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18 Common Mistakes About Exercise Pointed Out By Experts

18 Common Mistakes About Exercise Pointed Out By Experts

Fitness and exercise are more popular now than they have ever been. But with the growing popularity of (primarily) indoor workouts like weightlifting, CrossFit, Pilates, and yoga, there is growing room for doing harm to our bodies.

I recently got in touch with health and fitness experts from around the U.S. to find out what they consider some of the most common exercise mistakes. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a total fitness newbie, chances are you’re making one of them. Take a look at their solutions for help on correcting some of these fitness mistakes:

1. Poor form on simple abdominal crunches

According to Tami Peavy, owner of Practical Therapy4U, keeping your hands behind your head or straight at your side during common ab crunches places an unsafe amount of torque on your neck. This can lead to neck pain, migraines, disc bulging and shoulder pain.

Instead, Tami recommends the “Reverse Crunch.” She explains, “Lying on your back, put your hands under your lower back for support. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor. Now, lift your knees into your chest, contracting your stomach muscles as you lift. Repeat this 10 times for two sets.” It makes for an effective, low-stress alternative!

2. Static stretching before a workout

Stretching is a good thing, right? It certainly has its place, but it can also be damaging, says Pilatesology co-founder Alisa Wyatt. “Stretching is great after a workout, but if you do it when your muscles aren’t warmed up, then it gives you what I call ‘old rubber band’ muscles. This is when your muscles stretch to the point of weakness and stay that way while you work out, which reduces your strength and power, as well as sets you up for injury.”

Instead of kicking off your workout with a cold stretch, she recommends a warm up that gets your blood moving, your joints lubricated, and helps increase your flexibility all at the same time.

3. Too much running, too hard

Running is one of the most popular forms of exercise, with minimal cost and benefits that include a stronger heart, lungs, and core. But too much of a good thing is still too much.

“Because of its repetitive nature, running has the potential to cause overuse type injuries to the feet, lower extremities, legs and spine,” says Joel K. Jezequel from NY Sports Med. He recommends steady increases in distance (about 10% per week, optimally), addressing muscle strength/length imbalances, and getting sufficient rest between runs.

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4. Too much sitting

From long hours sitting in front of the computer, to driving in our cars and lounging on the couch at the end of a long day, the last thing most of us need is more time spent sitting—especially during our workouts.

“Sitting down to train the shoulders, biceps and back are traditional ways to work those muscles, but it decreases the work for the legs and the core,” explains fitness expert Keli Roberts. “Training in a standing position allows the legs and the core to play a role and is a much better and functional approach to exercise.” She also points out the strong association between extensive time spent sitting and increased mortality risk, according to research from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

5. Generating movement from the joints, rather than the muscles

One of the many downsides of poor form is placing too much pressure on the joints, rather than the muscles. This issue, according to CABARRET creatrix Nicole LaBonde, often stems from “bending and unbending at the joint, rather than thinking of lengthening or contracting (the) muscles.”  In order to correct this problem, she will often force students to perform movements in slow motion, keeping the muscles engaged and the joints stress-free.

6. Choosing the wrong workout routine

“The biggest mistake I see people make is doing things they hate,” says Jeanette DePatie, author of The Fat Chick Works Out! “Into every life comes the decision to watch Game of Thrones or do your fitness routine. If you hate your exercise routine, I guarantee, ‘winter is coming.’ I often say exercise is like sex; if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right!”

7. Not enough intensity during workout time

It goes without saying, but the goal of most exercise routines is to burn calories and lose weight. And it turns out that most of us are doing it wrong. According to personal trainer and fitness author Clint Fuqua, “EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) is the real trick to burning off unwanted fat, increasing stamina for all activities, and being able to enjoy that extra slice of pie with no regrets.”

If you’re looking to trigger this long term post-workout burn, Fuqua recommends pushing hard for 30-40 minutes, rather than hanging around the gym for a hour or more, barely breaking a sweat.

8. Listening too much to the internet, magazines, and books

If you’ve done much research into diet and exercise trends, you’ve probably noticed that the “experts” rarely seem to agree on what’s the best way to lose weight and get healthy. While some are adamantly advising low-carb, high fat diets, others are all-in on keeping fats down and protein high.

The answer may be more simple than you think. Certified strength and conditioning coach Henry Halse says, “You will have much more success if you simply tune out all the background noise and focus on what you know works for you! My dad once gave me the diet advice ‘everything in moderation.’ His mother actually told him that. She didn’t read it in a book, magazine, or Google. It’s something that she knew instinctively. To be honest, researchers are now finding that ‘everything in moderation’ may actually be the most beneficial approach to eating.”

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9. Not rehydrating enough during/after workouts

Did you know that dehydration can have negative effects on everything from your mental sharpness to power, endurance, and much more? David Parishdirector of Biofreeze Human Performance Center, warns that dehydration “is one of the biggest contributors to stalled healing, yet it is one of the most preventable conditions out there.”

He recommends monitoring your sweat loss and making sure to rehydrate with three cups of water for every pound of water weight you lose. He also warns against alcohol, caffeine and certain supplements, all of which can contribute to dehydration.

