In order to get a good workout every time, steer clear of these common habits.
People make all sorts of mistakes at the gym, but avoiding these six faux paus is easy and will consistently give you a better workout.
1. Play with your phone
Don’t rob yourself of a good workout by phoning it in (pun intended) and spending your limited time in the gym distracted. If you’re swiping through your phone and not paying attention to what you’re doing — whether it be running, biking, weight-lifting, etc. — you likely won’t be exerting yourself as much as you could be. Not working to your maximum potential means you’ll burn fewer calories, gain less muscle and progress toward your goals slower. Even more important, it can be unsafe to be on the phone while training. For example, you could easily veer to the side while walking on a treadmill, causing you to stumble or fall.
Instead, put your phone away and perform a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout. Because the training style involves alternating between high and low periods of exertion, HIIT workouts can earn you the same results as a less-intense workout in a shorter amount of time. Leave your phone in your locker during your HIIT workout and save the swiping for the extra time you’ve gained back.
2. Overexert yourself
Equally bad as not pushing yourself hard enough is overexerting yourself. Overtraining can sap your energy and slow your progress as your body fights to cope with the added strain. Overtraining can usually be avoided by making sure you have adequate rest days every week to allow your body to recover.
To avoid acute overexertion, be careful that you don’t spend too much time in your maximum heart rate zone. Your maximum heart rate can be calculated as 220 minus your age. When your heart rate rises to 90 percent or higher of your maximum rate, you should only maintain that level of exertion for a few seconds before easing back. And remember to vary the intensity of your workouts and run each week to keep your body guessing.
3. Race the person next to you
The only competition in the gym should be you against your former self. A little competition can be motivating, but don’t try to race the person on the equipment next to you. They’re not judging, and by trying to compete, you may end up distracted, overexerting yourself, or even becoming injured — not worth it. Instead, keep track of your performance and try to beat your best time or distance whenever you visit the gym.
4. Stomp your feet
Don’t pound your feet on the treadmill! Not only will it likely annoy your gym neighbors, but it may indicate that you’re not running with proper form. Make sure that you’re not slouching, that your shoulders are low and loose, and that you’re looking forward. Your spine should form a naturally straight line with your hips. Maintain a shorter running stride and avoid heel striking; try to land on your mid-foot or forefoot.
Running with proper form can help prevent injury and allow you to run more efficiently so you can move faster and go farther. Good form is equally important on an indoor bike. Learn how to set the bike up properly so your body won’t be misaligned during your ride, which can cause back and shoulder pain.
5. Leave your sweat
This guideline is simple but many people are unaware that it’s something you should do. After you’re done with the equipment, give the handrails, console, or any other place you touched a quick wipe down. You should be able to find paper towels or cleaning wipes near the cardio areas. By wiping the sweat off the equipment, you’ll help keep the equipment free of germs and set a good example for your neighbors.
6. Keep the same pace
Keep your body guessing by varying your tempo, incline and resistance during cardio exercise. On the treadmill, raise the deck incline to simulate the hills and uneven terrain of outdoor running. You can also vary your pace, alternating between periods of sprinting and walking or slow jogging.
On the elliptical, vary the resistance level and incline to shift which muscles are emphasized the most at any one time. Mixing up these settings can give you a more well-rounded workout and might allow you to train longer before becoming fatigued. On the indoor bike, increase the resistance and stand up in the saddle to simulate hill climbs and make your muscles burn.