If your goal is to lose weight, regular exercise should become part of your everyday life. But like everything in life, there are those of us who exercise properly and those who don’t.
Those who exercise properly know exactly what to do and how to do it because they do their homework (reading articles such as this one) and learn from the experience of others.
The fact that you are reading this article suggests that you are either one of those who exercise properly or want to be.
So to help you get the most out of your exercise routine, we’ve put a list together of the Top 10 exercise mistakes that we see countless people making everyday.
If you want to reach your weight loss goals and achieve your ideal weight, learn from these mistakes so get the most out of your workouts and achieve your long term weight loss goals.
Mistake 1 – Failing to plan
Most of us have heard the saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. This is true in life and it’s true in exercise.
Working out without a workout plan is like flying a plane blind. If you can’t see where you’re going, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll end up being where you want to be at the end of the trip.
Good exercise plans take account of your fitness and weight loss goals, where you currently are in relation to that goal, your level of experience and other considerations like the amount of time you have available, and any injuries or ailments that need to be worked around.
If you’re new to exercise or think you need a new perspective on your existing plan, see the article Planning an exercise program also featured on weightloss.com.au.
If you’re still not confident or sure what to do even after reading that article, we suggest you enlist the help of a qualified personal trainer or gym instructor to design a personalized strength and aerobic training program just for you.
Mistake 2 – No Exercise Variety
I hate using clichés, (especially two in a row!) but this one says it all. “Variety is the spice of life”.
If exercise is to be part of your everyday life you want to make sure you’re enjoying it. And why wouldn’t you, there are so many great ways to be physically active and burn all the calories you need to if you just look for them.
In addition to helping you avoid boredom, adding variety to your exercise program will actually help you lose more weight and become fitter.
How? Simple, if we perform the same exercises at the same intensities all the time, our bodies get used to our routine and stops responding. Muscles only get stronger and grow when they need to adapt. By changing exercises and the order in which you do them, you’ll keep your body guessing and force it to continually respond and adapt.
Exercise variety also promotes muscle balance and ensures that some muscles don’t get over-developed while others remain under-developed.
Mistake 3 – Not stretching
Stretching is one of the most important aspects of any training program, but it is amazing how often it is neglected.
Among other things, stretching can help you:
- Maintain flexibility.
- Reduce pain and discomfort (ongoing and post workout).
- Correct muscle imbalances.
- Exercise effectively and efficiently.
- Avoid injury.
By doing all of these things, stretching has a direct affect on your ability to burn calories and lose weight in the long term.
In addition, stretching generally makes you feel better, like the way a massage does.
Ideally, try to stretch your major muscles and the ones you are going to use in your workouts, before and after you complete your routine. Just remember to warm up your muscles slightly before your pre-workout stretch.
Mistake 4 – No warm-up and cool-down
Like stretching, many people discard the importance of warming up and cooling down during their exercise sessions.
I suspect for most people, they see these activities as either a waste of time or something that will eat into their valuable total workout time. With the hectic lives we lead today, this is hardly surprising, but just because it is understandable doesn’t make it right.
There are many physiological benefits to warming up and cooling down, but in layman’s terms warming up helps:
Prepare your body for the activity and intensity of activity ahead. Your body get the most benefit out of each exercise performed. Prevent injury. And cool downs help:
- Muscles get rid of waste (such as lactic acid).
- Decrease the heart rate slowly.
- Prevent blood pressure drops which cause dizziness or fainting.
- Re-circulate blood from working muscles to the rest of the body.
- Prevent post-workout stiffness or soreness.
Remember, your warm-up and cool-down needn’t involve separate exercises to the ones you perform in your workout. Instead, they can be the same exercises, just performed at a lower level of intensity. A great example is walking for 5 minutes before jogging or lifting very light weights as a warm-up for more strenuous lifting.
Mistake 5 – Training at the same intensity
This mistake typically takes one of two forms; training with too low an intensity all the time, or training with too high an intensity all the time.
