Whether you’re not doing something you should be or you’re doing something that you shouldn’t be, exercise mistakes result in one thing: a frustrating plateau. The problem is not all fitness fails are obvious and, what’s worse, some even disguise themselves as legitimate practices.
That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the most common fitness faux pas that sabotage your goals. Once you figure out which of these workout no-nos you’re guilty of, you’ll be sure to see your progress skyrocket.Fitness Fail No. 1
: Thinking you can undo your sedentary life at the gym.
Sitting is almost inevitable in our modern world — sit in your car, sit at your desk, sit on your couch. But you’re combatting all that on-your-butt time by meeting the daily 30-minutes-of-moderate-to-vigorous-exercise requirement at the gym, right? Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Previous studies have demonstrated that the risks for diabetes, obesity, blood pressure and even mortality linked to high sitting time remain significant after controlling for physical activity.
If you’re not convinced that an athlete still can live a sedentary lifestyle, consider a recent study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health that looked at sitting behaviors of marathon and half-marathon runners. The 218 runner participants trained an average of 8 hours (marathon runners) or 6 hours (half-marathon runners) per week. There’s arguably no better example of a highly-active individual than a runner, so it’s shocking that the research also found that runners still sit nearly 10 hours a day during the week and 8 hours a day on the weekends. In a striking paradox, this population is considered both highly active and highly sedentary or, as the researchers call them, “active couch potatoes.”
Fitness Fail No. 2: Not eating protein before you work out.
Resistance training is the holy grail of weight loss because studies have shown that lifting weights increases your resting energy expenditure for up to 72 hours after working out — resting energy expenditure (REE) is the number of calories your body burns when you’re not working out. And according to a recent study from Michigan State University, this boost in REE from strength training can be amplified by eating protein before working out. The researchers discovered that people who ate protein before exercising maintained an 8.5 percent boost in REE after 24 hours, while people who ate carbs before exercising maintained only a 3.5 percent increase in REE.
Fitness Fail No. 3: Complaining.
“This is so hard!” “I’m so weak!” “I’m literally dying!” Not only is complaining annoying to those around you, but it can stand in the way of you reaching your fitness potential. An article from the Journal of Sport Psychology in Action explained that self-talk, both your words and your thoughts, affects your behavior. The research showed that positive self-talk increases motivation, satisfaction, desire to improve and general wellbeing. Negative-self-talk, on the other hand, had the opposite effect. It discouraged people from continuing an activity, decreased their desire to start an activity and generally increased negative feelings. Negative self-talk deflects attention from your workout by causing you to focus on what you can’t do.
Fitness Fail No. 4: Spending hours at the gym.
It’s important to stay active, but when it comes to exercise, more isn’t always better. You’re mistaken if you think that forcing yourself to jog on the treadmill for an hour is the most effective (or efficient) way to improve your fitness. High-intensity intermittent exercise, also known as interval training, has proven to be the best way to boost strength, endurance and weight loss.
A study from the International Journal of Obesity put women on one of two fitness programs. The interval program was only 20 minutes long and consisted of an 8-second sprint on a stationary bike followed by 12 seconds of low-intensity cycling. The other group simply cycled for 40 minutes at a consistent pace. Despite the fact that the consistent speed group worked out twice as long, after 15 weeks, they actually gained a pound of fat while the interval group lost 5.5 pounds of fat.
Fitness Fail No. 5: Spending all your gym time on the treadmill or elliptical.
To be a great runner, you have to spend hours on the treadmill, right? Wrong. Researches from University of Limerick in Ireland systematically reviewed 26 studies and found that strength training is just as important as cardio for endurance athletes. One fitness area the authors pointed to was a muscle’s economy, which is the amount of energy you expend at any given speed. A runner who has trained her legs to be economical has muscles that ration carbs during the slower part of a run so that she can use them later when she sprints for the finish line. A good way to teach Econ 101 to your muscles? Strength training. The authors proposed that strength training helps improves the muscle’s ability to absorb and use the elastic energy produced each time your foot hits the ground.