Fitness

Are you making these exercise mistakes?

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We’ve all been guilty of skipping the stretching at the end of a gym class or getting on/off (and back on/back off…) the exercise bandwagon at some stage.

Here are a handful of the more common exercise mistakes and why you should consider fixing them. I promise it will help you get the most out of your training!

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Not warming up

Our bodies aren’t designed to go straight into high intensity exercise. Taking the time to warm up properly before you begin your training preps your muscles and joints for the workout you’re about to do.

Warmer muscles have better flexibility which means you’re less likely to experience strains, and when you warm up synovial fluid fills a range of joint cavities around your body (such as elbows and knees) which acts as lubrication for the joints during your exercise session. You wouldn’t take your car out for a drive without using engine oil, so don’t do it to your body!

Spend at least five minutes doing something to get your body warm before you get into your workout. This could be as simple as a brisk walk or a low intensity version of the exercise you’re about to do.

Skipping your stretches at the end

This is important and one of the most common exercise mistakes! Taking the time to stretch after training can help ease out tight muscles reducing tension, increasing flexibility, improving recovery and reducing the risk of future injury.

As an aside, if you do yoga classes you really shouldn’t skip svasana (relaxation/meditation at the end of the class) either. Svasana helps reduce stress and anxiety, and can help improve mental clarity and focus. In today’s modern world our brains are constantly being overwhelmed by busy life, and this provides a moment for your body to reset which can help your cortisol (stress hormone) levels to drop.

If you struggle to ‘just lie there’, close your eyes and focus on something physical; the sound of your breath, the feeling of your breath in your lungs – try to expand them as much as possible, hold your breath for a beat, then slowly exhale. There’s more explanation of techniques that might help here.

Thinking in the short term

If you’re constantly switching on and off the fitness band wagon, this could be your answer; if you want to get anywhere with your fitness goals, you need to think in the long term. A high intensity exercise programme may seem fun to begin with, but there’s increased risk of injury and physical burnout, if you have a busy life, do you currently have the energy to continue this programme in the long term? Doing a 6-week bootcamp can be a good way to kickstart your exercise routine, but what happens at the end of that 6-week period?

Physical and internal health benefits come with regular exercise, so it’s important to keep thinking ahead to make sure you don’t end up back at square one. Find a form of exercise that you love doing. If you try something and don’t enjoy it after around 6 sessions, give something else a go. Once you love your training you won’t think of it as a chore and you’ll be eager to get started!

Not forming a routine

We are creatures of habit; our meal times, sleep patterns, work schedule, and even our exercise times all go better if we can keep them as stable as possible on a day-to-day basis.

Nut out a workout routine that fits in with your existing lifestyle. If you change your life around too much to suit an exercise routine, it will likely go out the window at some point. If you’re a morning exerciser and struggle to find the energy in the afternoon to train, you should really try to make your training sessions in the morning and work with your body, otherwise it will be very easy to skip a workout after a particularly hard day.

Even if you’re a shift worker, you can still develop alternative plans for a week depending on whether your shifts are in the morning/afternoon/evening and when your off days are.

Think about how many exercise sessions you want to fit in each week and go from there. Sit down with your typical week’s calendar and schedule in stable weekly ‘appointments’ for yourself. If you know your workout sessions in advance, you’re far more likely to make them happen and be prepared for them.

Not allowing for change

If you fall sick, go on holiday, have an event, or just generally feel too tired to train, skipping your exercise session will negate the last point – your routine goes out the window and it can be hard to pull it back together!

When this happens, you need to have a backup plan. Rather than skipping a bootcamp workout after a tough day, try to keep your routine by doing the low intensity options instead, or just go for a walk outside followed by some gentle stretching.

If you’re feeling unwell, some gentle stretching can be good for you and won’t be too taxing on the body, or you can simply lie on your back on the floor and do some deep breathing exercises to release some tension.

If you get injured, think about what parts of your body you can still train. Do your physio exercises (can’t stress how important this is!) if you have them. If your lower body is injured you can still do an upper body workout and vice versa. There are many core exercises that require little movement and can be done while sitting, lying down or standing – ask a trainer for help if you want to keep exercising but need some guidance on what you can do.

If you go on holiday or have an event, plan around it. Change your workout time, go for a beach run on holiday or do a hill climb, do a family workout by having a game of soccer at the park. There are many ways to get moving so explore your options!

Image / FreeDigitalPhotos.net – tiverylucky

Ange is a personal trainer, yoga teacher, wife, and mother (with second bubba on the way!) based in Auckland, New Zealand.

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