January is officially over and already I've seen a huge decrease in the number of people at the gym. Two weekends ago it was PACKED, I couldn’t even get on a cardio machine, last weekend I was the only (read single person) in the gym on a Sunday morning. Considering how many people live in the condos that share our gym, this is pretty sad. This is exactly is why I’m not a fan of resolutions. They are unsustainable and it really angers me to see so many people give up within the first few week; you really need to find the motivation within to stick with it and find a plan that works for you, don’t give up! As people finally started trickling into the gym as I was cooling down, I noticed a couple who clearly fit the New Year’s resolutions stereotype with brand new runners and gym clothes, a beach towel each, two big bottles of Gatorade and enough sweatbands to last them a least 3 hot yoga classes. While I applaud them for making this commitment to a healthier lifestyle together, I couldn’t help but notice the several rookie gym mistakes they made. I have outlined these common mistakes below and I really encourage people who are new to working out to find a good personal trainer and learn to be more efficient, safe and be accountable in their workouts.
1. Static stretching before working out- this couple walked up to the treadmills and preceded to do the typical quad and back stretch before hopping on the treadmills. Numerous studies have shown that static (ie. Standing still) stretching makes exercise performance worse and reduces gains in muscle strength if performed before workouts. Instead, a light warm up of 5 minutes of cycling, walking and dynamic stretching performed properly is way more effective. Save static stretching and a proper cool down for after.
2. Cardio before strength training- I was first introduced to this topic in my strength and conditioning course in undergrad where the professor was adament that we perform strength before cardio training because cardio is the only thing that should be performed in the fatigued state. This allows for the biggest strength gains, and ensures precise, not floppy form due to tired muscles. I personally like to alternate strength days with cardio days, allowing my muscles to rest and alternate different muscle groups to avoid over training and injuries.
3. Thinking you will burn more calories in the ‘fat-burning’ zone on the treadmill- the girl on the treadmill was clearly working out in the fat-burning zone, and was barely breaking a sweat at a brisk walking pace. At lower intensity aeoribc exercise, your body prefers to burn stored fat over carbohydrates because our fat stores are, in theory, virtually endless and we can sustain this pace for long periods of time. At higher intensities (sprinting, all out running) our body converts to using carbohydrates for a quicker release of energy. Even though you are burning more fat at lower intensities, the total amount of calories burned during the workout will still be way less. Therefore it’s better to do interval training on the treadmill for a greater caloric burn during and after the workout.
4. Choosing Gatorade over plain water- CBC just put out a great documentary on this topic and I definitely recommend watching on the link below. Most people don’t workout hard or long enough to need the electrolytes and carbohydrates that sports drink supply in order to maintain their performance. Especialy if you goal is weight loss, these drinks can be extremely counter productive and you can end up drinking the same amount of calories you just burned. A lot of sports drinks are the same thing, a bunch of glucose-fructose (sugar sugar sugar) and some sodium and potassium. You’re way better eating potassium rich foods, ensuring adequate fluid intake of plain water before, during and after workouts and if you must, use a sugar free electrolyte like Ultima if training for over 60 minutes and in hot and humid environments.