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

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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.

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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 September 8, 2021

10 Fitness Excuses You Need to Stop Making Now

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10 Fitness Excuses You Need to Stop Making Now

“You can have results or excuses. Not both.” – Anonymous

Human beings tend to only ever do as much as they absolutely need to.

Motivational speakers call this innate trait laziness, biologists call it efficiency. Either way, the fact remains: we are evolutionary wired to minimize time and energy wherever possible.

And this is not necessarily a bad thing. If we weren’t wired this way, we probably wouldn’t have survived this long as a species.

Back in our caveman days, before supermarkets, calories were worth their weight in gold. For cavemen, trying to actively burn off calories would have spelled certain death.

In this light, our fitness excuses make total sense. Our reptilian brain comes up with believable sounding rationalizations to stop us from burning off our precious calories; to minimize time and energy.

Unfortunately, due to our present access to highly calorific foods, the fitness excuses that once ensured our survival, now send us to an early grave.

Below I’ve provided the 10 most common fitness excuses our reptilian minds trick us into believing and why, ultimately, they’re all nonsense.

1. I don’t have enough time.

This is probably the most common fitness excuse of them all.

First off, when you say you don’t have enough time, what you’re really saying is “I don’t have enough time for that”. 

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Do you really think that if you were to add up all the time you spend watching TV and surfing the web throughout the average week you couldn’t replace any of it with a workout?

A 30 minute workout takes up 2% of your day.

Don’t ask yourself how much time you’re going to waste by working out a few times a week. Ask yourself how much of your life you’re going to waste being unfit and overweight.

2. I’m way too tired to workout.

Your mind, when it comes to exercising, is like a spoiled child. If you give in to its demands without a fight, it will see weakness and prey on it often.

If you miss one planned session, you’re much more likely to miss the next. The biggest journey always starts with one step and the biggest failings always start with one step backwards.

You need to show your mind who’s boss. You won’t always have lots of energy when you go to the gym but that doesn’t matter. The only thing that counts is showing up and giving it a shot.

If you’re too tired to workout, change your sleeping habits, not your workout habits.

3. But exercise is so boring!

You don’t want to exercise because it’s boring?

So you find brushing your teeth, taking showers, styling your hair and getting dressed highly entertaining? No. We do these things because we have to. We accept them as part of life.

The people who never miss a workout are the ones who view it just like brushing their teeth. Complaining about it is just pointless. To be successful sometimes you’ve got to do things that aren’t as fun as watching your favorite TV show. That’s just life.

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If don’t enjoy your workouts, you don’t stop working out, you just workout differently. Try crossfit, martial arts, hiking, body building, powerlifting, running, or swimming. Try music. Try anything, but keep showing up.

4. I have no motivation to workout.

If you think you need motivation to train you’re already half beat.

What you really need is meta motivation: the motivation to train even when you’re not motivated. If you rely on your feelings to decide whether to workout or not, you never will. As you know, your feelings are designed to keep you caged up in your comfort pit.  Your feelings want you to be safe, not successful.

That said, there is a trick you can use to get yourself motivated to workout, and it’s  backed up with research. It’s called ‘the few minutes’ principle.

The basic idea is that procrastinators often put off doing certain things because the size of the task in front of them seems too overwhelming. By deciding to just go to the gym for a ‘few minutes’ you’ll often see the workout through to completion.

Are you motivated enough to train for two minutes? That’s all you need.

5. I have kids to look after.

One day your kids might have someone to look after too: you.

Don’t burden them with an ill parent when they have their own kids to look after. And don’t be the kind of parent who tells their kids exercise is good for them but doesn’t follow their own advice. Kids are smarter than that.

If you’re really struggling with managing your fitness and your kids, combine the two. Find a field and play frisbee for a few hours, go swimming, take a walk around the lake and feed some ducks. There are so many fun and cheap ways to exercise with your kids, the only limits are your imagination.

You kids should be your biggest reason to exercise, not your biggest excuse.

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6. I don’t have anyone to train with.

What you’re really saying with this fitness excuse is that you don’t have anyone to talk with while you train. If you’re training properly, you won’t need to talk.

Don’t get me wrong, having a training partner is great but here’s what you’ve got to understand: most people first meet their training partners at the gym. The reason you probably don’t have anyone to train with is because you don’t have many friends who train. Like attracts like.

By becoming someone who regularly trains, you’ll start attracting people into your life who also value health and fitness. You have to earn your training partners, they don’t come free.

7. I don’t feel very well.

After you get into the habit of overriding your fitness excuses and working out regularly, the thought of missing a workout starts to drive you insane. When I broke my jaw in two places the doctors told me I couldn’t lift heavy weights for three months. What did I do? I lifted light weights instead. Train smart, not hard.

At some point in our lives we’ve all pretended to be ill so we could skip a day of school. Some of the better actors among us probably blurred the lines in their mind between real symptoms and those imagined. It’s easy to exaggerate things when it fits our agenda.

If you’re really sick, I don’t recommend you train. But feeling a bit tired or achy – that’s no reason to skip a workout.

8. The gym is too expensive or far.

If you think you need a gym to achieve your fitness goals, you’ve been seriously misled.

The world is your fitness playground. Ever watched a training scene from a Rocky movie? He chases chickens, runs up steps, punches meat, and chops wood. Many people cite these scenes as their favorite.  Something about training dirty and raw resonates deep within us.

There are whole fitness subcultures dedicated to working out outdoors, and without formal equipment. Ever heard of Calisthenics, Tai Chi, Yoga or Parkour? Look them up.

If you want to put on muscle, try some typical strongman training like chopping wood, flipping tires, lifting barrels. Remember, if it’s important enough to you, you’ll find a way. Arnold Schwarzenegger made his own gym equipment out of chairs and sticks for the first year he trained. He claims he gained 25 pounds of muscle from doing this.

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9. I don’t know how to train properly.

If you’re reading this article, you’re obviously more than capable of figuring this out. The internet is brimming with routines and training tips. This site alone will give you more than you need. Read these 10 tips for better workouts, perfect for beginners.

However, it’s important that you don’t get too engulfed in the theory of ‘training properly’. Like most things in life, you learn best on the job. Ask people in the gym to show you how to use proper technique, then practice through action.

People love giving out tips. You might even get a training partner out of it.

10. I feel intimidated by the fit people there.

This is normal and everyone has this when they first start out. The environment is new, everyone there looks like they know what they’re doing. You feel like you’re in someone else’s home.

The number one reason you feel intimidated when you go to the gym is because you don’t go enough! If you started going regularly you’d get used to the place, the people and your fitness would improve. Everyone knows training improves your confidence. Just stick with it. It’s something you’ll laugh at a few months down the line.

Anyone can get in great shape. Anyone can become fit. But very few people ever do because they give in to their natural inclination to minimize time and effort.

Stop making excuses and just stick with it for two months. After that you’ll be finding excuses to workout even when you do have important stuff to get on with.

Featured photo credit: United Artists, Chartoff-Winkler Productions via Rocky (1976)

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