Ten Things People Do Wrong in Gyms

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As a coach running dozens and hundreds of athletes through their motions every day, I see a lot of common problems that people tend to have using equipment and doing exercises correctly. Here are the top ten things I see people doing wrong in gyms….

#10 – “Steady State cardio for ‘fat loss’ and fitness”

I know, I know, how many times do fitness experts have to explain that the whole idea of ‘fat burning zones’ is a farce?

Well, you’re going to hear it again. Interval-style training is the way to go regardless of whether your goals are fat loss or improved fitness. The notion of more bang for your buck should appeal to just about everyone who frequents a gym.

Here is where I talk about my pet peeve #1 in this list….they guy or girl ‘working’ on the elliptical, stairmaster or treadmill while reading a book or magazine. HUH?!? Here’s an easy tip for all of you, if you can concentrate on words that are about 2 millimeters tall while doing your cardio, you’re not working hard enough, period.

See #1 on this list for more details.

#9 – “Not enough resistance training in your program”

Many people ‘dabble’ in their weights during their workouts while relying on their cardio portion for the majority of their session. You know the folks I’m talking about, right?

How about the lady who spends 45 minutes on her elliptical machine then finishes with about 10 minutes on a variety of machines like the adductor or abductor (inner and outer thigh) or tricep machines? What about the ‘spinners’ who only do upper body resistance since they ‘get plenty of lower body strength training on the bike’?

Uh, no, guys. As a spin instructor for over 10 years now I can confidently say that more than 90% of all spinners (including instructors!) fail to turn that little black knob enough to elicit any type of strength training adaptations. Hmm, this might explain the classic pear bodies found on many of these cycling enthusiasts.

#8 – “Not enough patience with your progress”

Many folks give up on training regimens only weeks after starting. HOLD UP GUYS! A few weeks of training cannot be expected to negate years of inactivity and often ABUSE of your bodies.

Even the poorest programs can result in positive physical changes simply because of consistency and effort. Imagine the results you would get if you stuck to an excellent training program? Go find a great trainer today, there are A LOT of them out there!

#7 – “Ridiculous diet practices”

Sure, this is not something you might be able to spot in your local gym but as a group exercise instructor, many members like to tell me about their dietary practices.

In addition, I often overhear some of the most ridiculous dietary tips that people give each other in the gym (even trainers are known to occasionally dispense their share of stupidity as well).

Listen people: sound nutrition is not rocket science! We all know right from wrong, for example, what’s better for you a soda or water? What about a bag of chips versus a bag of carrots? A candy bar or a nectarine?

Tough ones huh? Anyway, try some of these things and you will be just fine:

  • Eat a VARIETY of foods
  • Don’t eliminate entire food groups
  • Eat 5-6 small meals each day
  • Try to have protein, fats, and GOOD carbs at each meal
  • Stay away from fad diets and diet pills

Some other practices that drive me crazy are:

Fasted cardio

People that think that by exercising on an empty stomach, they will target all their fat stores.

Sorry folks, won’t make a difference, in fact, your work capacity will be lowered from lack of fuel! Therefore, you will not be able to burn as many calories in that session.

Fasting

Did you hear about the ‘miracle’ 10-day maple syrup, lemon juice, water, and cayenne pepper fast?

If it sounds ridiculous, it probably is.

Drinking carbohydrate drinks or eating energy bars during a spin class

Ever see folks who are trying to lose weight drinking a bottle of Gatorade and eating a Clif bar during a class yet wonder why they can’t seem to shed the pounds?

Hmm, I wonder why?!

Could it be that they keep putting back in the 400-500 calories they end-up burning in class?

#6 – “Spending too much time in the gym”

The number one reason that people give for not working out is TIME. After all, it’s safe to say that we ALL have better things to do than spend all our time in a gym, right?

Try doing some extra work at home, reading a book, playing with your kids, taking the spouse out to a romantic dinner, whatever. Live your life folks!

One of the quickest ways to burnout is too many hours in the gym. Stick to short, effective, efficient sessions and go and have some fun in the real world!

#5 – “Too much ‘down-time’ during training”

I sort of cheated here as I could have rolled this into #6. But, I just had to talk about my pet peeve #2 here, the guy talking on the cell phone or sharing a cup of coffee with his buddy between sets.

If you’re at the gym, DO WORK! Increased pace leads to increased fitness, results, fat loss, strength, and energy!

Time your rest periods and set a completion time goal for each session. You might not always make it, but at least you’re trying and building a smart basis on which to measure your progress.

If your gym is like mine and there are a lot of folks who know you and want to socialize, try wearing an IPOD and don’t make a lot of eye contact…you’re not a jerk, you just a person who wants to complete your goal, that’s all.

#4 – “Scared to use ‘athletic’ exercises during training’

There’s a reason athletes look the way they do, folks. It’s their training.

Effective, functional training will result in great results in less time. The Olympic lifts such as the snatch and the clean and jerk can be used to improve overall fitness, promote flexibility and balance, improve strength and power and much more.

Don’t be scared of the technical aspects of these types of lifts as there are VERY simple variations such as clean pulls, jump shrugs, and push presses. Try some, you will not be disappointed!

#3 – “Not enough variation”

Boredom and staleness inevitably leads to burn out and non-compliance. If you are not motivated by what’s about to happen in your training session, CHANGE IT.

Change your exercises from workout to workout, mix your cardio into your weights, change the order of your training, etc. All of these things will liven up even the most basic workout. Don’t forget to incorporate some sort of Periodization cycling that varies volumes and loads as this will also help keep your body ‘on edge’ and promote greater gains.

#2 – “Isolation Exercises”

Okay, pet peeve #3, the overweight guy or gal who spends all their time doing bicep curls and calf raises!

Guess what guys, there’s not a whole lot going on in your body when you do these types of exercises, even if you are standing on a balance board when performing your isolation bicep curls!

Compound lifts such as squats, presses, rows, lunges etc. are the way to go as they are far superior for not only burning calories and increasing fitness, they are also better at getting you stronger! These types of exercises are functional in nature: this simply means that they allow our bodies and muscles to get stronger in the exact same fashion that they will have to work in real, everyday life.

And now…..drumroll please! The #1 thing that most people do wrong in gyms today is…..

#1 – “Not obeying the ‘Overload Principle’!”

Here’s a newsflash for everyone, fitness is not easy and fitness will not come fast.

The NUMBER ONE principle in exercise physiology 101 is the Overload Principle. Simply stated, this principle tells us that in order to elicit change on our bodies we must OVERLOAD it or go beyond what we normally do.

In other words GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE! Without this type of overload, there IS NO CHANGE. Guess what? If you are doing sets of 10 with your 15 repetition maximum you’re not doing much so don’t expect to see much in terms of gains.

This is my pet peeve #4 on this list….the fitness gurus who tell us that overload is the enemy and that we somehow need to feel refreshed at the end of our workouts.

All this feel-good, new age crap about never pushing your body to failure or never ending a set with a hard repetition is about as silly as saying Pilates will ‘tone’ your muscles while weights will make them ‘bulky’….what?!

Don’t only apply this principle to your resistance training, use it on your cardio as well. If you are capable of running 8 minute miles yet you always set the treadmill at 9 or 10 minute pace, you’re short-changing yourself. Don’t expect to see much improvement….if any.

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