So you’ve finally got yourself a fitness routine and you’re regularly making it to the gym. Congrats: That’s half the battle, ladies.
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The next step is ensuring that you maximize your time to maximize your results. You’re busy, and you’ve got lots to do! The list below includes the most common workout mistakes that women make at the gym.
Also Read: Common Cardio Mistakes You Should Avoid
Up to 80 per cent of people at the gym don’t really know what they’re doing. If you’re after dramatic results, avoid these 10 common gym pitfalls.
1. Letting Intimidation Keep You Out Of The Weight Room
You deserve to be in the weight room just as much as anyone else. You pay the same membership feed; you need to strength train just as much, if not more so, than the fellas. Whether it’s the grunting, the clanging metal, the 10:1 guy/girl ratio, or the fact that you don’t know much about weight lifting, don’t let that deter you. Strength training is imperative to your health and achieving your goals. Remember: No one is paying attention to how much you’re lifting, so work out like no one is watching and don’t pay attention to the meatheads.
2. Walking In Without A Game Plan
Getting to the gym is the hardest part of any workout, but what do you do when you get there? You should always walk in with a specific plan for the day, while keeping your overarching plan (long-term goals) in mind. You don’t necessarily have to have your entire workout written out, but you should know which exercises you plan on doing and in what order, or at the very least, which muscle groups you’re planning to focus on.
3. Letting Bad Form Slide
Form is key, both for the effectiveness of an exercise, but also to make sure you don’t injure yourself. What good is a heavy squat if you blow out your knee and can’t work out for weeks? Proper form is number 1: before weight, before reps, before sets, you need to figure out the form. Do your research through reputable, educational sources, talk to a trainer you trust, use your mirrors, take an active interest in your health, and educate yourself on proper exercise form.
4. Following Other People’s Leads
You see a woman with the body you want, so you stalk her workout and try to copy her. Or, you rip a workout out of a magazine to follow because it’s called the BEST! WORKOUT! EVER! only to find that it’s anything but. Either way, fitness is not one-size fits-all, and what works for one person may not work for another. That woman you are watching: Do you know her qualifications or her goals? These questions matter. If you’re trying to lose weight, and she’s trying to put on mass, she’s not the person to follow. You need the right program for your specific needs. Consult a personal trainer or instructor instead of winging it.
5. Sticking To The Cardio Machines
Many women think that hopping on a treadmill and running at a steady pace is the best way to burn calories and lose weight. Stop wasting your time. Steady state cardio (30 minutes to an hour of cardio that doesn’t vary in intensity) is the single worst way to burn calories. It’s both slow and ineffective. While cardio is awesome for you heart and should not be skipped, building muscle mass is, in fact, your best bet for weight loss.
Strength training workouts burn calories for hours after your workout is over, compared to cardio that burns calories only while you’re working out. The more muscle you have on your body, the higher your metabolism, which will allow you to burn more calories around the clock, even while at rest. If weight loss is your goal, use your time more wisely. You can cut your cardio time down and increase your cardio calorie burn by doing intervals (alternating high-intensity intervals with lower intensity intervals), and be sure to strength train all your major muscle groups at least twice per week. Studies show that weight lifting boosts your metabolism and increases muscle mass, which helps you lose weight in the long run.
6. Strength Training Exclusively With Machines
All fitness equipment serves a very specific purpose, and while no choice is technically wrong, using the right equipment for your goals will ramp up your results. Weight machines are designed to isolate one muscle group at a time, allowing you to overload that muscle safely, since the machine forces you to stay in proper form. This type of training is great if your goal is to lift as much as possible or build as much size as possible. For most women, however, this is not the goal. Most women want to lose weight, while strengthening and toning their muscles. For this, free weights are optimal.
Free weights require you to use multiple muscle groups at a time to hold position and perform the move, training your body to work in the way it’s required in your every day life. Plus, working more muscle groups at once will cut down on workout time and increase your calorie burn.
7. Skipping The Heavy Weights
Women are often told that they should lift lighter weights and do more reps to lose weight increase muscle tone. Meanwhile, men are told to lift heavier weights with fewer reps to add bulk.
This myth has resulted in women choosing light (read: non-existent) weights that hardly break a sweat. If your goal is to tone up, you want to stay in the 12 to 15 rep range (compared to six to eight if mass is the goal). If you can pound out 15 reps of an exercise and feel like you can do more, increase your weight, not your reps. Doing more than 15 reps of an exercise is a waste of time; the resistance isn’t enough to elicit change. Additionally, women needn’t worry about bulking up; it’s very, very difficult for women to build “too much” muscle mass by accident.
8. Ignoring Intensity
I did the exercise, so it worked, right? Not necessarily. It’s easy to go through the motions of an exercise, but intensity is what separates being at the gym and actually working out. Women’s workout mistakes often have to do with the level of intensity, and intensity is what drives results. There are different ways you can gauge your intensity to ensure you’re working hard enough at any given time. You can track your heart rate, which is literally how hard your body is working to provide your exercising muscles with the oxygenated blood they need. Try a heart rate monitor and aim to work within 65 to 85 per cent of your max heart rate (which is roughly 220 minus your age).
If gadgets aren’t your thing, try using the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Simply put, on a scale of 1 to 10, how hard are you working? In the thick of it, you should always be at a 7 or 8. If you can read a book, text or chit chat with a friend, you’re frankly not working hard enough.
9. Confusing Discomfort With Pain
Does it really hurt, or do you just hate doing it? As the saying goes, change happens outside of your comfort zone, and intense exercise that elicits change is going to cause discomfort. Your lungs will burn, your muscles will shake and you’ll be sore. This is good — it means your workout is working. Real pain — the pain that signals you need to stop and may have injured something — is sharp and doesn’t go away with a few minutes’ rest. You’ll learn to embrace, even crave, the discomfort of intense exercise, whereas pain will get worse if unattended.
10. Overeating After A Workout
My first job was at a popular smoothie chain. I can’t tell you how many women would come in after their steady-state, treadmill-only workouts (which we now know are completely inefficient!) and would order the post-workout protein shake. This smoothie contained over 1,500 calories! They walked out with a calorie gain, instead of a calorie deficit.
Most women, and men for that matter, overestimate how many calories they burn (and no, you can’t trust the display on the machine.) And while it’s true that you need protein after a strength-training workout to repair and rebuild damaged muscles, that snack should never be in the form of additional calories; rather, you should strategically time the end of your workout with a protein-rich meal or snack that you were already going to have to begin with.