A short side note about myself before we delve in: I have a few simple rules when it comes to exercise. First, I run solely because it means I can eat more. Second, I lift weights so running is easier than it would be if I had no muscles. Last, I refuse to be one of those double-L-losers who don’t know what they’re doing when they are working out. We’ve all seen them. So not rufus.
Alright, now back to you. Are you hitting the gym a couple times a week, but just not seeing the ripped body from the GNC ads? Are your skinny jeans still feeling too skinny? We all know the feeling. I see people every day at the gym making these same mistakes. I always want to let them know that with a few simple changes they might just get the results you want.
1. You’re holding onto the treadmill
Did you know that you burn significantly less calories when you hold onto the treadmill than if you didn’t? Stop white-knuckling it and let go.
2. You’re not walking on an incline
Okay, I get it. People hate running. That’s totally chill. But for the love of Zeus and Hera please ramp up that incline if you’re going to walk. Our bodies are used to walking everywhere every day; we walk to class, to our friend’s dorms, to Chipotle to get a mega burrito…so, if you get on that treadmill and start walking you’re just doing more of the same. Press that incline button and start hiking.
#SpoonTip: “Hiking” on a treadmill gives you a bad-ass butt.
3. You’re only doing what you’re good at
I’ll admit, I was guilty of this once. I have always had strong legs, so naturally leg day is my BFFL. However, my arms were once compared to strings of spaghetti. I wish I was kidding. For the longest time, I would avoid any upper body exercises because I didn’t want to appear weak. Finally, I realized that if I kept avoiding arm exercises I would forever be the spaghetti monster.
4. You’re lunging wrong
Do you do lunges? I hate them. I don’t do them. But if you’re into putting yourself through literal H-E-double-hockey-sticks then that’s cool. You’re probably doing them incorrectly. You want to lift through your heels rather than your toes. Most people will center the majority of their weight on their toes and lift their heels up off the ground, this can end up causing knee pain. Focus your weight on your heels (and keep them on the ground) for a more effective and less painful lunge.
#SpoonTip: This holds true for squats also.
5. You’re not doing enough sets
Hop on a couple machines, do like ten reps on each and you’re done, right? Wrong. If your goal is to build muscle or “tone” (as many of my friends like to call it) you’re going to need to do more than one set of reps on each machine, shoot for two to four sets of seven to twelve reps each. Building muscles will take time and repetition. If you’re dead dog tired after one set, try reducing the weight a bit and make it a goal to build up to a higher weight once you’re ready.
6. Your workout doesn’t match up with your goals
Clearly define your goals: do you want to get stronger, lose weight, build stamina? These all require very different workouts. Set up some concrete and reasonable goals for yourself. Then go out and kick ass to attain them.
7. You lift too much weight without a spotter
DON’T DO THIS. It’s a sure fire way to not only look like a doofus but also injure yourself. Get a spotter, yo.
8. You’re going too fast
Do you ever try to get through a set in record time? There you are, pumping iron, as fast as your body can go…heck yeah, you just finished your superset in record time. Uhhh, no…think again. Rushing through your sets probably means you are not doing each rep fully or safely, decreasing the effectiveness of your workout and increasing your chances of injuring yourself. Aim for slow and controlled movements.
9. You’re not tracking your progress
If you’re not writing down your stats, then how are you going to know you improved? You have your end goal in mind (whatever that may be – losing ten pounds, lifting three thousand times your bodyweight, or catching that cute AF trainers eye) but you’re missing out on the little accomplishments you’ve made along the way. Start by writing down what you’re doing once a week – the weight, the speed, the incline, everything – and be amazed at the progress you’re making on the way to your ultimate goal.
10. You’re gulping down protein shakes
Listen to me. If you’re one of those people who throws back whey protein as fast the frat boys knock down those Coors Light cans, we’ve got a problem. Protein shakes and powders can vary widely in caloric (and sugar) content. Be smart about your protein shake intake, read the nutrition label. Anything with over two hundred calories per scoop might want to be left for the meat heads.
I promise you don’t need one of those fancy shaker cups at the gym to look like you know what you’re doing (I bring a pink water bottle with my monogrammed initials…).
11. You’re focusing only on your “problem” area
Okay. First, you don’t have “problem” areas. You have a body, a glorious, functioning, amazingly beautiful human body that is imperfect and always will be. But, if you are responsibly trying to work on your health, just focusing on one area won’t get you very far.
Want to have more shapely abs? Don’t just do sit ups for days…honestly, that will only give you stomach cramps. To lose weight in your stomach you’re going to need to work your whole body – losing weight in one area is just not a thing (no matter what the magazines promise).
12. You’re making excuses for not exercising
I never want to go to the gym. If I had it my way I would sleep all day, eat cookie dough, and not exercise. Ever. But is that reality? No. Even when I’m having a terrible day, I know that if I can go kill it in the gym I will feel better physically and emotionally. If you find yourself lagging after class, wishing you could just skip your workout for the day, don’t do it. You will feel better if you tough it out. However, a way to get around the four-in-the-afternoon burnout is to set up off days for yourself.
13. You’re not giving your body adequate rest
Rest is key. Recovery is so important when doing any type of exercise. Have you ever totally killed it on leg day and then wake up the next morning and are barely able to walk? Me too. In order to give your body adequate rest, make sure to change up what exercises you are doing. If you did a certain muscle group one day, try working a different one the next. If you’re not working out every day, keep it simple. Focus one day on your upper half (arms and back) and another on your bottom half (legs) and try to work in some core exercises each time you workout.
14. You’re not sweating enough
I hate to say it, but honestly, if you’re not working up a significant sweat you probably aren’t working hard enough. You need to have an increased heart rate to be burning calories. This website can help you figure out what your ideal number is. You could wear a heart rate monitor to track this…or just see how many beads of sweat pour off your face (I actually look like I’ve been swimming sometimes).
15. Your sit-ups suck
A lot of times when people do sit-ups, they are actually utilizing their hips rather than their core. An easy way to correct this is to have someone hold your feet down to the floor, but if you’re like me and don’t want anyone seeing you while you willingly torture yourself, try planking instead of the regular ol’ crunch.
16. You’re relying on “sports” drinks
Have you ever looked at a Gatorade or Powerade nutrition label? YIKES. The sugar content on those babies is out of this world. Now, before you jump all over me I will say Gatorade has its merits…if I was going to be running for three hours. High-performance athletes need that blast of carbs (which, in sports drinks often comes in the form of added sugars) to keep them fueled throughout their workout, normal everyday gym goers do not.
Also, a lot of these drinks have sodium levels as high as Snoop Dogg on April 20th. Which, again, for endurance athletes is essential to keeping themselves hydrated throughout an intense exercise, but isn’t helpful (and can actually be harmful) for everyday people. Good old fashioned h2O is the way to go.
17. You’re too stressed out
Have you ever tried working out while worrying about a midterm coming up in a few days? As an anxious mind myself, I can definitely say I have, and it’s miserable. Running is a way I have learned to calm my mind, but there are days when the pressures of school, friends, and House of Cards are all just too stressful. On those days, I try to remind myself to leave my worries and fears in the locker room. I can pick them right back up when I’m done and I can have at least an hour of peace. Staying present and getting enough sleep can also work wonders on your stress level.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and kill it in the gym…unless it’s like two in the morning and you’re procrastinating on your research paper (like I am).