Exercising is one of the best – and simplest – things you can do to lower your RealAge, the age your body thinks it is. It can reduce your stress, lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol, boost your energy and help you fend off diabetes. But there’s a catch: The wrong approach to exercise can slow you down and lead to pain and injury. In the spirit of the New Year and for all of us who’ve made resolutions to get fit, we’re sharing our top 5 fitness faux pas to help you get the most out of your workouts.
1. Doing too much, too soon
You’re excited to turn your resolution into action and begin working out, but don’t expect to run marathons or lift weights like the Hulk right away. Building strength and endurance takes time – and trying to rush the process could sideline you. Make sure to listen to your body and back off when you sense a problem. Signs that you may be overtraining include fatigue, chest pains, dizziness, muscles strains and weakness. If you’ve been sedentary for a while, start with 10 to 15 minutes of walking a day. Over time you’ll be able to increase your walking distance, endurance and intensity. Watch the video to find out what Dr. Mehmet Oz’s personal trainer, Donovan Green, recommends before heading to the gym.
2. Wearing the wrong gear
Baggy workout clothes can get caught on exercise machines, while clothes that are too short or tight can make using equipment or doing floor exercises difficult. The wrong footwear can hinder comfort and performance; ask experts at your local athletic store for advice. (You may get a different shoe recommendation for aerobics or kickboxing than for walking or running.) If you plan to work out in the cold, make sure you’re dressed in layers — and that your base layer is a synthetic, wicking fabric. Also, don’t wear a thong. It might get rid of panty lines, but it could also increase your risk of getting a urinary tract infection — and no one wants that!
3. Sticking to the same routine
When it comes to exercise, don’t underestimate the importance of variety. Doing the exact same workout day in and day out can get boring, which can sap your motivation to stick to your exercise goals. Plus, by not mixing it up, your muscles get used to the routine, which can lead to a weight-loss plateau. Keep your workouts fresh with exercise classes, interval training or different walking or running routes.
4. Working out after a big meal
We get it: You just ate way too much and feel compelled to work it off. But that’s a mistake. Eating a lot before you exercise can drain your energy or cause gastrointestinal distress. It’s best to eat more than two hours but less than four hours before a workout – although a small snack about a half-hour before exercising is fine. After your sweat session, refuel with some protein to help your muscles recover. Try these delicious and easy pre- and post-workout recipes, like lemon and watercress pasta salad and poached sea bass with basil broth, from dietician and fitness pro Kat Barefield, RD.
5. Breaking a sweat every day
Everyone needs a break sometimes – even from exercise. In fact, exercise rest days are just as important as workout days because they are key for muscle recovery and injury prevention. Remember that exercising should be about moderation. Rest days will improve your performance and help prevent the mental burnout of a full exercise schedule.