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13 really silly gym mistakes

Last updated on: September 23, 2013 17:14 IST

Image: Hitting the gym? Don't commit these silly errors
Photographs: Kendra/Creative Commons Brinda Sapat

Eager to start the workout you've been promising yourself for months. Be careful before you hurt yourself says fitness trainer Brinda Sapat.

Time spent in the gym can prove either very effective or pretty worthless when unknowingly you may be making the common mistakes. Here's a look into them and how they can be fixed.

Not educating yourself on fitness before joining a gym

When you start a fitness programme without any knowledge you won't know where to begin, what to do, how much or how often. This leads to ineffective training; and worse still, injuries.

While you may have A LOT of people advising you, take your notes only from a qualified fitness professional or a reputed fitness website. Some gyms will have trainers who can guide you. Take their help. And subscribe to a good fitness website.

Aiming too high

Image: Just joined the gym? Don't expect to look like this anytime soon.
Photographs: TJG Matthew Stroup/ Brinda Sapat

It's exciting when you have newly joined a gym and expect to be looking in top shape in say, about a months' time. And then it doesn't happen! This is the typical time when people are more inclined to drop out. Weight loss and achieving a super toned body take a while to achieve.

Set a realistic time frame, and then set smaller, easier goals for every month. Let's say your final goal is a to kg weight loss. Aim for a 2 kilo loss per month. This will keep you encouraged to work to the next goal and the path to achieving the final one will be much easier!

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Over exercising

Image: Exercising can be addictive. Don't overdo it.
Photographs: Aerobis fitness/Wikimedia Creative Commons Brinda Sapat

Working out can get very addictive, or you may be in a rush to lose the weight. So you hit the gym everyday and workout like crazy. Over exercising can actually have the opposite effect. The body needs enough rest post workout to repair and build the muscles. It also needs to regain enough energy. Demanding too much from your body leaves you drained and even lowers your immunity levels.

Plan your fitness schedule in a way that you don't work out the same muscle group on two consecutive days. Know when your energy is down to zero and Stop! Well planned, short workout durations are more effective than long lingering ones.

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Not stretching

Image: Stretch before you start your workout.
Photographs: Kimberly White/Reuters Brinda Sapat

This has got to be one of the topmost oversights with gym training. Not stretching the muscles after your workout leaves the muscles in their contracted state. This causes soreness and over time shortens the muscles and makes the body lose flexibility.

Spend at least 20 seconds on stretching every muscle that you have worked; even after your cardio workouts.

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Not working opposing muscles

Image: If you've gone all out with the bench press, don't skip the reverse flyes.
Photographs: Ricky A Bloom/ Brinda Sapat

How many times have you done crunches and not followed them up with sets of back hyper extensions, or gone all out with the bench press and skipped the reverse flyes? And you land up with the typical rounded back bodybuilder look.

Even if that's the look you are going for, your workout is doing more harm than good. Training one muscle and not the opposing one leads to muscular and skeletal imbalance causing joint problems. While one side is strong the other is weak. Every muscle group has an opposing one and both must be worked with the same number of exercises, sets and reps.

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Not mixing it up

Image: Take a cardio group class like Masala Bhangra
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani/ Brinda Sapat

You've lost some weight and got into better shape but you can't seem to get to your target. 

Another typical quitting period is when the body sees no further change.

This is the time where you have to change your workout routine, Your body is used to the old one and doesn't respond to it anymore. Give it a new challenge. Mix things up.

Do interval training, use other forms of resistance, increase cardio duration, change from machines to dumbbells, throw in some plyometrics, take a cardio group class... push your body!

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Missing out on functional training

Image: Miss out on functional training exercises at your peril.
Photographs: Yiorgos Karahalis/Reuters Brinda Sapat

While you exercise to get the body you want, traditional gym training isn't functional in nature; ie it doesn't translate into the day to day functioning of your body. So what good is it working out so hard if you pull a muscle when you lunge forward to pick up something?!

Functional training exercises include working your upper, lower and mid section simultaneously. For eg a dynamic forward lunge with a bent over lateral raise or a wide squat with a floor reach and an overhead press.

And what's more... It will get you to trim the fat and shape the muscles.

Throw in a functional training session at least once a week.

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Not warming up enough

Image: Warming up before a workout is really crucial
Photographs: Paul Hackett/Reuters Brinda Sapat

The muscles need to be really warm and pliable to be able to do their work effectively and without injury. Do a minimum of a 7 minute warm up at moderate pace to get your heart rate up and body warm.

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Not drinking enough water

Image: Drink as much water as you can through the day.
Photographs: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters Brinda Sapat

When the body doesn't get enough water, the energy levels dip and you cannot perform to your optimum level. Drink up through the day, before, after and sip through your workout session.

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Machine madness

Image: Machines are all very fine but there are few things better than lifting free weights (seen here) among others.
Photographs: Hibiscus Sports Complex Gym/Creative Commons Brinda Sapat

Machines are good for isolating and working for strength only in a particular muscle/muscle group at a time. Lifting free weights, using the stability ball, resistance tubing or other such equipment engages more muscles in the body.

Not enough core training

Image: Pilates exercises help have a strong core.
Photographs: J Vilchez/Creative Commons Brinda Sapat

To have a really fit and strong body, the core (abs and back) have to be super strong. Planks, pilates exercises, hip raises with feet on the stability ball, plank crunches, Plank with knee bends are some of the very effective exercises.

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Posture alert

Image: Getting the posture right ensures you are lifting weights safely.
Photographs: Greg Westfall/Creative Commons Brinda Sapat

Knees soft, relaxed shoulders, neutral pelvis, tightened abs are the key starting postural instructions to any exercise. This posture ensures you are lifting weights safely as well as not stressing out other muscles in the process. Bad posture over time can cause muscle stiffness and body imbalance.

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Not eating before working out

Image: Your body needs energy that comes from carbohydrates like fruits (seen here), bread and cereal.
Photographs: Kwan Kwan/Creative Commons Brinda Sapat

To work out at your top level, your body needs energy which comes from carbohydrates like bread, cereal and fruits. To start the fat burning process, your body takes energy from these carbs. Eat well 2 hrs before you exercise. And also replenish lost energy with a small carbohydrate snack afterwards.

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