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5 Things Not To Do Before Working Out – And What To Do Instead

5 Things Not To Do Before Working Out – And What To Do Instead

What you do before a workout session can have incredible benefits on your body – or it can derail any attempt to get in shape whatsoever. Before hitting the gym, take the following precautions so you don’t end up leaving in worse shape than you were when you walked in.

Sleep

Of course you want to be rested before you start working out. But getting too much sleep before a session at the gym can actually hinder your performance. When you sleep for more than 30 minutes, your body enters a deep sleep – just as it does when you lie down for the night. A nap that lasts longer than 30 minutes will only make you feel even more groggy and exhausted than you were when you laid down.

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If you must nap before the gym, make sure you set an alarm for 15-20 minutes ahead of time. This will give you enough time to rest your eyes and body but not trick your mind into thinking it’s time to go to bed for the night.

Stretch

When we were younger, our gym teachers all told us make sure to stretch before doing any sort of strenuous activity. However, experts now say stretching before a workout might actually do more harm than good. Not only does static stretching before exercising decrease the strength of the muscles being stretched, but it also increases the risk of pulling or straining these muscles.

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Instead of using static stretching methods before a workout, warm up your muscles by moving them in some way or another, such as running in place, doing jumping jacks, or riding a stationary bike. Save the static stretching for after your workout. Stretching is much more beneficial after you’ve “loosened up” your muscles.

High-Intensity Interval Training

High-Intensity Interval Training is – surprise, surprise – intense. It also varies in intensity throughout each session. Because High-Intensity Interval Training varies in intensity, it disrupts your body’s natural respiration, as the amount of energy you put forward changes over time. HIIT also decreases your stamina and strength quickly, which you certainly don’t want to do before you even get started with your workout.

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As previously mentioned, you should definitely do some sort of cardio to begin a workout session, but there’s no need to go from zero to sixty. Instead of diving into high-intensity activities, wade in with some steady state cardio in which the energy you put forth doesn’t vary much at all.

Eat or Drink Too Much

Remember when your mom always told you not to go swimming until a half-hour after you ate? It turns out there’s some truth to that old wives’ tale, after all. After you’ve eaten a large meal, your body will obviously start to digest it. What we often don’t realize is just how much energy this process takes. If we try to work out during the digestive process, we overburden our bodies, which can lead to stomach cramps and nausea. Additionally, drinking beverages that are high in sugar content can lead to an athlete quickly “hitting the wall,” and being unable to complete a workout session.

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Instead of eating and drinking everything in sight, maintain a healthy pre-workout diet to properly energize yourself before a gym session. Stick to wholesome foods like fruits, grains, and yogurt – stay away from sweets. Check the labels on your sports drink; you might realize there’s a lot more sugar in it than you thought there was, and it might be hurting you more than helping. Stay away from chemicals; find nourishment that actually helps you rather than giving you a superficial boost that will lead to a crash.

Take Too Many Supplements

If you eat well, you can get all the vitamins and minerals you need to prepare yourself for a workout session without the need of supplements. But if you do choose to use them, don’t overdo it. Taking too much “product” can lead to an irregular heartbeat, nausea, and anxiety – and more. It’s definitely not worth doing long-term damage to your body just to get an extra boost during a workout.

If you’re going to use supplemental powders and pills, read the label. Know exactly what you’re taking before you put anything in your body. Know how it will affect you, and know the warning signs your body will give you if you’ve taken too much. It’s okay to try to give yourself an edge while working out – just don’t abuse it.

Featured photo credit: working out / Tomas Salinka / Flickr via farm8.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

12 Stretching Exercises to Increase Your Flexibility

12 Stretching Exercises to Increase Your Flexibility

When thinking about stretching and learning how to become flexible, consider you are doing more than just elongating and strengthening your muscles. You are, in fact, improving circulation of the blood (lymphatic system), and optimizing the depth of your breath, which further enhances circulation[1].

Stretching and yoga aren’t just trends; they are practices that have been utilized by humans arguably for hundreds of thousands of years or more. In many cases, modern humans have simply forgotten much of their ancestry, and stretching/yoga is certainly an integral part.

The following stretching routines, if practiced consistently (every day, or a few times a week), will improve your physical and mental well-being, so let’s get into them!

Here’s a breakdown of all the exercises I’ve covered in the video:

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1. Standing Hamstring Stretch

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    • Stand straight and tall with your feet hip-width apart, knees just slightly bent, and arms by your sides.
    • Exhale as you bend forward (think of a door hinge movement at the hips), lowering your head toward the floor (imagine the top of your head being parallel with the floor), while keeping your head, neck, and shoulders relaxed (do not tense up).
    • Wrap your arms around the backs of your legs, or simply grab and hold the back of your legs; holding anywhere from 45 seconds to two minutes.
    • Bend your knees and slowly “roll up” back to the standing position when you’re done.

