ME Magazine

Errors in Exercise

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Working out without results? Five mistakes you could be making and how to avoid them

Getting out of bed to go to the gym is agonizing at best. You're lying there, perfectly comfortable and warm when the wretched alarm goes off. You drag yourself out of bed and barely make it to your closet, let alone the car. You grab a protein bar on your way out and you start to wonder why no one has invented an IV drip for coffee yet.

Somehow you push yourself to work out-because surely this torture will pay off.

The next day you step on the scale.

And nothing.

"Wait, did I gain a half pound?! That's not fair; I did everything right!"

Unfortunately, when it comes to weight loss, there's no A for effort. You could be making some common exercise mistakes and not even know it. The good news is that they're easily fixed. Here are five to turn around.

Mistake 1: Not setting goals

Working out without a goal in mind is like going for a road trip without a map. Sure, you might end up at the same place, but it will take you a lot longer to get there.

"Goal-setting is an effective and easy-to-use technique for promoting behavioral change," says Jessica Matthews, continuing education coordinator and academy exercise scientist for the American Council on Exercise. "Make sure your goals are specific, measurable and attainable. Avoid setting goals that are negative or unrealistic. And don't set too many at once."

Mistake 2: Doing the same routine over and over … and over

Think that if your exercise regimen works there's no reason to mess with it? Think again. "Variation is important for both physiological and psychological reasons," Matthews says. "Psychologically, varying your program will help combat boredom. Physiologically, it's imperative to change up workout routines to continue to make gains and avoid plateaus."

You don't have to start at square one to benefit. Changing even one aspect of your routine - such as the number of sets you do, the muscle groups you work or the intensity you sustain - can go a long way.

Mistake 3: Losing motivation

Just because you go to the gym regularly doesn't mean you are motivated. In fact, "when a workout becomes monotonous, you're more likely to train with less passion and intensity," Matthews says. Mixing up your routine will help. Other ideas for staying motivated include enacting the buddy system, enrolling in a group class and rewarding yourself for progress. Just don't do it with food.

Mistake 4: Not lifting weights

You want to lose weight, not bulk up, so weightlifting is a waste of time, right? Wrong. Strength training benefits your body twofold. First, you burn calories during the actual exercise. (Hint: Don't simply rest between sets; hop on a different machine while you wait.) And second, you continue to burn calories well after you've left the gym while your muscles work to repair themselves.

Mistake 5: Overcompensating calories in for calories out

You're working out regularly, so you should be able to eat whatever you want, right? Not so fast. People often assume they're burning more calories during a workout than they actually are. So don't allow yourself to eat more and think, "It's OK, I'll hit the gym extra hard tomorrow." Keep your diet in check, and you'll see results in no time.

- By Shelley Flannery

ME Magazine Spring 2011

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Get Personal

Need a little motivation or having trouble committing to a fitness routine? Hire a personal trainer to get you started. If you don't want a big financial commitment, sign up for one session or ask if you can go half and half with a friend. Use the time wisely and inquire about your goals and proper technique.

Make No Mistake About Massage

Whether you're just starting to exercise or you've been at it for years, you may be sore after hitting the gym. Sports Massage therapy can relieve muscle soreness and inflammation that can occur as the result of exercising.

Massage is also beneficial in improving flexibility and range of motion, which can actually help you perform better and make your body less prone to injury at the gym.

Looser muscles, joints and tendons are less likely to snap under pressure. Massage helps stimulate the production of the body's natural joint lubricants, making stretching and movement in general easier.

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