10. Ignoring bone and joint health

While most of us focus on fitness and muscle strength as the foundation of our exercise, that might be the wrong approach. “An exercise routine that places too much stress on the muscles without caring for joint and bone health often leads to serious pain in supporting areas of the body, such as the lower back, knees and ankles,” says Dr. Steven Kozmary, owner of Kozmary Center for Pain Management.

To avoid these issues, he advises receiving proper nutrition and stretching, and avoiding exercises that place undue stress on crucial joints.

11. Thinking you need a gym membership to get in shape

Think you can’t get a good workout unless you have a pricey gym membership? You’re wrong, says Jen DeCurtins, Premier Protein Ambassador and author of Ultimate Plank Fitness. She points out that “not having access to a gym doesn’t mean you can’t strength train! There are so many workouts you can do at home with your own bodyweight or a set of dumbbells.”

These types of calisthenic workouts are easy to find and can have serious health benefits.

12. Working too hard without resting

Dayna Kurtz, owner of Fitness That Fits You, knows all too well the negative effects that come from over-working. “In a city like New York,” she says, “there is tremendous pressure to look fit. As a result, many clients are inclined to overdo their workouts–hitting the gym multiple times a day, or working the same muscle groups on consecutive days. Muscles need time to rest and repair after strength training.”

She points out that inadequate rest can drastically increase the likelihood of injury and is an essential part of a good fitness regimen.

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13. Not lengthening and stretching muscles

Another misstep that’s become all too common is ignoring the need to lengthen and extend your muscles. “What many weight lifters also don’t know is that lengthening muscles (stretching) will help build more muscle in order to build strength,” says Hope Cowgirl, owner of  inBalance Studio. “Once you become too bulky and immobile, your muscle has no where to go to grow!”

To avoid this problem, be sure to take time to stretch both during and after your workouts.

14. Set realistic goals

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably started a new diet a month before that big trip to the beach. The problem is that it’s almost impossible to get in the kind of shape you’re hoping to practically overnight. Rhodie Lorenz, a cycling instructor at Joyride Studio and Premier Protein Ambassador agrees. She advises, “Keeping in mind that fitness and nutrition are lifestyle choices that will keep you healthy, commit to exercising when you can and make it happen. You can’t lose 20 pounds in one week, and you can’t begin training for a marathon a week before.”

Instead, she recommends starting with smaller, but steady, plans to help you achieve your goals. Committing to a consistent process will bring you the results you’re after without leaving you feeling frustrated.

15. Poor preparation and distracted workouts

If you’ve been inside a gym recently, you’ve probably noticed dozens of people looking down at their smartphones. As Shane McLean, owner of Balance Guy Training, points out, this can be a serious no-no. “In the age of social media and smartphones,” he says, “gym goers are a little distracted checking their Facebook feeds and posting pics on Instagram, rather than hitting the weights. Lifting weights is not rocket science but you do need to pay attention to get the most of of your routine.”

His simple solution? “Leave the phone behind for one hour. It’s not going to kill you.” I couldn’t agree more.

16. Lack of cross-training and corrective strengthening

It’s easy to get into a groove with an exercise you like. It’s also easy for that groove to turn into a rut, and one that can cause injury and overuse.

One expert who has seen that time and time again is Joan Scrivanich, USA Track & Field Certified Coach and owner of Rise Endurance. Joan cautions, “Certain muscles naturally become stronger when we always do one sport or exercise. Strengthening the muscles that play a smaller but important role help you stay fit, healthy, and injury free. For example, runners would perform corrective exercises that target the core, including the glutes and hips.”

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17. Not enough variety in their workouts

The downsides of repeating the same workouts again and again go beyond the risk of injury alone. Certified trainer and strength coach Ian Montel counsels, “The most common mistakes I have noticed in the gym revolve around a general lack of understanding of the General Adaptation Syndrome. In short,” he continues, “this is the way in which the body adjusts to a specific stimulus. If you are not changing your workouts (through different exercises, routines, intensity, sets, reps, etc.) than you will not see any gains.”

If you want to keep making gains in both strength and fitness level, he suggests following the FITTE (Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type, Enjoyment) principle. Adjusting at least one of these aspects every 4-6 weeks will keep you making gains and avoiding injury.

18. Using too much momentum while lifting free weights

Putting up big numbers in the weight room has its benefits, to be sure. Building strength and lean muscle mass can lead to a more powerful fat-burning metabolism. But as Vivian Eisenstadt, owner and Chief Physical Therapist of Vivie Therapy, warns, if you’re not doing it right you could be doing more harm than good.

Vivian recommends, “Slow controlled movement with intention on what muscle you are working on with a stable core is your best bet for safe great results. Slow controlled ‘eccentric’ muscle contraction (e.g. the slow lowering of the barbell in a bicep curl, or lowering the straight bar down in a bench press) give you more bang for your buck and gets your muscles stronger faster.”

Fixing these fundamental exercise flaws doesn’t have to be hard. Heed the advice above and you’ll be doing your body a major favor. Which of the mistakes above have you been making?

Featured photo credit: not what it looks like/istolethetv via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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