Do you want to feel better, sleep better, have more energy and possibly even enjoy a longer life? It’s all possible with regular physical exercise—no matter your age, sex or experience level. Even fitness beginners can reap benefits including weight control, reduced risk of chronic disease and improved mood from as little as 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Of course, to make the most of your time in the gym or on the road in pursuit of those fitness goals, it’s important to avoid these common workout mistakes.
Your only focus is cardio
If your main fitness goal is to lose weight, you may be tempted to pack every exercise session with heart-pumping cardio. However, while running on the treadmill or the elliptical for hours on end will certainly torch calories, it will also stress your bones and joints, potentially leading to injuries. Additionally, cardio rarely encourages the building of muscle. While muscle may increase your body’s weight, it’s essential to efficient calorie burning. The more muscle you have, the more efficiently your body will use the fuel you consume—and this can eventually lead to weight loss.
Your only focus is weightlifting
As mentioned previously, building muscle will help your body use more calories—an important benefit of strength training whether you’re interested in weight loss or weight maintenance. However, bench presses, back squats and presses will do less to improve your cardiovascular fitness than a brisk jog or sweat-inducing bicycle ride. A healthy cardiovascular system has a lower risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.
Fortunately, you can shorten your weightlifting workout—making room for a cardio session—by lifting heavier weights. Experts recommend using a weight at which you can complete no more than 10 reps with perfect form. One to three sets at that weight will be significantly more beneficial in terms of toning and building muscle than 10 to 12 sets at a lower weight.
You skip workouts when you’re short on time
While a solid hour for exercise will allow you to spend time focusing on cardio and weight training independent of one another, skipping a workout when less time is available is certain to sabotage your fitness goals. High intensity interval training, also known as HIIT, will allow you to combine both cardio and resistance exercises into an equally beneficial 20-minute workout. A simple Google search will yield hundreds of HIIT workouts you can do at the gym or at home. You can also make up your own—just remember to alternate vigorous movements (like running) with less strenuous movements (like dumbbell presses) to allow for short periods of recovery.
You don’t have a plan
A plan is essential if you want to make the most of your workout time, whether you exercise at a gym or in your own home. If you’re not yet doing so, write down each day’s fitness session in advance, noting the type and duration of cardiovascular exercise you intend to complete and your strength-training movements, weights, reps and sets. Get in the habit of planning and you will avoid overtraining and wasting valuable workout time wondering what you should do next.