1. Not warming up properly beforehand and not cooling down properly afterward.
So many of us are strapped for time when it comes to working out that we’d prefer to just hit the ground running to get it over with as soon as possible. But according to WebMD, a proper 5 to 10-minute warm-up is necessary to get the blood flowing, prepare your muscles for physical activity and prevent injury. Likewise, cooling down for 5 to minutes when you’re done prevents your heart rate and blood pressure from dropping right off so you don’t feel dizzy or lightheaded immediately after finishing.
Schedule the extra 10 to 20 minutes needed to warm up and cool down into the amount of time you’ve dedicated to working out. A good warm-up might involve something as simple as running on the spot combined with a bit of stretching. A cool down could be the same activity you did during your main workout at a lower intensity combined with stretching and a bit of leisurely walking.
2. Zoning out so much that you’re just going through the motions.
You know that feeling when running on the treadmill or following along with a workout DVD program, but your mind is totally somewhere else? Instead of focusing on your workout, you’re thinking about what’s for lunch, what you have to do for work, who you have to call later and where you need to drive your kids after school. As your body enters an autopilot state while your mind is preoccupied with other thoughts, your performance ends up suffering because your focus isn’t right there with it.
The trick is to treat your workout like it’s a form of meditation. Make a commitment to being fully present in every step you take or every rep you lift by detaching from all the crazy thoughts you have about what you have to do after your workout or whatever you were doing before.
3. Forcing yourself to get your workout in after a bad night’s sleep.
Everyone has those nights from time to time where they just don’t sleep well, which can hugely impact everything that’s been planned for the next day. The truth is, exercising intensely when you’re sleep deprived only puts more stress on your body, which could be bad news for your hormonal balance and your immune system. Lack of sleep also impairs judgment, potentially making you more prone to injuring yourself.
If you’re running on very little sleep, skip the high-intensity cardio and heavy weight lifting. Instead, do something that’s lower in intensity and ideally relaxing. Going for a leisurely walk or doing some restorative yoga will help to eliminate stress from your body rather than add to it.
4. Treating your workout like it’s a circus.
When weight loss is a big motivator, it’s tempting to obsess over burning the most calories in the shortest amount of time. It may feel good to run around like crazy doing all sorts of exercise variations, and this may be a fine strategy for burning a ton of calories, but it doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the muscle overload and metabolic spark you need to give you that after-burn effect that can last for several hours (up to 24 to 48 hours).
Circuit training (with weights or using your own body weight) and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) are two of the most effective forms of exercise that helped me eliminate my circus workouts and start taking advantage of the recovery period to enhance my results. Remember that you want to make the time that you put into actually doing the exercises keep working for you well after you’ve finished.
Improving and maintaining physical health is a constant learning experience that never ends. As long as you keep going, you’ll always be uncovering new things about yourself and your body that will help you improve.