Working on Your Summer Body? Avoid These 5 Exercise Mistakes

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In the upcoming weeks, children will be out of school for Spring Break – one of the first signs that summer is on its way. Many people are flocking to the gym to get back into bathing suit shape. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) reminds those who may not have worked out over the winter to remember safety when ramping up their exercise routines.

Exercisers, especially beginners, often make mistakes that cause injury or may keep them from getting the most benefits out of their workouts. Take a look at your exercise routine and see if you are making one of these top ten mistakes – and then take the steps to fix them.

1. Taking on Too Much. Once you have decided that you want to get into shape, many people go all-out and do too much too soon. This sets the stage for an orthopedic injury. Remember that every workout plan needs to begin at your personal fitness level and build slowly from there. Don’t set a plan to jog 3 miles until you are able to walk those same three miles briskly and without pain or being out of breath. Remember to always warm up and cool down as well. Failure to gradually increase and decrease your heart rate can lead to injury.

2. Failure to Set a Goal. Decide what your workout goals are. If it is to lose a few pounds before summer, get a trainer to help you design a fat-burning/weight-loss specific workout and speak to a dietitian about a healthy low-calorie diet. If you want to build muscle, you will need two to three days of weight training in addition to a cardio workout. If you want to be fit enough to run a 5K or 10K, slowly build your distance over the course of a few weeks until you reach that mileage point. Keep in mind though – unrealistic or vague goals lead to exercise dropout.

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3. Lack of Workout Diversity. Cardiovascular exercise such as walking, jogging, swimming, or bike riding is terrific for getting your heart in shape, lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, and weight loss. But keep in mind that strength training is just as important as a cardio workout. Working with weights builds muscles which increases metabolism and burns more calories. However, make sure your strength workout is balanced as well. If you only work on upper body strength or only do ab crunches, you will miss out on the benefits of a whole-body workout.

4. The Workout Rut. Always walking 3 miles around the same track at the same time every week? You will likely not only be bored and dread your workout routine, your body will also stop responding positively to the exercise (a weight loss plateau, for example, because you are burning fewer calories). Remember to cross-train – that is, adding an additional type of work out into the routine for variety or increasing your intensity for greater fat burning. Also, if you can read, talk on the phone or do some other distracting activity during your workout, you probably aren’t working at an intensity that is beneficial to reaching your goals. “If you must read,” says Julie Isphording, host of the radio shows Fitness Information Talk and On Your Feet, “ stop about every three minutes and do a four-minute focus interval (where you) concentrate on picking up the pace.”

5. Poor Technique/Form. If you do not know how to use a particular piece of gym equipment, ask someone. Using it incorrectly can cause injury. Using an improperly set leg-extension machine puts stress on your knees, says Mark Kasper, EdD, a spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine. Even if you protect yourself from injury, improper form can lead to less-than-optimal results. Slouching on the treadmill while gripping the handles will not increase the heart rate as much as someone standing erect and pumping the arms. Other common mistakes – using weights while walking (“You lean forward and it can cause stress fractures,” sans Isphording) and rushing through your reps (increased risk for joint injury.)

The American Council on Exercise is America’s premier fitness and personal trainer certification, continuing education, and training organization. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of physical activity and protecting Americans against unsafe and ineffective fitness products and instruction.

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