal to reduce all over body fat. That being said, unfortunately, the areas that gain fat the fastest will be the most stubborn areas to let it go.
- Don’t stretch before your workout. Like me, you probably grew up being told to always stretch before a workout. Now experts are saying that is wrong! Your muscles should never be stretched while they are still cold as this puts you at risk for pulled or torn muscles. Go straight for the warm-up. Which brings me to the next “don’t”.
- Don’t skip a warm-up before your workout. Or you will increase your risk of injury. If you skip a nice warm-up before a cardio workout, you raise the heart rate too fast. And skipping a warm-up before lifting weights could result in torn muscles. A 5-10 minute warm-up is needed to get the oxygen and blood flowing.
- Don’t assume cardio is enough. Cardio is a great fat burner, but don’t forget strength training. Keep in mind that we begin losing muscle at age 30. And strength training builds muscle, which increases metabolism, which burns more calories. It is very important to do both.
- Don’t use bad form on cardio marchines. Never set the resistance so high that you have to hunch over or hang on to the handrail with a death grip. Doing so is preventing your body from a good workout and it can throw off your alignment, which jars your spine, shoulders, and elbow. And never read while using cardio machines, as this will take away your focus on form. No matter the exercise, you’ll never have a successful workout if your form is bad.
- Don’t think “no pain, no gain” is always true. Yes, some muscle aches and pains are normal and should be expected. But sometimes pain is your body telling you to back off. Joint and bone pain, muscle strains, or ligament and tendon strains are all signs that something is wrong. They will only get worse if you choose to ignore them because of the “no pain, no gain” theory.
- Don’t think drinking water during a workout causes cramps. Quite the opposite is true. If you are thirsty, you are dehydrated, and this actually increases your risk for cramps. Always stay well hydrated.
- Don’t skip the cool-down. Just like you should take 5-10 minutes to warm-up, you should also take 5-10 minutes to cool down giving your heart rate a chance to slow down properly. Never just come to a sudden stop at the end of your workout.
- Don’t let loss of motivation put an end to your workouts. You may be pumped up about your workouts for a long time, and then suddenly feel unmotivated. Loss of motivation is a sign of over training. When this happens, take a break or change the pace. You may skip the weights and only do cardio for a while. Or rest a day between workouts. Another option is to reward yourself with a massage or new workout clothes. (That sounds good to me!)