Nothing beats blowing off steam at the gym after a long day at the office, but you could be making crucial mistakes during your workouts. Awareness, form, fuel, and recovery all play important roles in overall fitness. You’ve seen the memes and videos – newbies misusing gym equipment or trying to show off while hurting themselves in the process. Don’t be them. Keep reading to learn some of the leading fitness don’ts, so you can work out with your best foot forward.

Stretching: We all suffer from tight hamstrings, sore backs, and stiff hips every now and then, but failure to properly stretch before a workout can result in injury. Adequate stretching plays an important role in warming up for your workout, but even those who stretch don’t always stretch properly. Reap the rewards of stretching by focusing on isolation, leverage, and risk. Stretches should only work a few muscles at a time to reduce resistance from other muscles. When done properly, stretching can improve your overall fitness, increase relaxation, enhance your body’s awareness, and reduce muscular soreness. You may also discover better flexibility and an improved range of motion.

Dehydration: One of the worst fitness don’ts any athlete can make is drinking water only when he or she is thirsty. Thirst is a signal your body sends when you are already on the road to dehydration. It’s important to drink enough the night before training as well as in the hours leading up to your workout. Before circuit training, take a sip of water and keep your bottle close by to remind yourself that it’s there as you’re several sets in. Drink water after your workout to aid in recovery. Never leave the gym and head straight for happy hour. Studies show that alcohol hampers the body’s repair process and inhibits the protein complex in most men.

Lifting: Bodybuilders and strength trainers are usually some of the most dedicated people at the gym, but there is a good chance that you are lifting more than you should be. All training styles begin somewhere, and there is no reason to feel ashamed about the weight you start with. Hypertrophy, force, and other gains result from meticulous form, controlled eccentric movements, mental focus, and muscle tension. You should gradually add weights and lift to the point of fatigue, never exhaustion. Keep your repetitions low and your resistance load high for superior results. Focus on neuromuscular exercises to increase motor unit recruitment.

Machine Leans: Pick your poison: ellipticals, treadmills, or stair-climbers. They may all seem like equipment you can hang out on, catch up on episodes, or listen to your favorite playlists, but leaning on these machines for too long can put undue stress on your wrists and back. Monitor your posture throughout your workout by sucking in your gut, tilting your pelvis forward, and tucking in your butt. This way, you can improve your cardiovascular fitness.

Fueling Up: Any CrossFit trainer or fitness enthusiast can tell you that food is fuel to be taken seriously. Think of your body as an engine of a vehicle. Eating the right foods and drinking the right fluids will help you maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, so you can maximize performance and improve recovery time. Fuel up and hydrate about two hours before your workout. If you’re in a rush between work and the gym, stop to eat an apple or a banana. If your workout only lasts an hour, you don’t need to refuel at the gym. Experts recommend that you eat between 50 and 100 calories for every half hour you exercise at high intensity. After your workout, refuel with fluids, protein, and carbohydrates. Skip the energy bars – most of them are high in calories anyway.

Now that you have a better understanding of the most common fitness don’ts, you’ve gained valuable insight into your own exercise habits and fitness faux pas. If you have any questions about this article, please contact us today for additional information.