By Eugenie Jones / Scripps Howard News Service
On our way to getting and staying fit, there are blunders just waiting to be made. We certainly don’t plan on making them, but our enthusiasm, impatience and/or inexperience make fitness blunders a common occurrence.
Some of these fitness blunders can lead to unnecessary pain and discomfort while others can result in injury and physical setbacks. The American Council on Exercise recently polled a group of their personal fitness trainers to find out which fitness blunders they most commonly encounter.
The survey found the 10 most common fitness blunders to be . . .
• Not stretching enough: Regardless of whether you intend to do weights or cardio work, a minute or two stretching each muscle group will help lengthen the connective tissue surrounding your muscle fibers, help you to maintain your mobility, have greater freedom of movement as you exercise, and also can be an important part of injury prevention and rehabilitation needs brought on by tight muscles.
• Not warming up: Avoid hitting a wall and exhausting yourself too soon by starting off easy and gradually increasing your intensity. Warming up in this manner will allow your cardio system, blood flow and muscles time to adjust and subsequently better perform.
• Forgetting to cool down: Take five to 10 minutes to walk off your elevated intensity level, giving your blood flow a chance to return to normal, your heart rate a chance to gradually come down and your muscles a chance to recover as well. Doing so will better prepare you for your next workout and ensure you don’t get dizzy or faint because you quit too abruptly.
• Lifting too much weight: Lifting the correct amount of weight also is important to injury prevention. Gradually increase your weight, 10 percent, every six to eight weeks, in order to avoid pain and injury.
• Exercising too hard: This is particularly harmful when you’ve missed a few workouts. When you do get back to working out, don’t try to make it all up in one workout. Start back moderately and gradually increase your intensity at each subsequent workout.
• Not drinking enough water: The 8 ounces eight times each day rule still holds. Exercisers should, however, drink slightly more to avoid dehydration and lackluster performance during workouts.
• Incorrect posture: We want to turn it up to level 10, but then we slump over and lean our upper body weight onto the machine because we’re too fatigued to hold ourselves upright.
Besides cheating, this stance also can be injurious to your back. The alternative is to turn the level down a few notches and stand up straight.
• Not exercising at the right heart rate: To make your workout truly strengthen your heart and lungs while also burning fat, you’ve got to work out within your target heart rate.
Working out too high above this rate fatigues you too quickly, and working out below it doesn’t physiologically challenge you enough to produce the changes you’re working for. Check your heart rate 10 minutes into your workout and refer to a heart rate chart to make sure you’re exactly where you should be.
• Using momentum to lift weights: Again the He-Man syndrome taketh over, but you’ll be the true conqueror if you simply watch your form when lifting weights. If you’re swinging the weight, accelerating through the movement, or using momentum — not muscle — to complete the exercise, slow down and use slow controlled movement. If, at this pace, you’re unable to maintain correct form, lighten the weight and begin again.
• Unnecessary eating: With all the cool ads, it might seem like you need sports bars, drinks or gels to sustain your workout. But unless you’re exercising for two or more consecutive hours, you really don’t need the extra calories. A balanced diet and plenty of water is sufficient.
As you work toward greater fitness, keep this list in mind to increase your chances of fitness success without the pitfalls of fitness blunders.
Wellness specialist Eugenie Jones writes for the Sun in Bremerton, Wash., and may be reached by email at eugeniek