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At the Gym, Did You Know?, We Love Lists

August 13, 2009

10 fitness habits you never knew were bad

We do things out of desire and unfortunately moreso necessity. And these days, more than ever, necessity is another word for time and money.

Don’t jeopardize your health and physical performance by engaging in these bad, and surprisingly common, fitness habits.

1. Not eating breakfast

Consider that by the time you wake, at least six hours has passed since your last meal — and you’re also probably dehydrated. Top that off with a cup of coffee and now you’ve just spiked your energy levels. With no foundation to carry you until lunch, you end up gorging anything when you do have lunch. Your body is starving for nutrition and nutrition gives you the energy you need to workout (effectively). The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, cleverly identifies breakfast as having the capacity to “literally break your fast after sleeping all night.” If you’re not a breakfast person, become one. Start small. Prepare oatmeal on the weekends, refrigerate and use in a protein shake during the week. Add some healthy, low-fat yogurt and you now have a nutrient dense morning meal that will carry you until lunch. Muffins, Danish or croissants contain zero nutritional value. Tip: keep a jar of peanut butter at work and eat with an apple or mix some in with yogurt.

2. Skipping the gym because you’re tired

Try this instead: when you’re too tired to go to the gym, go to the gym. Avoid any deterrents at all costs. A significant (and common) one is not having your gym clothes. Carry a gym bag with you at all times, this way, you avoid the lure of going home (this is critical). Once at the gym, start small. Warm up by listening to your most motivational music. Gradually increase the tempo while you increase the intensity of your workout. Your endorphins will begin to flow, giving you that much needed “runner’s high.” Who’s tired now?

3. Not stretching before working out

A ten-minute, pre-workout stretch will improve your muscles’ range of motion and reduce the possibility of muscle tear. The importance of stretching has been proven to prevent injuries associated with tight, rigid, unused muscles. If your job involves sitting at a desk for eight hours, then your muscles are unused. As a matter of fact, stretching before and after working out should be a mandatory part of your routine. Both Pilates and yoga involve varying and significant forms of stretching exercises.

4. Lifting too light

Starting off light is fine, only as long as you increase your repetitions. But if your intention is to build muscle, don’t short-change yourself. If unsure about form (or how to use the machine), by all means, go light to get it right. Then pack on the weight for the next set. Always, always be vigilant of your form and never lift heavier than you can possibly manage. If you show up, then do your best; push yourself.

5. Lifting too heavy

Avoid lifting too heavy a weight, poorly with the hope of gaining size quickly. Think quality not quantity. Proper form guarantees best results, and the reduced likelihood of injury. Proper weight lifting form will isolate the targeted muscle, helping to achieve the results you intend. If you can’t perform at least six repetitions, then the weight is too heavy.

6. Holding on while on the treadmill

Let go. Really. Let go. Free yourself from your fears, whatever they may be. We live in a lawsuit society and the railings on treadmills are precautionary. Runners seldom run while holding on, skiers only use their poles to propel (or walk) and cyclists use the handle bars for stability and steering. It’s time to take off the training wheels.

7. Not working opposing muscles

Ever wonder why your back hurts when you do abs exercises? Or, maybe you can do biceps curls, no problem, but triceps extensions, not so much. Opposing muscles are the muscles that we don’t use as often and every muscle has an opposing one. Starting off tip: chest and triceps one day, back and biceps the next day. Do the same for your legs.

8. Not drinking water during workouts

Your muscles need constant hydration during intense physical exercise to maintain mobility and flexibility. Without proper hydration during exercise, your muscles will contract and could cause cramps. Proper hydration also promotes blood circulation, which regulates the rate at which your heart must pump blood — critical during exercise. And, perspiration is primarily water.

9. Not showering after working out

Sweat also includes toxins that the body excretes through our pores. The more you sweat, the more toxins are excreted and these toxins could cause breakouts. As your heart rate will be elevated immediately after working out, this is the time to stretch before hitting the shower (or sauna).

10. Eating just anything after working out

Why ruin all the time and energy you just expended with a crappy, non-nutritious meal? If you don’t know what to eat after working out, plan your meal before working out. If voracious hunger overwhelms you, pack a protein powder in your gym bag, especially if you’re dining out afterwards. This simple, good (smart) habit will get you through the drink order and prevent you from gouging the bread basket. Tip: a guilt-free appetizer would be a salad, containing leafy greens, like spinach or lentil or other bean-based soup.

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