    2. Downward Dog

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      • Start standing with your feet hip-width apart.
      • While exhaling, hinge at the hips and lower your head toward the floor.
      • Place your hands/palms on the ground.
      • Step back with your feet while keeping a neutral back/spine and with your head/neck in-line with your shoulders and arms.

      3. Deep Lunge and Twist

      See the source image
        • Start standing with your feet together hip width apart.
        • Take a large step forward with your right foot.
        • Bend your right knee and drop into a lunge, keeping your left leg as straight as you can behind you with your toes on the ground, so you feel a stretch at the front of your left thigh.
        • Place your right hand on the floor or in a pray position, and twist your upper body to the right as you extend your right arm toward the ceiling (for a deeper stretch).
        • Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes while taking slow and steady breaths.
        • Repeat on the other side.

        4. Piriformis Stretch

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        See the source image

           

          • Sit on the floor with both legs extended in front of you to start.
          • Cross your left leg over your right, and place your left foot flat on the floor.
          • Place your left hand on the floor behind your body.
          • Place your right hand on your left quad or your right elbow on your left knee (as shown), and press your left leg to the right as you twist your torso to the left.
          • If the spinal rotation causes back discomfort, remove the twist and simply use your right hand to pull your left quad in and to the right.

          5. Figure Four Stretch

          See the source image
            • Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor.
            • Cross your left foot over your right quad.
            • Lift your right leg off the floor. Grab onto the back of your right leg and gently pull it toward your chest.
            • When you feel a comfortable stretch, hold there.
            • Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
            • Switch sides and repeat.

            6. 90/90 Stretch

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              • Sit with your right knee bent at 90-degrees in front of you, calf perpendicular to your body and the sole of your foot facing to the left. Keep your left foot flexed.
              • Let your leg rest flat on the floor.
              • Place your left knee to the left of your body, and bend the knee so that your foot faces behind you. Keep your left foot flexed.
              • Keep your right butt cheek on the floor. Try to move the left cheek as close to the floor as possible. It may not be possible if your hips are tight.
              • Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
              • Repeat on the other side.

              7. Frog Stretch

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              See the source image

                 

                • Start on all fours.
                • Slide your knees wider than shoulder-width apart.
                • Turn your toes out and rest the inner edges of your feet flat on the floor.
                • Ensure your legs are maintaining approximately a 90-degree angle (squared off).
                • Shift your hips back toward your heels.
                • Move from your hands down to your forearms to get a deeper stretch, if possible.
                • Hold for for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

                8. Butterfly Stretch

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                  • Sit tall on the floor with the soles of your feet together, knees bent out to the sides.
                  • Hold onto your feet (or ankles), engage your abs slightly to keep an upright posture with steady breathing, and slowly lower your body toward your feet as far as you can while pressing your knees toward the floor. Keep a neutral spine during this stretch.
                  • If you cannot lower your torso, then simply hold the stretch and aim to lower your knees closer to the ground gradually.
                  • Hold this stretch for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

                  9. Tricep Stretch

                  See the source image
                    • Kneel, sit, or stand tall with feet hip-width apart, arms extended overhead.
                    • Bend your right elbow and reach your right hand to touch the top middle of your back.
                    • Reach your left hand overhead and grasp just below your right elbow.
                    • Gently pull your right elbow down and toward your head.
                    • Switch arms and repeat.

                    10. Extended Puppy Pose

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                    See the source image
                      • Start on all fours.
                      • Move your arms forward a few inches.
                      • Push your hips up and back halfway toward your heels, or until you feel a deep stretch.
                      • Push through the palms of your hands to keep your arms straight and engaged.
                      • Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

                      11. Neck Stretch and Release

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                        • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, or sit down with your back straight and chest lifted.
                        • Drop your right ear to your right shoulder.
                        • To deepen the stretch, gently press down on your head with your right hand.
                        • Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

                        12. Standing Quad Stretch

                        See the source image
                          • Stand with your feet together.
                          • Bend your left knee and use your left hand to pull your left foot toward your butt. Keep your knees together.
                          • If you need to, put one hand on a wall for balance.
                          • Squeeze your glutes to increase the stretch in the front of your legs.
                          • Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
                          • Repeat on the other leg.

                          Conclusion

                          The key take away here is that consistency with your stretching routine, followed by good quality sleep and lots of hydration, will instantly begin to improve your quality of life. Find which stretches feel the best in your body and add them to a daily routine you can enjoy.

                          More on How to Become Flexible

                          Featured photo credit: Scott Broome via unsplash.com

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