In Fitness

People exercise for many different reasons — to lose weight, to train for an event, to keep fit, or simply because it’s fun for them. Unfortunately, far too many people find themselves no better than before, worse off, or even injured when their exercise program goes wrong. Often there is just a simple mistake they’re doing that stalls their progress. Before you get started with your workout, here are a few mistakes that can halt your progress.

Avoiding Warm Up (and Cool Down)
There are so many people who dive right into their exercise session. This is a good way to get injured. Warm ups are often done just to get them out of the way, but just like a car engine needs to warm up to work properly, so does your body. A good warm up will prime your muscles for what’s to come.

Warm ups don’t have to be anything elaborate. In fact, it shouldn’t be, since the whole point is to get you ready for more strenuous exercise.  Some light walking or marching in place or a gentle run on a treadmill for about ten minutes is all the warm up you need. After that, you’ll be ready to for the more difficult stuff.

Cooling down is just as important as was warming up. It gives your body a way to slowly come down from the exercise state. Make the last 5 or 10 minutes of your workout somewhat less intensive, so your body relaxes at a steady rate, instead of all at once. Not only will you feel better immediately afterward, you won’t feel quite so sore in the morning.

Not Taking Care of the Inside of Your Body
What you put into your body certainly affects what you get out of it. The food you eat doesn’t just influence your weight. It has implications for everything your body does, including exercise. Your diet should be tailored toward your exercise goals, whatever they might be.

One of the more important things to remember is to always have a water bottle close at hand. You don’t have to feel thirsty to drink water. In fact, if you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Exercise is a sweaty business, which means the loss of a lot of water and salt. It’s best to replace that right away. You should not only drink while you’re exercising, but before, as part of your preparation.

Some general guidelines include: about 15 ounces an hour or so before working out, another 8 or 10 ounces 15 minutes prior to your workout, and about 8 ounces every quarter hour or so. You might need more if you sweat more. The important thing is to remain hydrated. If you still feel dehydrated even after drinking more water, add a pinch of salt. That will help your body retain the water.

Food is also an important consideration before and after an exercise session. Carb-based foods like bananas, oatmeal, and apples eaten about 15 to 30 minutes before a workout have just the right amount of energy you need to keep you going, especially if you are planning for a particularly long exercise session. For a quick fix, you might also consider eating a nutritious protein bar.  Just don’t eat too much — anyone who has done this can tell you how uncomfortable it is to exercise while feeling stuffed.

Exercise takes more out of you than just calories. You’ll burn fat and fatigue your muscles. Right after you finish exercising, it’s a good idea to have something small and quick to help your body recover and refuel, like a high-quality protein bar. The right protein bar can even feel (and taste) like a reward for a particularly good workout!

Overtraining
You’ve probably heard the saying “no pain, no gain”. Throw that out of your mind. If it hurts, that’s your body telling you to stop what you’re doing immediately. You’ll do well if you listen to your body and never do more than you’re ready to do. A little tingling and some soreness the next day is to be expected, but if you’re feeling pain it’s time to either move on to something else or to stop entirely until you recover. Never work yourself to the point where you just simply can’t go on.

Training too much can also have a side-effect in lowered motivation. If you’re doing something day after day that is actively unpleasant, you’ll to want to do it less. It’s just human nature. Who wants to put themselves through suffering several days every week? Just take it easy, especially if you’re first starting out. You should feel it, but not regret it. As your capacity grows, you’ll be able to handle more without putting undue strain on your body.

Part of avoiding overtraining is letting your body recover afterward. If you’re feeling sore, it’s okay to put off exercise for a day or so. When part of your exercise program is heavy enough to make you sore alternate it with a light routine, like biking or walking.

If you do hurt yourself, don’t push it. Remember, pain is your body trying to tell you not to do whatever you’re doing. The pain may just be a twinge now, but if you push it and push it, you could end up with major joint or muscle damage. See your doctor if any pain you’ve sustained lasts more than a few days.

Exercising can be a lot of fun, and do you a lot of good, provided you avoid some fairly common mistakes even some professional athletes have been known to make. Just take it at the right pace and take good care of yourself and you’ll go farther than you ever believed you could.

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Emily Hunter is a SEM Strategist and Outreach Supervisor at the Marketing Zen Group working with the folks at Promax Nutrition. She loves designing strategies with her team and is excited about spreading the Zen gospel. In her spare time, she cheers for Spirit of Atlanta, Carolina Crown and Phantom Regiment, crafts her own sodas, and crushes tower defense games. Follow her on Twitter at @Emily2Zen