Instead, the new year will start with some practical advice. Back to basics.
Most of the U.S. is deep in the deep freeze, so all but a hardy few are getting their workouts indoors. I, being hardy, or just nuts, have still been exercising outside – skiing in -4 degrees, running in 18 degrees. But that’s just me, not something I endorse for everyone! Since lots of you are probably spending more time at the gym, I want to go over some of the most common mistakes I see.
~ Holding on for dear life on the treadmill. Very often I see people supporting themselves largely with their arms while walking on machines. Often this is while they are trying to go faster or at a higher incline. But holding on reduces the work your legs and core have to do, and reduces the efficiency of your workout. It also promotes bad posture. Stand tall on that treadmill/elliptical/stairmaster. It’s OK if you need to slow down or lower the incline in order to do that – you’ll still get a better workout if you are really using your body effectively. Go ahead and hold on lightly for balance if you need to (falling over is not good!), but just rest your hands lightly.
~ Dropping weights quickly – either free weights or with weight machines. This usually happens when trying to lift too much weight. The problems with this are risk of injury and inefficient workouts. Any time you move weight quickly without good control, you risk injury. It puts sudden extra stress on muscles, joints and ligaments. It’s also really inefficient. When doing resistance training, about 70% of the work that your muscles do happens during the lowering of the weight. So, if you struggle to lift a heavy weight, but can’t control it and end up dropping it when you lower, you are missing out on a whole lot of the work your muscles could be doing. Lift an amount of weight that you can control lifting and lowering.
~ Throwing body out of balance in order to lift weight. Usually from lifting too heavy a weight. Once again, inefficient use of the muscles you are trying to work by engaging a lot of other muscles. Most often I see people using their backs – arching or hunching – to try to lift. This puts extra strain on the back, often leading to injury. Lift an amount of weight that you can keep your body in balance and good posture.
~ Doing too many reps. Doing any exercise past the point of fatigue, when you lose the ability to do the exercise in good, controlled form, leads to injury. Better to do fewer reps (or fewer minutes on the machine) in good form.
What do all of these mistakes have in common? Trying to do too much. Too much weight. Too fast. Too steep. Too long.
And what’s the matter with that? Injury and inefficient workout.
Why does any of that matter? Because I want you to be able to sustain your current New Year’s enthusiasm. Injuries will set you back. If your workouts are inefficient and you’re not seeing real progress, you’re less likely to continue. And none of us have so much extra time that we can afford wasteful, inefficient workouts. If you’re spending the time to exercise, make it worthwhile!