Are you spending hours working out every week, and not getting the results you want? Chances are you might have a bad habit or two when it comes to exercising. Never fear, there's a quick fix for even the most ingrained workout no-nos. Check out these seven workout habits you should drop: Not only will ditching these help you lose the pounds, they will help you become a more efficient exerciser.
1. The elliptical. I'm not a fan of the elliptical. Not only is it the most boring piece of equipment in the gym, it is also extremely ineffective. First off, the elliptical doesn't use a natural body motion to work your body. Workouts that use natural motions like running, bending, or jumping are much more effective at toning muscles. Sure, the gliding motion of the elliptical burns calories, but that's about it. It is also easy to slack off on the elliptical. With the treadmill you at least have to keep up with the pace you set. On the elliptical you start off with guns blazing, and 10 minutes later you are crawling along like a turtle. You are much better off doing a 20-minute cross training circuit (burpees, jumping rope, jumping squats, etc.) than 45 minutes of slogging along on the elliptical. If you are looking for another low impact exercise, try the rowing machine. This will get your heart rate up, and also work your upper body and back.
2. Working out for long periods of time at a moderate pace. When it comes to working out, slow and steady does NOT win the race. Maximize your time, people! Instead of working out for an hour at an easy-to-moderate intensity level, step it up a notch. Challenge yourself to 30 minutes of nonstop, intense exercise. You can take 15- to 30-second breaks, but move quickly from one workout to the next. Give it 100 percent for 30 minutes, instead of 75 percent for an hour. Need ideas for shorter, high intensity workouts? Check out 15 Minutes to Change Fat to Muscle.
3. Lollygagging. You know that girl at the gym who's always fixing her hair in the mirror? Don't be her. Come to the gym with a time frame and a plan. This means no wandering around, no texting your boyfriend in between reps. Come with a set workout to complete, limiting your water breaks to specific points in your circuit for a designated amount of seconds. If this means writing down your regimen, great! Tattoo it to your arm! Whatever! Make the most of your time. Get in, get out. No one likes a gym rat.
4. Too much cardio. Too little strength training. But cardio burns more calories, right? Not so fast, lady. Sure, an hour on the treadmill gives you that instant satisfaction of burning 400 calories. Or so that little blinking screen says. A quick strength training or cross training session, however, will get your heart rate up, burn calories, and develop your lean muscle mass. Building muscle means that those muscles are able to work throughout the day burning more calories when you aren't working out.
5. Hydrating with sports drinks. Sports drinks may give you a boost, but are full of sugar and calories. During any given daily workout, hydrating with plain ol' water should do the trick just fine. If you feel tired during your workout, try fueling before. Eating a healthy snack 45 minutes before your workout can give you more energy, and allow you to skip the Gatorade. Try some almond butter on toast.
6. Doing the same exercises over and over again. When you do the same workout routine over and over, your body gets used to it and it becomes easier. The Stairmaster might have been challenging at one point, but pretty soon your muscles become familiar with that motion. Your body only uses half the energy to complete this task that at one point had you huffing and puffing your way to the locker room. Mix it up. By changing your workouts daily you will trick your body into working harder and burning more calories. It will also save you from boredom! Take that new kickboxing class or try one of my workouts!
7. Going it alone. Working out alone can be great. It gives you time to clear your mind, listen to music, and feel the burn. However, sometimes it takes a workout buddy to hold you accountable. Working out with a partner not only makes it more likely that you'll work out, it makes most people try harder than they would on their own. Your partner can cheer you on to finish that last half mile or to finish those last four deadlifts. And let's not forget the power of good old-fashioned competition. If your friend is doing 50 lunges, don't you suddenly feel inspired to do 51?
7 Workout Habits You Should Drop Now originally appeared on Health.com
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Most runners have a love-hate relationship with the treadmill. On the one hand, it's boring and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/07/gym-germ-hot-spots_n_2814171.html" target="_hplink">germ-infested</a>. On the other, it's often a necessary evil to get through long winters or rainy mornings. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/23/outdoor-exercise-health-benefits_n_1616467.html" target="_hplink">Working out outside has noted benefits</a> over hitting the gym, including improved energy and a greater likelihood to <em>keep</em> exercising. But in case you're stuck inside, we want to make sure you're doing it right. We asked three fitness experts -- personal trainer <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matthew-basso/" target="_hplink">Matthew Basso</a>, president of Iron Lotus Personal Training; <a href="http://www.RunCoachJason.com" target="_hplink">Jason Karp</a>, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and the author of Running for Women and Running a Marathon For Dummies and <a href="http://cardiellofitness.com/" target="_hplink">Jay Cardiello</a>, celebrity trainer, author and creator of JCore -- to share their biggest treadmill pet peeves. Here are some of the most common mistakes they see gymgoers make, and what we should be doing instead.
