Exercise is fun (in theory), and has too many benefits to list. But do things wrong, and you could find yourself injured and frustrated. So many injuries are caused by the same mistakes, year in and year out.
So to give you a heads-up, here are the most common.
1. Skipping the warm-up. Muscles need time to adjust to the demands of exercise. Before you jump into your workout, you should take a few minutes to gently walk, cycle or whatever you choose to prepare the body for heavier activity. Breaking a light sweat will raise your core temperature, warm up muscles and ligaments, greatly reduce your risk of injury and increase the effectiveness of your workout.
2. Skipping the cool-down. Due to time constraints, many people head straight to the showers after their last repetition or as soon as the timer on the treadmill dings. Instead, take a few minutes to lower your heart rate close to its resting rate. This will reduce your risk of injury and give you a few minutes to grab a recovery drink.
3. Not stretching. Flexible muscles are far less likely to be pulled than tight ones. Stretch before a heavy workout or after your workout as a cool-down. Warm up first, then stretch. Never stretch a muscle that’s not warmed up.
4. Lifting too much too fast. Placing demands on your muscles that they are not prepared to handle is the best way to injure yourself. Gradual, progressive resistance is a far more effective and safe way to build strength. You should select a weight that allows you to do eight to 15 repetitions. If you can’t do eight reps, the weight is too heavy. If you can easily do 15, then increase the weight a bit.
5. Using baby weights. If you are doing over 15 reps or haven’t increased your resistance in over two weeks, it is time to progress. If you want to improve, you have to keep your muscles stimulated. If you continue to do the same weights with high reps, you’ll maintain your current physique and not advance.
6. Being a weekend warrior. This is the mistake of a person who tries to fit a week’s worth of exercise into a Saturday. You’ve got to regularly condition your body for work. Try to train hard only once a week, and you’re on the way to an injury.
7. Using bad form. It’s much more effective to choose a lower level, speed or weight and perform the exercise properly than it is to go too fast or too heavy and use poor form and momentum. Lower the intensity to the point at which you can maintain good posture.
8. Resting too much. While it’s true you don’t want to overexert, taking too much time between exercises can decrease the training benefits and set you up for injury. Allow about 30 seconds between exercises — which is usually enough time to move to the next station and set up.
9. Thinking that more is better. It’s not necessary to spend more than an hour doing cardiovascular exercise. Studies show that the risk of injury outweighs the benefits after 60 minutes. Keep sessions at 45 minutes.
Avoid these workout mistakes, and you’ll have a long, productive fitness life.
I’ll host a free seminar on fitness Tuesday, Oct. 25, at 7:30 p.m. at South Pointe Fitness Club in Hagerstown. It’s open to the public. For details, call 240-217-5713.
Chad Smith is a Hagerstown personal trainer, radio show personality, and author of www.hometeamfitnessblog.com.