Are you exercising right?

By Reema Sarin COLUMNIST Are you exercising regularly, yet not seeing the results you want? Or getting sidelined by pulled muscles and other injuries? Feeling tempted to drop out...

By Reema Sarin

Are you exercising regularly, yet not seeing the results you want? Or getting sidelined by pulled muscles and other injuries? Feeling tempted to drop out because you’re so bored?
Don’t give up your fitness program just yet. Maybe the problem isn’t the exercise itself but the way you’re exercising.
Doing the ‘Gym slouch’ – We see many people in the gym leaning on equipment. We call it ‘gym slouch': They’re on the Stairmaster, elliptical cross trainer, or treadmill, leaning over, and hanging on for dear life. When your back is rounded, your spine doesn’t get enough support. So stand erect when you’re working out on one of these machines.

Getting a grip: Holding on too tightly to the cardio equipment lets you ‘cheat’ and keeps you from moving your arms, which is essential to boost your heart rate and burn extra calories. Instead of gripping, just rest your fingers, from your index finger to the pinkie, on the bars. As you get more comfortable, drop a finger. Eventually, you may have just the index fingers resting there for security.

Resistance training for ‘Fat burn’: Many people think they need only a cardiovascular exercise program. We begin losing muscle at age 30.Strength training builds muscles, which increases metabolism and burns fat as well as calories.

Strength-Training Slipups: Doing weight-lifting repetitions too fast raises your blood pressure and increases your risk for joint injury. It also compromises your results. The safest way to use strength machines or dumbbells is: in lifting phase, exhale for two counts and hold briefly at the top of the contraction, then return as you inhale for four counts. Always exhale during the hardest part of the work.

Are you doing your Ab crunches right? Many people do crunches or abdominal machine workouts without ever toning their abdomens. The problem is that they’re using the upper torso, neck, and head to do the work. The contraction should be from the ribcage to the hip bone. Put your mind into the muscles that are working, and keep all the other muscles quiet.

Doing lackluster lat pull-downs. On this machine, you’re seated with a bar overhead. Some people stick their heads forward and pull the bar down behind their heads. But doing it this way could injure your spine or neck — and your back won’t get that coveted “V” look. Instead, pull the bar down in front of your shoulders and chest.

Using maladjusted machines: Weight machines are made for people of all shapes and sizes. You must adjust them to fit if you want to get results and avoid injury.
For example, using an improperly set leg-extension machine puts stress on your knees. Another problem with improperly adjusted machines is that you don’t work your muscles through the full range of motion. Have a qualified trainer show you the proper settings for your physique, and write them down on a card that you carry to the gym.
Skipping the warm-up: Without a warm-up, you’re asking your body to work before the oxygen and blood flow reach the muscles. You increase the risk for injury, and with cardiovascular exercise, you raise the heart rate too fast. Before you exercise in earnest, spend 5-10 minutes going through the motions of your workout at an easy pace to raise your body temperature from the inside out. If you don’t warm up before lifting weights, meanwhile, you risk torn muscles and won’t be able to lift as much weight. Get your blood flowing by spending a few minutes on the treadmill or exercise bike, or even walking in place.

Stretching vs. Bouncing: Bouncing during a stretch can increase your risk of straining or pulling muscles. Hold a static stretch with no movement at the joints. Your body should feel lengthened but not to the point of pain.
Skipping the ‘Cool-down’: Don’t come to sudden stop at the end of your workout. If you don’t cool down, you risk muscle soreness because you haven’t flushed the lactic acid out of your system. It takes five to 10 minutes at a slower pace, depending on your fitness level, to let your heart rate come down.
Being a weekend warrior: If you’re only exercising two days a week, you’ll never get where you want to be, and you’ll feel awful every Monday. It leads to injury and burnout, and you’re missing the secret to success: showing up.

Skipping on water: Muscles need fluid to contract properly, so if you don’t drink enough, you can get muscle spasms or aches. If you’re thirsty, you’re already a percent dehydrated. Drink water before, during, and after exercise.

Seeking a quick fix! Many people expect dramatic results from a little exercise. Recommendations are for 3 1/2 to 4 hours of physical activity a week just to prevent weight regain. If you want to lose weight and you’re walking 30 minutes, three times a week, without changing your diet, it will take roughly one month to lose a pound. Want to lose weight faster? Exercise more.

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