As far as your weight loss and fitness goals are concerned, both of these are less than ideal for fairly obvious reasons (too low an intensity won’t maximize fitness or weight loss and too high an intensity can be de-motivating and lead to overuse injuries putting a halt to long term weight loss).
Interestingly, the most common mistake we see in this area is training with too high an intensity, particularly when it comes to aerobic activities like jogging or cycling.
The problem most people get into with these activities is training at the fastest pace they can maintain all the time. This is a mistake.
Look at the training schedules of professional runners and cyclists and you’ll see that most of their yearly training is completed at a relatively moderate intensity. Sure these guys and gals train at the higher intensities too, but only for relatively short periods of time at specific points in their training program, like during the weeks just prior to major races.
If you jog, cycle, row or perform some other type of aerobic exercise in your routine, make sure that most of your training are at the intensities represented by the 60 – 70% and 70 – 80% of your maximum heart rate zones.
Mistake 6 – Using improper technique
If you don’t use the right technique when exercising you won’t be getting the maximum benefit out of each workout and you’re inviting injuries which could set you well back on the road to your ideal weight and fitness level.
This is as true for those doing aerobic exercises as it is for those doing weight training. For example, I’ve lost count of the cyclists I’ve seen with their bike seats set too low or riding the wrong sized bike.
To make sure you’re performing your exercises properly:
- Do some homework – find out what the right technique is.
- Get help from a professional (such as a trainer or coach).
- Check your technique periodically to make sure everything’s as it should be.
Mistake 7 – Not exercising enough
Sometimes three or four exercise sessions per week aren’t enough to achieve major changes in your weight or fitness level.
Serious weight loss and body shape changes typically come from major lifestyle adjustments, and exercising a couple of hours per week may not be enough on their own to alter your weight or body shape dramatically.
If you have more than very modest weight loss and fitness goals, try exercising in some way every day. In addition to workouts, look for other opportunities to burn calories (known as incidental exercise), such as walking or bike riding to work, choosing parking spaces furthest away from the store you’re visiting, or get out and walk the dog or play with your kids.
Mistake 8 – Not resting enough
The flip side of not exercising enough is training too much and not getting enough rest.
Rest has a vital role to play in life and in exercise, and getting the mix of activity and rest right is vital in both.
Common signs of over-training include:
- Disinterest in exercise.
The right amount of rest helps us recover from our workouts to ensure we get the best out of our next session and helps the body to work at higher levels of intensity by adding muscle and increasing energy level stores within our muscles.
Rest after working hard is also fun, a good excuse to do something you like (like go for a picnic) and a great reward for a job well done.
Mistake 9 – No weight training
Put very simply, bigger muscles burn more calories and weight training builds bigger muscles.
If you’re a woman worried about becoming too bulky, don’t be. Women typically don’t produce enough testosterone in their bodies that are necessary for really big muscles. Instead of becoming bulky, women’s muscles become firm and shapely as a result of weight training and what woman in her right mind wouldn’t like firmer, shapelier muscles?
Mistake 10 – Unrealistic Goals
Many people today are far too impatient. Unless you’re goal is to lose only a kilo or two, it may take you a while to achieve your ideal healthy weight and your goals should reflect this fact.
So that you don’t set unrealistic goals that eventually stop you dead in your tracks:
- Break your long term goals into a series of manageable short term goals.
- Don’t give up or be too hard on yourself if goals take a little longer than you expect to achieve.
- Don’t compare yourself to others and the results they achieve.
- Learn to appreciate exercise for its intrinsic values, like giving you more energy, stress relief, etc.
- Don’t give up.
If your goal is to lose weight, regular exercise should become part of your everyday life. But like everything in life, there are those who perform good exercise practices and those who perform poor exercise practices. Those who exercise properly know exactly what to do and how to do it because they’ve done their homework and learnt from the experience of others.
We hope that after reading this article you have a new awareness of the most common exercise mistakes and know how to avoid them so that your workouts are safe and effective, and help you to achieve your weight loss goals and become a happier, healthier you.