Are you spending hours in the gym every week and not seeing any results? It just might be that you’ve developed some habits that may be sabotaging your success, without even realizing it. Here are six of the most common workout habits to change now – and see improved weight loss and body composition while becoming more efficient in the process.
Habit #1: Doing the same exercises over and over
The body is an amazing machine – it adapts to whatever we consistently challenge it to do. There’s actually a name for this: the SAID Principle, or Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. As the body adapts, what was once hard now becomes easier, as muscles and synapses become familiar with the movements. When you do the same exercises, using the same number of sets and repetitions and the same amount of resistance, over and over for months, guess what? Nothing will change. A better way is to regularly mix up your workouts, tricking your body into working harder by doing things it’s not used to. Try TRX, kettlebells, swimming, body weight workouts, BOSU®, stretch cords, and new group fitness class formats. For even more targeted progress, work with a personal trainer to design an effective periodized workout plan to get you to your goal.
Habit #2 – Long workouts at an easy/moderate pace
This habit goes hand in hand with #1. While long slow sessions most certainly have their place in a structured training plan, for maximum efficiency you need to get your heart rate up above a resting level. For example, try moving quickly from one exercise to another in a circuit fashion instead of walking on the treadmill or elliptical (see more on this below) for an hour watching Game of Thrones. Challenge your body with short boosts of higher intensity, taking 30 second breaks throughout as needed.
Habit #3 – The elliptical
The elliptical is a great piece of equipment for those with physical limitations, or for a quick pre-workout warmup to get moving. Other than that, it’s not very effective. For one, it doesn’t use a natural body motion; and for another, it’s way too easy to slack off just by dropping the handlebars. To make the most of your exercise time, you want to choose moves that are much more effective at strengthening muscles – like running, bending, or jumping. Your time will be much better spent with a 20 minute cross-training circuit of jump rope, burpees, and squat than a 45 minute session on the elliptical.
Habit #4 – Too much cardio, too little strength training
Sure, an hour of hard cardio burns lots of calories, and works your heart. But excessive high intensity cardio puts your system in a constant state of stress that leads to cortisol build-up and resulting belly fat storage. Strength training, however, elevates your heart rate AND builds lean muscle mass at the same time. Muscle is metabolically active, meaning it burns calories even at rest, therefore increasing your resting metabolic rate. Consider this adage: cardio exercise extends your quantity of life (by strengthening your heart and lungs), but strength training enhances your overall quality of life.
Habit #5 – Hydrating with sports/energy drinks
Sports and energy drinks are generally full of sugar and therefore empty calories. For an indoor gym workout of an hour or so, plain water is just fine. If you are feeling tired during your workout, it’s probably because you didn’t hydrate or fuel sufficiently beforehand. Have a healthy snack 45 minutes before exercising and drink water regularly throughout the day. You’ll be amazed at how much more energy you have!
Habit #6 – Lollygagging (or dilly-dallying if you prefer)
I’m always amazed by the number of people I see sitting around at the gym with their faces buried in their phones. Granted, I must admit I’m guilty of this from time to time as well. There’s also the social aspect of the gym – chatting with friends, comparing notes on workouts, checking out the girls/guys (wink). To maximize your time and workout effectiveness, come with a plan and a timeframe, and stick to it. There’ll be plenty of time for Instagram later…