Whether you’ve been working out for two weeks or two decades, you’re probably making mistakes that prevent you from getting optimal results. Here are some exercise dos and don’ts from top fitness pros.
If You’re Just Starting Out
Work out every day. That’s right, seven straight. “It’s important for beginners to form an exercise habit. Doing something daily, even if it’s small, helps with consistency,” says Liz Neporent, a New York City-based trainer and coauthor of The Fat-Free Truth. For the best results, don’t overwhelm yourself. Neporent recommends aiming for 30 minutes of cardio every day and strength training twice a week for two to three months, or until you feel that exercise has become an ingrained part of your daily routine.
Stay loose. Whether it comes from a lack of confidence or a determination to lose weight f-a-s-t, beginners are particularly prone to tensing up when working out. “If you’re white-knuckle-gripping the bars on the bike and clenching your teeth, you’re wasting a lot of energy,” says Tina Vindum, founder of Outdoor Action Fitness in Marin County, California. “Relax the muscles you’re not working, and focus on the ones you are. You’ll have more energy and get better results.”
Get stuck on the treadmill. New exercisers often do the same routine for the same duration and at the same intensity every time they work out. “So you’ll stay on the treadmill until you either die of boredom or get hurt,” says Charleene O’Connor, an exercise physiologist at Clay fitness club in New York City. This bad habit gets reinforced because, as your workouts get easier, you’re fooled into thinking you’ve become uberfit. In reality, your muscles have just grown accustomed to the challenge. Be sure to mix up your routine by varying your time and intensity and by cross-training on the bike or elliptical machine, or by going for a jog outside.
Be a slouch. Whether you’re leafing through the latest gossip rag on the elliptical or curling dumbbells on a bench, straighten up. “Posture affects your mood as well as your performance,” says Vindum. Slumping causes you to check out of your workout both mentally and physically. The less you focus during your sweat session, the less you’ll receive in the way of benefits. Slouching also keeps you from breathing deeply, which is necessary for delivering the oxygen your muscles need to work at full capacity.
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