Even if you’re an exercise novice, you’re probably aware of some of the most common workout mistakes.
Widely publicized no-no’s include taking on too much exercise too soon…doing the same workout every day…and neglecting correct form.
But there are many lesser-known mistakes that can sabotage your quest for self-improvement. Here are five workout blunders and how to fix them:
Mistake #1: You’re Working Out at the Wrong Time
The Fix: Recent research shows that the best time of day to exercise depends on your fitness goals.1
Are you exercising to beat stress and lower your blood pressure? Morning resistance training can decrease your blood pressure level by 20%. That’s comparable to—or even better than—common hypertension drugs. And you don’t have to worry about side effects.
Morning exercisers also enjoy up to 75% more time in deep sleep than afternoon and evening exercisers.
Want to banish workday brain fatigue and boost your productivity? Try a mid-day workout between noon and 6 p.m.
Are you one of the millions of Americans who are walking to lose weight? Logging your 10,000 steps in the evening can help you resist late-night food cravings and help you shed pounds.
Evening workouts are also best if your goal is to quickly increase your muscle mass and strength.
Mistake #2: You’re Dehydrated
The Fix: To ensure optimal muscle and cardiovascular function during exercise, drink 10-20 ounces of water an hour or two before your workout. Down eight to 10 ounces of water about 15 minutes before you start and another eight ounces every 15 minutes during your workout.2 3
Mistake #3: Static Stretching Before Resistance Training
Recent studies contradict decades-old advice that static stretching (holding a stretch to the point of feeling tension) can increase flexibility and prevent injuries. They show this practice actually impairs performance during resistance training. It increases the risk of pulling or tearing a muscle.4 5
The Fix: Perform dynamic stretches. Before a cross-training workout, for example, do squats with no weights before adding weights. Perform planks and standing lunges before mountain climbers. Do jumping jacks and step-ups onto a bench before plyometric jumps. Ease into a long-distance run by walking before jogging and then jogging before running.
Mistake #4: Doing Long Hours of Cardio
The Fix: Extended sessions of jogging and biking are among the most popular workouts. But they are inefficient and not nearly as beneficial as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which is all about maximizing results while minimizing time in the gym. The average session lasts 20 minutes or less.
Here are five reasons to switch to HIIT:
- Eases Depression:One study found more than 60% of subjects doing HIIT cut their depression symptoms in half. It only took eight weeks to see results.
- Promotes Heart Health: Long hours of cardio exercise works against your heart. Marathon-style running can leave your heart scarred. This can lead to heart failure and even death. But HIIT works differently.
Two weeks of HIIT raises your aerobic capacity—VO2max—just as much as two months of steady-state cardio. This puts less strain on your heart over time. And research shows a high VO2max could be the best predictor of 10-year survival rates among heart disease patients.
- Helps You Lose Weight Quicker:A Canadian study looked at the difference between HIIT and incline walking. Researchers found subjects burned twice as much fat with 12 minutes of HIIT than with an hour of uphill walking after six weeks.
- Reduces Stroke Risk: HIIT may help reduce your risk of stroke by as much as 63%. Research shows HIIT increases oxygen uptake and aerobic capacity. These two factors can help prevent a stroke after you’ve already had one.6
- Extends Your Life: Switching to HIIT can lower your overall death risk by about 30%. A few days of HIIT a week could be the fastest path to adding healthy years to your life.
The basic formula for HIIT is simple. Warm up for three to five minutes…then sprint at an all-out pace for the next 30 to 60 seconds. Then slow to a jog for the next minute or two. Repeat this process five to seven times and then cool down for at least two minutes.
It only takes about 15 minutes. And you can apply the HIIT principal to just about any type of cardio exercise. We recommend using a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical machine at first. But once you have it down, you can take it anywhere… Try it in the swimming pool.7
Mistake #5: Skipping Recovery Days
If you work your muscles day after day, they can’t repair themselves so they can grow bigger. They may even decrease in size, leading to strength loss. Symptoms of overtraining include decreased energy, an elevated resting heart rate, irritability, and insomnia.
The Fix: The process of exercise involves breaking down muscles so that they build back up stronger. But you need to give them time rebuild after a workout. Take at least one to two days a week to completely rest. Or do just a very light workout such as walking.8
By avoiding these common workout errors, you’ll get the most out of exercising…and increase the chances of reaching your fitness goals.