Have you ever wondered why those seemingly endless hours at the gym have not succeeded in giving you the body of your dreams? You’ve even sacrificed bread at the altar of washboard abs and toned legs, but the results are just not tallying up?
Turns out, it’s not the work of a mysterious gremlin who derives pleasure from adding undetectable carbs to your diet or messing with the numbers on the digital scale. It’s actually little mistakes that you’re making without realising, while you’re working out, that are sabotaging your journey to fitness. Trainer to celebrities like Janhvi Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan, Namrata Purohit agrees and says, “People tend to overlook certain things that ultimately do more harm in the long run and ruin the potential of their hardwork.” So here are some common mistakes you’ve been unknowingly making that are undoing all your hardwork…
You’re Working Out on an Empty Stomach
One of the most common things that people overlook while working out is not paying attention to what they eat before working out. According to Purohit, your body’s blood sugar levels need to be maintained in order for you to get the requisite energy for your workout. She says, “Your body needs to have a certain amount of carbs in it before you start exercising. Not too much, you shouldn’t overdo it, but enough to give you the energy to work out. You should eat something at least two hours before you work out. If you need to eat something closer to your workout, then eat a light snack like a banana or a handful of almonds.”
You’re Not Hydrating Enough
The importance of proper hydration cannot be overstated. Purohit strongly advocates this and says, “You should be well hydrated, not just after you finish sweating off at the gym, but even before you start working out.” Dehydration can decrease your performance and ultimately reduce the effectiveness of your workout. Along with water, you can also opt for water-rich foods like cucumbers and tomatoes.
You’re Skipping Warm Up
Warming up before you start exercising is necessary as it gets your body ready for the strenuous workout that would follow. “It helps raise the body’s temperature, loosens your muscles, increases blood flow, and ultimately helps in preventing any injury. It also helps in increasing strength and endurance,” says Purohit, adding, “It doesn’t have to be very extensive. Just a five to seven-minute warm-up is good enough.”
Your Warm Up is Not Dynamic
Static stretching is a stretch that is held in one position for 15 to 30 seconds. It helps in slowing down your heart rate and staving off any soreness in muscles. This is why, Purohit insists, it should be left for your cool-down after you’re done working out. “Your warm-up routine needs to be more dynamic,” she says, “For instance, it could include light jogging or Jumping Jacks. The warm-up exercises should get your body ready for working out.”
You’re Not Paying Attention to Your Form
“Not paying attention to your form can, not only lead to injuries but also, make your muscles weaker or cause damage to them,” says Purohit, adding that it’s always better to go lighter and keep the focus on your form than attempt to go all out and not get the desired result. “It’s not about how much you lift or how much you do, rather how well you do it. Always remember: Quality over quantity,” she says.
You’re Focused on Spot Reduction
Purohit states firmly that spot reduction is a myth. “A lot of time people start working out with the intention of losing weight from a certain part of their body. For instance, they would do more crunches to target their belly fat. While it’s true that focusing on target areas can ultimately result in toning the muscles around that area, that doesn’t mean it would have any effect on the fat accumulated there,” she says, “If you want to reduce fat percentage around any particular area, you need to work the entire body and keep a mix of strength-based exercises along with cardiovascular exercises in your routine. You need an all-around effort.”
You’re Ignoring Your Own Limits
Despite what the overly muscled gym gods and goddesses are silently screaming at you while looking down at your panting and sweating form on the gym floor, you don’t need to push past the pain to see the gains. “Over-exerting yourself can result in more harm than good,” insists Purohit, “All those motivational quotes that tell you to ‘Push your limits’ or ‘Work hard’ are great, but it’s also very important to know what your limits are. If you’re still sore three or four days after the workout, then that means you’re just hurting yourself at the gym. You don’t know what damage you might be causing to your muscles.”
You’re Not Letting Yourself Cool-down After a Session
Just like warm-up is necessary pre-working out, a good cool-down session is non-negotiable post-working out. “A lot of time people would get done with their workout and leave immediately,” says Purohit, “You need to give your body some time to bring down its temperature and lower your heart rate.” A good cool-down will help prevent any soreness from settling in your muscles, while also relaxing your mind.
You’re Not Stretching Properly
You might think it’s not a big deal but a good stretch can go a long way in maximizing the effectiveness of your workout. “Stretching before and after your workout is extremely important,” says Purohit, “While you’re strengthening your muscles at the gym, it’s important to also ensure that they retain that strength for a long time. People often overlook this and stretch for a few minutes and think they’re good to go. The right way to stretch is to hold your stretch for some time, for at least 10-20 seconds.”
You’re Not Sleeping and Resting Enough
Your body needs time to heal and recover from the stress of being put through a workout. Purohit says many people don’t realise the importance of rest and recovery in their fitness journey, “Proper rest is really essential for getting the most out of your workout,” she says, once again insisting that you need to focus on the quality of your workouts rather than the quantity. A good night’s rest will ensure your body recovers properly and is fit enough to go through a session at the gym.
You’re Not Enjoying Your Workout
While leaving the comforts of your warm bed and trudging to the gym for an intense workout might seem right out of a personal hellscape, it shouldn’t be that way. You need to enjoy your workout in order to make it more effective, says Purohit. “Don’t treat your workout as a punishment,” she says. According to her, it’s very important to figure out what kind of workout would suit you and your requirements. What works for someone else might not be right for you. “This is why it’s important to consult a professional before you set out on your fitness journey and figure out what’s best for you.”