You’re huffing and puffing at the gym, but still not seeing the results you want. Or maybe you’re constantly getting sidelined with pesky injuries—first you tweaked your knee, now your shoulder is acting up. What gives? You might be guilty of making one of these common workout slip-ups. We reveal 13 gym mistakes that could be derailing your progress and how to fix it.
Not switching up running shoes. If you’re still rocking a 2011 pair of Nikes with a massive hole on the bottom, it’s time to head to the nearest Footlocker, stat. Technically speaking, you’re supposed to replace running shoes every 400 to 500 miles—which, if you log a lot of miles, could equate to every three months or so. Because shoes lose shock absorption as they age, running in worn-out sneakers ups your odds of winding up with an injury.
Doing too much of the same thing. Do you immediately go into autopilot mode when you enter the gym and crank out the same old circuit routine you’ve been doing since the 90s? If you find yourself in a workout rut, it’s time to switch things up, pronto. Why? Your body is smart. It quickly adapts to a monotonous routine and begins to utilize less energy to perform the same movement, which means you burn fewer calories overall. Bottom line, too much repetition causes progress to stall out. If you’re a runner, switch things up by increasing speed or intensity, or trying a new workout altogether (swimming, biking, the possibilities are endless).
Not lifting heavier weights. Are you still doing bicep curls with 10 pound weights? C’mon, now! Trade in those 10 pounders for a heavier set of dumbbells. If you’re not tired after about eight to 12 reps, chances are you’re due for an upgrade.
Not getting enough sleep. Skimping on sleep can seriously sabotage your workout. Not only will you have less energy to perform, sleep deprivation can interfere with several important hormones, including leptin, a hormone that suppresses your appetite and regulates your metabolism—meaning you’ll eat more. A 2011 study out of Columbia University found that sleep-deprived individuals tend to eat, on average, 300 extra calories than when they were well-rested.
Not warming up. The old thinking was that you should stretch before a workout to prevent injury and prepare the muscles. Now, experts say you actually shouldn’t stretch first thing before a workout, because the muscles haven’t had a chance to warm up. Instead, they say, you should try a series of dynamic movements (think lunges, jumping jacks, high knees, or just plain ol’ walking) before your workout to prime the muscles and prevent injury.
Using poor form. Does your back collapse when you’re doing push-ups? Do your knees cave inward while you do squats? Sloppy form can compromise your workouts—and put you at greater risk of injury. Be sure to carefully listen to your instructor’s cues, observe yourself in the mirror to make sure your form is on point, and use modifications (push-ups on knees) until you build up strength. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions if a certain movement doesn’t make sense! Better safe than sorry.
Not stretching after your workout. Immediately ducking into the locker room following your workout is a huge no-no. If you fail to stretch post-workout, you’ll pay the price later in stiff, sore muscles. End your workout with a few static stretches (quad stretches, hip stretches, etc) and foam-rolling if you have time.
Poor nutrition. You are what you eat, the old saying goes—and it’s true! If you’re constantly gorging on junk, you won’t see those sexy muscles because they’ll be buried beneath a layer of fat. Remember, results are 80 percent nutrition and 20 percent fitness, so choose your food wisely. And always aim for enough muscle-building protein to feed those muscles.
Not taking a rest day. Working out is a good thing, but the body needs a day of rest for muscle repair and re-growth. By not allowing yourself a day off, you risk overtraining, fatigue and burnout. Always pencil in a day (or two!) for playing hooky from the gym.
Doing strictly cardio. In moderation, cardio is great tool for shedding fat, upping endurance, and improving heart health, but too much cardio can do more harm than good. Long, drawn-out cardio sessions are monotonous, not to mention counterproductive—in some cases, cardio overload can result in muscle wasting (atrophy). Cardio bunnies need to balance out their regimens with a weight lifting routine. Strength training does a body good in many ways. The more muscle mass you have, your metabolism will soar, your body will get tighter and you’ll stave off injuries.
Not being consistent. Sorry, weekend warriors. To truly see progress, you need to commit to going to the gym five or more days a week—two times a week just won’t cut it. Of course, some exercise is better than no exercise, but don’t expect to see massive gains in strength or endurance if you’re crashing on the couch most days of the week. As with most things in life, consistency is key! Keep yourself accountable by enlisting a workout buddy or joining a running group, or sign up for some group exercise classes—you might find that the camaraderie that comes with group classes gives you an extra push.
Skimping on water. Proper hydration both before and after your workout is crucial to optimal performance. Muscles need fluid to contract properly, so if you are even the slightest bit dehydrated, it could lead to muscle aches or spasms. What’s more, not sipping enough H20 can diminish your athletic performance—experts say that just losing two percent of your body weight in fluid can decrease performance by up to 25 percent.
Only doing crunches. Think crunches are the key to a six-pack? Think again. You can sit and do crunches until the cows come home, but unfortunately, that tactic won’t do much for your midsection. The best core exercises involve multi-joint, functional movements—think planks, mountain climbers, squats, kettlebell swings—where your abs are engaged the whole time. Or, try cranking your crunches up a notch with a weight on your chest.