You finally made it to the gym. Congratulations! While getting to the gym is probably the biggest step you can take in your fitness journey, it’s not the final destination. In fact, the routine that you obsessively stick to might be doing you more harm than good. You think you’re making the most of your time at the gym (or at least hope we are!) but the truth is many of us are committing some common mistakes each time we walk into the gym that ultimately impede our workout.
Here are 10 common mistakes you might be making at the gym.
You’re going too hard, too fast
“It’s wise to always pace yourself when first returning to the gym or simply as a newbie,” Khari May, a New York-based personal trainer at Nimble Fitness and Great Jones Fitness, tells SheKnows. May recommends starting off slowly in order to figure out your range and limit. “You don’t want to overdo it, spoiling your desire to continue. Some members want to ‘go hard’ whether on cardio equipment or lifting weights. This leads to either tiring themselves out or risking serious injury with very heavy weights.”
Rushing through an exercise rather than focusing on form
Hitting the weight room and not getting results? “Good form and progressive overload (adding more weight or another form of resistance week after week) is the main way you’ll encourage progress at the gym,” Amber Nash, personal trainer and founder of Fit Healthy Best, tells SheKnows. “Take it slow and control your form and add weight each week. Don’t randomly plow through an exercise! Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time.”
Resting for too long
“Taking long breaks between exercises or after each circuit is going to let your heart rate fall and you’ll miss out on the calorie-burning benefits of keeping it elevated,” Erika Collins, personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist, tells SheKnows. “This will also make your workouts easier and less challenging to complete.”
Doing hundreds of sit-ups for abs
Sadly, doing 1,000 sit-ups a day won’t get you the perfect set of abs alone. “First and foremost, the visibility of abs depends on your diet and where you carry body fat. Therefore, you need overall fat loss and training combined,” Eric Bowling, a NASM-certified personal trainer from Ultimate Performance Los Angeles, tells SheKnows.
Unfortunately, you cannot spot reduce fat, and everyone holds fat differently and more or less in different parts of the body, which is why he says it’s best to focus on overall fat loss. “If you are looking for a leaner physique, we recommend focusing on heavy compound exercises that force you to engage your core, like deadlifts and squats and following a calorie-controlled diet aimed at fat loss.”
Not properly stretching or stretching at all
“Many gym-goers ignore the benefits of stretching, not focusing on flexibility,” May says. “Stretching is a certain injury preventive measure that should be greatly considered. The older we get, the more we should focus on improving our flexibility and joint health.”
Another tip? Stretching is best to do post-workout. “Stretching a cold muscle could lead to injury if your body isn’t used to it,” says May. “The healthier approach is to give the body a proper warm up before engaging in deep stretching.”
Not tracking your workouts
“The only way to ensure those progressive overload gains is to track your workouts,” says Nash. “Track the reps and weight of each exercise so you can be sure you’re progressing each week.”
It’s easy to forget the weight you lifted within a few seconds of finishing an exercise, so tracking it as soon as possible is key. Nash recommends using an app on your phone or in a written workout journal — whatever works best for you!
Doing cardio before weights
There isn’t any single magic exercise order, however doing any kind of cardio immediately before your weights session can have a negative impact, says Bowling, as you will have less available energy to perform those exercises and will hit fatigue much more quickly.
“Weight training when your energy supplies are low is likely to be less effective and more likely to result in injury,” he says. Ideally, you should split up cardio and weights to different days, but if you don’t have the time in your week to do this, Bowling says to always prioritize your weight training first.
Not being courteous of other gym-goers
Common courtesy goes a long way, especially when you’re sharing a space like a gym. “Wiping down cardio equipment after use is a must,” says May. “Placing weight plates or loose dumbbells back after use is a necessary practice for safety purposes as well.”
Crowding the instructor
When taking a class, don’t set up your workout area right on top of the instructor! “I have had several enthusiastic students do this when I teach classes,” says Nash. “Not only does it make it difficult to teach, but it also makes it difficult for other students to see everything. Give the instructor some space so everyone can fully benefit from the class.”
Worrying about what other people think
“Being self-conscious at the gym is going to hurt your workout and your confidence,” says Collins. “Focus on using proper form and completing your exercises rather than letting what others might think of you slow you down.”
Psst, no one’s looking at you anyway. Everyone else is concerned with their own workout.