FYI: Not all workouts should be on your to-do list.
Yep, you heard that right: Not all workouts should secure a spot on your daily schedule. While movement in general is something all humans need to, you know, stay alive, the way at which we go about incorporating that movement into our daily lives (or even the type of movement we do) can sometimes be counterproductive.
Here, top trainers came out in droves to sound off on the workouts, mindsets, or exercise challenges that everyone just needs to say goodbye to.
1. Working out just to burn calories.
We’ve all done it: Glanced down at the calorie counter on the elliptical or your Apple watch; but Danielle Cote, director of training operations at PureBarre, suggests everyone step away from the mindset of working out to just burn calories in 2020. That’s because, while working out can aid in weight loss, it’s not the only reason to break a sweat. “It’s important to consider all of the other mental and physical benefits as well,” she says.
To shift your mindset, Cote suggests thinking of it this way: “Instead of burning off dinner and drinks, consider [working out] as taking personal time to clear your mind,” she says. Cote also believes that fitness professionals (like your own trainer or class instructor) need to live by this rule too. “As fitness professionals, we want to be mindful of the various reasons as to why a client may come to our studios, and also avoid saying anything that could have a negative impact on someone.”
2. Copying celeb Instagram workouts.
Ah yes, 2019 was definitely the year of J.Lo’s abs—and her (and fiancé A-Rod’s) Instagram feeds were full of their super-intense partner workouts. But um, copying those moves isn’t necessarily a great idea, says Kate Ligler, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, and MINDBODY Wellness Specialist. Why? “These clips often display a ‘highlight reel’ from the gym, which then the masses believe is the type of training they need,” she says.
In reality, though, J.Lo’s workout (or the workouts of any other celebs, professional athletes, or even Instagram fitness influencers) only really benefits the person who has already spent hours perfecting that craft. That “highlight reel” is also just “a fraction of the actual work that [those people] do at the gym,” she says.
Your goal for 2020, if you truly want to add some J.Lo-inspired pizzazz to your exercise routine? “Get really good at the basics [aka, the boring stuff] before you start to add glitter to your routine,” says Ligler.
3. Doing single exercise “challenges”.
Think: A 30-day plank challenge, or a month-long squat challenge—basically, just doing one movement for a set amount of time in hopes of redefining your body. Unfortunately, though, there’s no such thing as a quick fix, says Ligler.
To be clear, Ligler says these challenges aren’t all bad. “These challenges are wonderful kickstarts to help build proficiency in a movement, re-establish a movement routine, or motivate your office to sit less at work,” but you can’t spot-tone or reduce body parts with a single exercise. “If six-pack abs or a Kardashian booty are your goal, a plank or squat challenge won’t bridge that gap without a complete revamp of your movement and nutrition regimen,” says Ligler.
4. Thinking that lifting will make you “bulky.”
Strength training is an important part of any exercise routine—not only does it make you stronger, but it provides a slew of other health benefits like bone protection, stress relief, and even a metabolism boost. But, despite a ton of physical and emotional positives, weight lifting still gets a bad rap, says Angela Gargano, CPT, a trainer at Performix House—primarily that it will make you “bulky” and “bigger.”
However, that’s just not the case. “Enough with this; lifting does not make you bulky,” she says. In fact, you have to make way more dietary and exercise changes than just strength training to add bulk. Instead, “lifting weights is going to tone up your body” and make you stronger, she says—so focus on that.
5. Going hard for every workout—and never taking a day off.
Say it with me now: Take a damn rest day. “No rest or recovery is the quickest route to injury,” says Rebecca Kennedy, Peloton Tread master trainer. “Your body needs recovery and rest as much as it needs exercise and movement.”
Not only that, but you may also hinder your goals if you overtrain. “You see the results of the effort you put in when you recover,” she says. “The rebuilding and repair of muscle tissue is done during rest especially when accompanied by proper nutrition, hydration and sleep.
To that end, training too hard each time you train—like, if you solely do high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercises—can also do more harm than good. “HIIT workouts are great because they’re effective and efficient, however, they shouldn’t be done every time you work out, or more than two to three times per week,” she says.
Instead, she suggests switching things up a bit more and combining your fave HIIT workouts with lower-intensity exercises like yoga, cycling, or strength training to get the most out of your exercise routine.
6. Believing workouts will “lengthen” your muscles.
Fun fact: Your muscles are as long as they’ll ever be. “You can’t change where your muscles begin and end—these are anatomically [set],” says Kennedy; so it’s wise to be skeptical of any workout that promises to elongate those muscles.
That’s not to say you should shun any workout that says it will lengthen your muscles—you just need to go into them a little more realistically. It’s more likely that a workout that claims to “lengthen” your muscles is more focused on flexibility, says Kennedy. “When you stretch your muscles, you increase your flexibility,” she says. “But you do not do so through increasing the length of the muscles, you do so through decreasing your brain’s threat response (the brain allows the muscle to stretch further).” The more you know!
7. Doing “one-size-fits-all” workouts.
It’s truly great when you finally find a workout that you love, that works for you—but only focusing on one specific workout isn’t the best fitness strategy. “Doing one type of workout multiple days a week is better than not moving, but misses out on a complete approach to your overall health and wellness,” says Kennedy.
The same goes for doing a workout just because your friend does it, or because it looks cool. The truth is, everybody and every body is different, so what works for someone else may not also work for you—and that’s totally OK.
8. Using a waist trainer to slim your core.
These corset-type contraptions have become ubiquitous in the weight-loss community, but they’re useless at best, and dangerous at worst. “At most, the wearer might lose a little water weight by sweating more while wearing it, but they won’t burn fat,” says Nat Straub, trainer and head of product development at Solidcore.
In fact, “wearing a brace or trainer for long periods of time will actually weaken your core because your muscles are not being trained to support your body,” she says. The good news? Your body actually has its own built-in corset (your transverse abdominis layer, the deepest abdominal muscles that work to keep your organs in place). “Good ol’ fashioned hard work training your abdominals is the only way to cinch the waist and gain strength,” she says.
9. Pairing exercise with booze.
Okay, let’s say you just ran a marathon and want to congratulate yourself with a beer—go for it! You deserve it. But actually drinking alcohol while working out (à la beer miles or wine yoga) isn’t the best idea for your training—or, uh, your body.
“Is the intention to work out or party?” asks Triana Brown, ACE-CPT, regional training manager at Solidcore. See, alcohol is a dehydrator—and so is working out. “When you’re doing both, you’re heightening the problem which will decrease your workout performance,” she says.
10. Taking heated cardio classes.
Let’s be real: Exercising in the heat can be miserable—and adding heat to intense exercise is unnecessary and dangerous, says Erin Seaboyer, senior training manager at Solidcore. And while many believe more sweat equals a harder workout that’s not necessarily the case. “Sweating is your body’s way of cooling down, [it’s] not an accurate indicator of intensity,” she says.
So, while these heated workouts (HIIT, spin classes, etc.) may make you think you’re working harder, the heat may actually be decreasing your ability to “maintain your intensity threshold, and puts you in danger of dehydrating and passing out,” says Seaboyer.
Something to note, however: Seaboyer isn’t talking about heated yoga here. “The heat helps keep muscles warm as you’re moving slower and can improve flexibility.” But honestly, if any type of heated class makes you feel physically or mentally miserable, just skip it.
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