We've all chuckled at the videos online. Inevitably, there's people who go to the gym who do some seriously wacky things that you can't help but laugh at. Jokes aside, imagine being a personal trainer and seeing these mistakes regularly on a daily basis. Let's be clear: perfection is not expected when you go to the gym, but knowing how you can improve is important. A good trainer has to speak up when they see potentially dangerous errors, but it's not as easy as it sounds. For this story, we polled as many trainers as we could to get a list of the most common and biggest mistakes most trainers see on a daily basis. Here's what you need to watch for next time you hit the gym.
Expecting to Look Like a Chiseled Statue
"A lot of clients come in and say 'I want to look like so and so,'" said Natalie Carey, certified trainer and sports nutritionist at Diakadi Fitness. "But in truth, the amount of work and discipline that goes into those bodies is overwhelming to most." Celebrities and elite athletes train like beasts, eating highly regimented diets and working out for hours on end. "Their whole lives revolve around these plans to look the way they do," said Natalie.
Instead of getting down on yourself for not having a six-pack after a month of training, Natalie encourages clients to instead "focus on the changes you see in yourself!" But if you can't let go of getting abs and arms like Gwen Stefani, "be prepared to put in some very hard but extremely rewarding work!"
You Let Yourself Get Distracted
You're guilty of this. Don't deny it. We all are. With all the tech we carry around these days, it's so easy to drop out in the middle of your training to check for incoming texts, or we focus more on the person next to us at the gym.
Stopping in the middle of a workout is never a good thing. Your body is primed, your heart rate is elevated, you're in the fat-burning zone, and then you stop suddenly. This can cause a lot of strain on the heart for the same reasons a person shouldn't skip a cooldown.
One trainer we spoke with told us that when we are in the middle of a workout, the body is sending blood to the muscles to deliver nutrients. When you bluntly cut that effort and exertion off, your heart has to work extra hard to pump all of that blood back up. It is always best to keep going and then slow down gradually.
You're Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again
"Our bodies are incredibly smart," said Billy Polson, founder and co-owner of Diakadi Fitness. "You must routinely tweak your exercise program in order to avoid plateaus. I recommend changing your routine at least every six weeks." Not doings so puts you at risk for hitting a plateau and not seeing the results you want.
Some of Billy's suggestions for keeping things fresh: change up the exercises you do and the number of reps and sets performed of each movement, alter your rest periods between exercises, or change the tempo to which you move during an exercise.
You're Skipping the Warmup
Here's another one we're all guilty of: jumping right into a strenuous exercise without a proper warmup. Don't do this; it's just a bad idea. While a warmup might not seem that important, that's just not true. A proper warmup will prime your body for what's to come. It's meant to get the blood flowing and warm the muscles, making your body ready to take on exercise and help prevent injury.
Bottom line: when you warm up properly, this will help you perform better, whether you are doing cardio or weights. With weight training, working with cold muscles can really inhibit your form and range of motion, so be sure to do a few dynamic stretches before jumping into anything. For cardio, start with two minutes of light-intensity movement and your heart will thank you later.
You're Going Too Fast
We get it: sometimes you just want to get your workout over with so you can get on with your day. Time is short, and maybe your workouts are as well, but rushing through them won't get you to where you want to be.
Any trainer will tell you to take your time to do it right. Don't rush through your reps and don't take those squats halfway into the movement (you know who you are). Give it everything you've got and slow down! Keeping your muscles under tension just a bit longer will ensure progress. That's why you're there, right? Don't cut time and expect results. Do the work and see your best reflection in the mirror when you're done.
— Additional reporting by Michele Foley