You Crane Your Neck To Watch TV (Or Your Feet)
Anything that throws off your posture, whether it be hunching over to watch your feet or leaning to the left for a better view of the TV, is generally a bad idea. "Your neck is pulled to the right or dropped forward and one part of the musculature is getting stretched while another is getting tightened," says Basso. The longer you're in that position, the higher your risk of injury becomes, he says. You're also likely to offset your balance, warns Karp. "You're looking to the left or to the right and your body's going to follow a little bit," he says. Slumping over can also limit your oxygen intake, says Cardiello. To guarantee you're standing your tallest, imagine someone is pouring ice water down your spine, he says. For those runners who rely on a little screen time at the gym, try to find a treadmill with a screen attached, says Cardiello, so you can face forward with your chin parallel to the ground. If your gym isn't equipped with those machines, head to the back of the room. That will keep your neck as straight as possible while still allowing you to watch overhead TVs, he says. "Keep your head, heart and hips inline when you run," he says. "You're running <em>over</em> the ground, never into the ground." Or the belt, as the case may be.
You're Too Zoned Out
Clearing your mind with your favorite TV show during your run is one thing. Jumping on the treadmill with concrete fitness goals is another. "I think a lot of people who choose to use cardio equipment, yeah, they sweat, but your mind starts to wander," says Basso. "Instead of really being present and focusing on the exercise, your gait, your posture, people lose it there." A too-engrossing book or magazine, or a movie might be too distracting, says Cardiello. "Save the reading for your cooldown."
You Do The Same Thing Over And Over
"One of the biggest mistakes people make [at the gym] is to do the exact same thing every time, and then wonder why they don't see results," says Karp. So shake things up, by varying the intensity, speed or incline. Try a longer and slower run one day, and a shorter and faster one on another visit, he says. A great way to mix things up <em>and</em> see results sooner is with an interval workout, says Cardiello. <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2991639/" target="_hplink">Short bursts of higher intensity exercise</a> can up the fat-burning powers of your workouts, improve heart health and more, not to mention save you some time. And you might also want to consider adding in a little sideways movement, says Basso. Unless you're really coordinated, don't attempt to walk backwards or do anything too fancy on a treadmill. But most people -- at a slow pace -- can handle some lateral shuffling or crossover steps, he says, to work yours muscles in different ways.
You Skip The Warmup
Yes, you're busy. Some days you just want to hop on the treadmill, get it over with and get out. But skipping a warmup can lead to pain and injuries, says Basso. You don't need a lot of time, and you don't need to passively stretch, he says. Instead, take five to seven minutes for an active warmup with a "joint-by-joint approach," he says, that includes hip circles, toe touches and more. "It's more of a priority to keep your mobility and keep yourself out of pain than to start a workout," he says.
You Hold The Bars
Holding onto the handrails on the treadmill might seem like a safety measure, but your workout will suffer, says Karp. Some of your bodyweight will be supported, meaning you won't have to work as hard and you won't burn as many calories, he explains. If you feel like you need to hold on, it's probably because you're going at a slightly faster speed than you're ready for, he says. "Get comfortable without holding on in increments to gain confidence at each speed," he suggests.
You Set The Incline Too Steep
How often do you encounter a steep hill in the outside world that takes you an hour to climb? Exactly. Exercise should be <em>functional</em>, says Basso, and strengthen your muscles for real-world use. Plus, the steeper that incline, the more likely you'll be holding onto the bar to keep yourself on the belt. "If you have to hold on, it's either too fast or too steep," says Karp.
You Trust The Settings
Between the heart-rate monitor grips on the handrail and the button for the "fat-burning" zone, there's not much worth trusting on that digital dashboard. "You can't really rely on those," says Karp. "The mathematical formulas are rough estimates based on a lot of variables," he says. And every runner is different. Since they're probably not accurate to begin with, says Cardiello, don't obsess over the numbers on your machine. "Throw a towel over the display," he says, and you might just find you work a little harder.
You Jump Off With The Belt Moving At Full Speed
It might seem like taking a water break without slowing down the belt saves you time in the longrun, but not if it makes you trip and fall first. "Most people don't have the coordination to do that without risking injury," says Karp. "I see people all the time who come close to falling." Fess up, are you guilty of any of these? Did we miss any common mistakes you see at the gym? Let us know in the comments!