Sometimes it can be tempting to reward yourself with a doughnut or another treat after a workout – after all, you deserve it, right? Well, not if you want to keep pushing your progress forward, says Chris Kelly, a CrossFit level-1 trainer and certified personal trainer in New York City. Although it may feel like just making it to the gym is half the battle, the real challenge comes during the time that you’re not sweating it out. So don’t take all of your hard work and pour it down the drain by committing one of these fitness crimes.
1. You Don’t Fuel Properly Before Working Out
Unfortunately, cramming an entire pizza in your mouth isn’t the nutrition your body needs. But don’t even think about working out on an empty stomach! Your muscles can’t perform at optimized levels if you’re not giving them anything to work with. “It’s like going on a cross country road trip on a quarter tank of gas,” Chris said. Since your body uses carbohydrates for energy, it would be smart to choose healthy carbs paired with protein (like oatmeal with Greek yogurt or whole wheat toast with peanut butter) about 90 minutes before throwing on your Nikes.
2. You Don’t Warm Up Your Muscles
The goal of a warmup is to increase blood flow to the muscle groups that you’re going to use during your workout. This will give you have a better range of motion, so if you jump into it cold, you risk pulling a muscle or not getting as many benefits from your workout as you could be. “Think five to 10 minutes of dynamic movements or dynamic stretching,” Chris said, suggesting arm circles and straight leg kicks. Don’t forget to cool down for five minutes as well. Holding a stretch or position for 45 seconds to one minute at a time will decrease lactic acid buildup – which can cause muscle fatigue and failure.
3. You Don’t Map Out a Plan
“In terms of effectiveness, having a plan and finding a reliable source is going to make it easier to know you’re doing the exercises most beneficial to you,” Chris said. Smart gym-goers know what it’s like to get pumped for a workout only to find that someone is using the cardio machine or weights that you were banking on. Not only does a plan keep you on track, but it also keeps you accountable so you don’t skip out on those last 15 minutes.
4. You Do the Same Routine Over and Over
Yes, you may go to the gym every day, but you’re not doing yourself any favors by sticking to the same workout regimen. Your body adapts to particular movements, so it’ll be more difficult to gain strength or flexibility without switching it up. “You need to perform until your body thinks it’s easy, then increase the weight or number of reps,” Chris explained, adding that the can be said for cardio. Also keep in mind that constantly repeating the same activity, like running, can cause wear and tear on your joints and even lead to injury.
5. You Don’t Give Your Body a Rest
“It doesn’t matter who you are, you need at least one or two days of active recovery,” Chris confirmed. Failing to recover can lead to over training and burnout – but there is a difference between complete rest days and active recovery days. Chris does one of each every week, although it does depend on your personal activity level and goals. Try taking one day totally sans working out and the other to switch up the activity you’re doing. If you’re used to a healthy mix of cardio and weights, take one day to do yoga instead.
6. You Don’t Have Short-Term and Long-Term Goals
When Chris first starts working with a client, he asks them a simple question: “Why do you want to do this?” Common goals like “to lose weight” or “to get more fit” are not acceptable answers to him. Instead, he digs deeper to find their end-in-sight goal. Is there a class reunion coming up? Do you struggle to run alongside your kids? It’s important to have short-term goals (like losing five pounds before the new year), just like it’s important to have long-term goals (like reaching your ultimate goal weight), and without either, it’s easy to lose sight of why you began your fitness journey in the first place.
7. You Indulge After Going to the Gym
People often don’t see results as quickly as they would like if their diet isn’t up to par – even if they’re hitting the gym more days than not. Although the right workout will leave your body burning calories all on its own hours after the fact, that doesn’t mean this is prime time to indulge. “The biggest thing is you can’t out-train a bad diet,” Chris clarified about this huge misconception. It’s all about quality rather than quantity on this one. So aim to eat complex carbs and protein, not ice cream, 30 to 45 minutes after hitting the gym.
8. You Compare Yourself to Other People
One thing that many people forget when they’re in the gym is that everyone is working toward different goals. While one person is struggling to lose those last 10 pounds, another is hoping to find those 10 pounds in muscle – but everyone starts somewhere. “A professional athlete didn’t become a professional overnight,” Chris said. And while having a gym buddy can help you get motivated and stick to a routine, don’t base your workout off of their ability. Working out is one thing that really is all about you.