No matter how passionate or dedicated you are to exercising your way to the bridal body of your dreams, if you’re not going about it correctly, you may not be receiving the full benefit of all your hard work.
One of the biggest mistakes most people make, says Sydney-based Goodlife Health Club trainer Aaron Callaghan, is “sleepwalking” through workouts you’ve been performing for months, or years in some cases.
“We all live busy lives but we know how important exercise is for our bodies, however, by rushing through our routines or cutting corners and simply performing the same exercises in the same order days, weeks or years on end we’re actually not getting the most out of our workouts.
“People keep performing the same exercises but expect different results, but our bodies thrive on variety, and by changing your regular routines that will stop you from hitting plateaus. You’ve almost got to ‘shock’ your system out of complacency every now and again by changing your workout routine.”
On the up side, correcting any errors isn’t difficult, but first you have to know what you’re doing incorrectly – and then you’ll be back on track towards looking fabulous on your big day.
Don’t be a Speedy Gonzales
Warner Bros character Speedy Gonzales was famous for zipping his way through life and by having that same attitude towards your exercise regime will actually cause you more harm than good.
Exercise is about using your muscles. By whizzing your way through routines without thinking or effort you end up using momentum rather than muscle power to get through each set of reps or, say, a few kms on the rowing machine.
If you’re not using your muscles, you may as well not be doing the exercise.
Fix it: Stop and breathe. Feel every step, every rep, every movement and concentrate on performing the action rather than just relying on momentum to get through each set or action.
You’ll find that you actually feel different and, often, as though you’ve worked harder and actually received a workout.
Also, by racing through your exercise, you risk damaging and hurting yourself. A torn muscle is incredibly painful – and will set you even further back from your goal.
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Ensure you have the right tools for the job
“Many people like to wear what’s fashionable rather than what’s comfortable or correct for their type of exercise,” says Ben Crawford, Fitness Director at Goodlife in Glenelg, Adelaide.
“A perfect example is running in the wrong shoes,’’ he adds. “It can lead to injuries including blisters, sprains and even stress fractures. The same goes for clothes. Breathable material is best for your workouts. You won’t heat up and the sweat won’t be trapped.”
* Fix it! If running is your thing, spend as much as you can afford on a pair of supportive, cushioned running shoes. Head to a specialist athletic footwear shop to be professionally fitted, and replace them every 480-530 kilometres. Also, when it comes to clothing, ask what type of material and clothing is appropriate for your exercise choice.
Running on a treadmill has many advantages (especially during winter) and the treadmill’s cushioned track is much gentler on the joints than the hard surface of a road, for example.
However, one disadvantage of treadmills is that some encourage users to stride out too far, which has the potential to increase stress on the body.
* Fix it! Try running so that your feet move directly underneath you rather than way out in front. This will decrease the length of your stride and increase the frequency.
Cycling is a fantastic way to improve your cardio and stamina, but regardless of whether you’re sweating it out in a cardio theatre as part of a high-octane RPM class or cycling through the wild blue yonder, it is vital to ensure your seat height is adjusted to suit your height.
“Incorrect seat height can lead to soreness and injury and puts pressure on your back,” says Chris Tuck, a trainer at Brisbane’s Goodlife Fortitude Valley. “If your seat is too low, you need to pedal harder, which wastes energy. It also puts pressure on your ankles and knees.
“If it is too high, it puts pressure on your hips since you constantly have to stretch downwards to reach the pedals.”
* Fix it! If you’re at a gym, don’t be shy to ask one of the assistants to help you adjust your seat height to match your body, but if you’re buying a bike, ask the shop assistant to help you adjust the height before taking it home.
“The only silly question is the one you don’t ask,” notes Chris.
Resistance is not futile
Constantly challenge yourself! When you’re on a walking machine, don’t always choose the flat option. Occasionally (or as often as you can handle), pick the steep hills and, on, say, a rowing machine, increase the resistance now and then. It will make all the difference, especially if weight loss is your goal.
“Resistance makes your muscles work and when your muscles work, you burn calories,” says Ben. “If you rely solely on momentum to get through your sets, your muscles aren’t working to their maximum. If you’re going to be doing the work, you may as well get the benefits.”
* Fix it! Think of your personal exertion level on a scale of one to 10, where one is when you are barely moving and 10 being working as hard as you can. If you’re working around the five or six mark, then try adding a bit more resistance. If, however, you’re already working up around the eight or nine mark, well, then you’re doing really well. Keep up the great
It’s blokes who are the biggest culprits when it comes to lifting weights that are too heavy.
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This sort of behaviour markedly increases the risk of injury, but, believe it or not, it also makes your exercise more inefficient.
“For example, if you’re performing a bicep curl using weights that are too heavy, you have to use other muscle groups, including, say, your shoulders or lower body to support the action,’’ explains Aaron, “this means that your body takes the focus off the body part you’re actually trying to work.”
* Fix it! It’s fine that the final three or four reps in a set be a challenge, but if you honestly feel as though you’re struggling, reduce the weight. It’s not a failure, you’re saving yourself from potential injury and actually doing your body a favour.
If the blokes tend to lift too much weight, guess who tends to lift weights that are too light? Yep, the ladies! Most of us don’t challenge yourselves enough.
“Your body adapts far more quickly if you are exercising at about 70 to 80 per cent of your maximum capacity,” says Chris. “The best bit is that by pushing yourself that little bit extra, you’ll get the most out of those last few reps.”
* Fix it! Try increasing your weight every four to six weeks.
“Once you’ve master one weight range and have bolstered your endurance, you can start lifting heavier weights which truly help you sculpt your body,” says Chris.
Weights machines are great for ensuring you perform each exercise correctly, however you still control things like the speed at which you push, lift or pull. It is vital that you lift, push or pull with control rather than without thinking or just relying on momentum as doing overboard with your actions could lead to injury.
* Fix it! Take your time. Ensure your movements are even and, if you feel uncomfortable or as though you need advice, take advantage of the trainers and assistants who will always be happy to help!
One of the downsides of weight machines is that while they help us perform techniques correctly, they can lead to us relaxing a little bit too much! “Exercise machines are super supportive, so you don’t really have to use your core strength, whereas with free weights, you have no choice but to engage your muscles when performing reps,” says Ben.
* Fix it! Weights machines are a great confidence booster and a good place to start when you’re new to a gym, but as you gain strength and confidence, moving to free weights is advisable.
Sticking to the same old tired routine:
If you don’t change your routine, your body will adapt and your performance and benefits will, eventually, plateau.
What you need to do is change your routine so that different muscles groups are exercised. Speak to a personal trainer or someone qualified to find out what muscle groups you’re exercising with your current routine and what ones still need exercising and how you can do it.
* Fix it! Daring to step outside your comfort zone maybe a challenge at first, but you’ll quickly feel the difference.
Goodlife Health Clubs are 100 per cent Australian owned and aim to help “real people” achieve their fitness goals by focussing on a combination of health, nutrition and well being. They have more than 125,000 members and 44 clubs located across the country.
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