We all want arms like Demi Moore, abs like Jennifer Aniston and the endless legs of Karlie Kloss, but bad gym techniques could be preventing you from getting the most out of your workout. Here’s how to avoid the most common gym mistakes, and be one step closer to achieving a body like Beyonce.
1. Don’t rely on one cardio machine. Cardio is central to fat loss, but to really improve your shape, and see quicker results: weight train. Your body will drain its glycogen stores doing weights, so if you do 20 minutes of cardio afterwards your body will switch to burning fat. Get over your fears of the ‘male zone’ resistance area - women don’t have enough testosterone levels to get ripped Schwarzenegger-style, so start pumping iron like a pro. Get a one-to-one with a fitness trainer, or search online for free-weight exercises and get down with dumbbells.
2. Don’t just use fixed machines. The main fear of working out in a new gym is looking like you don’t know what you’re doing; wandering around the weights area, before giving up and shuffling back to the elliptical. Many machines isolate one muscle, which means you burn fewer calories and work fewer muscles. Plus, if you’re not using a machine, you’ll work your core, which helps to build a more functional body. Whilst fixed machines are useful for beginners, warm-ups and helping your cardio system, don’t spend more than half your workout time on the machines. Try out a medicine ball to put a burst of new life into toning exercises like squats, crunches and lunges or try a body weight circuit to burn fat and tone up.
3. Mix up your workout. You head to the gym, make your way to the second treadmill on the right, as usual, and do a 30 minute run before heading to the showers. It’s your daily routine, but you won’t be getting the same results from your workout than when you first started. Make sure to change your workout every 4-6 weeks, just as you’d update your playlist. Aim to get at least one fitness class in per week such as spin, kickboxing or Body Combat to really mix it up and work muscles you never knew you had.
4. Work harder, faster, stronger. Is your gym time the perfect way to catch up on your reading? Do you slump over the handlebars of the bikes? If your workout is lacking intensity, it’s almost a waste of time. You’re at the gym to sweat not snooze, so quit worrying about your make-up running and get to it! Interval training is a great (and fast) way to get your heart pumping and to whittle your bod into shape. It’s also particularly useful in boosting stamina, whether you’re training for a particular event or hoping to maintain your dignity when climbing a flight of stairs. Ask a personal trainer about high intensity interval training, but ultimately it’s alternating between a high speed and a slightly easier speed (for ‘active recovery’) every minute or two, for 10+ intervals-worth.
5. Don’t skip out on stretching. If you’re making the effort to work out, spend a few extra minutes warming up beforehand and stretching afterward. Cooling down with stretching increases flexibility, helps prevent injuries, and will leave you feeling less sore after a workout as it releases the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles into the rest of the body.
And relax. Another important part of a new fitness regime or daily workout is to take a break, and keep at least one day away from the gym to allow your muscles to repair. Going to the gym everyday is an unattainable habit, and it certainly isn’t good for you physically or mentally, so make sure to have a ‘rest day’ once or twice a week to admire the body you’ve worked hard for.
features writer & lifestyle blogger and avid shoe wearer.