Ah, the university gym. We don’t use it enough when we’re paying tuition for it, but we all miss it like crazy when we realize how expensive gym memberships are. Use your college gym as practice for the real world grown up gym you’ll eventually have to pay for, and get rid of your bad habits now. Here are 10 things you are definitely (maybe) doing wrong at the gym:
1. You don’t wipe down the equipment
I try to trust people, I really do. But when it comes to the gym, I trust no one. Think of all the sweaty people that used that machine or mat before you. Seriously. Think about it. So do yourself a favor and wipe equipment down before and after you use it.
2. You wear the wrong clothes
The free college tees you know and love may not be the great gym clothes you think they are. Most are made of cotton or cotton blends which absorb sweat rather than release it. #Treatyoself to some real, grownup workout clothes like this fun top from Lululemon (perf for yoga!) or some Knockout Tights from Victoria’s Secret.
3. You compare yourself to others
So what if that guy at the machine next to you can lift more than you weigh? Who cares if that girl on the treadmill has calves so toned you could cry? She didn’t come out of the womb looking like that. She worked for it, just like you’re working for it right now. Never compare yourself to others, especially those fitness Instagrammers you’re obsessed with. Use other people as inspiration, not as an excuse to quit.
4. You don’t warm up
At least 5-10 minutes of stretching can prevent you from the pain that is sore abs that ache when you laugh, pulled thigh muscles that hurt every time you sit down, and (oh god) shin splints. As for after your workout? Always perform a light cool-down and have your foam roller on hand.
5. You listen to the wrong music
According to science, the perfect workout song has two very important aspects: first, its rhythm matches your heartbeat at a speed of 120 to 190 bpm. Second, it evokes a memory or a feeling of nostalgia. Songs that mean something to us affect us more than new music. Put together a playlist that works for you, filled with the songs you danced to at your high school prom and lots of old school Disney Channel hits.
6. You don’t take advantage of everything your gym has to offer
If you go to your university gym, chances are you pay for your membership through your tuition. So take advantage of everything you’re already paying for. Look up the free classes that your gym offers. Often times they’re taught by students, so you can get a great workout while supporting your classmates. Not feeling the gym today? That’s okay: you can work out in your dorm room too.
7. You don’t eat enough carbs
Protein can’t be converted into energy as fast as carbohydrates can, so if the only thing you eat before a workout is a protein bar or shake, you’re likely to cut your workout short. Eat a meal that’s a mix of both, like toast with peanut butter and bananas or PB&J protein pancakes. And check out this article on what to eat after you hit the gym.
8. You do the same thing over and over and over
How do you motivate yourself to do workouts you hate? That’s easy: don’t do them. Back in the dark ages, our parents may have had to settle for boring pushups and squats, but it’s 2016 and we have internet now. If you dread crunches, search for other exercises that work your abs. Follow along to fun fitness YouTube videos on channels like POPSUGAR Fitness. You’ll never skip leg day again.
9. You skip your morning caffeine fix
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that people who ingested caffeine (roughly equal to the amount in a Starbucks grande black coffee) before performing a moderate workout reported the workout to be much easier than people who ingested a placebo. So go ahead, drink that coffee. Just skip the extra sugar and cream.
10. You get your drink on before or after a workout
Unlike caffeine, alcohol decreases athletic performance. This means your workout is impaired and you increase your risk for injury. Alcohol has a ton of other drawbacks too, including inhibiting the circulation of glucose in your body, diminishing protein synthesis, and it can lead to dehydration. Unfortunately, it stays in your system for a long time, so for best results, skip happy hour and boozy brunch the day before going to the gym. You can thank me later.