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8 Well-Meaning Workout Strategies That Backfire

Working Out at the Crack of Dawn

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Strategy: Setting your alarm for 5:00 a.m. to fit in a gym session before work.

How it can backfire: A morning workout can be a good idea if it's your only option, but if you're skimping on sleep in order to sweat, you may be stalling your progress. Not getting enough sleep can stall weight loss and lead to everything from fatigue to type 2 diabetes in the long run. Not to mention, you may not have the same amount of energy in the wee hours of the morning.

Solution: If your jam-packed day just won’t allow you to hit the hay earlier, you may need to let go of the ‘all or nothing’ mentality when it comes to your workouts. If you like starting your day off with some exercise, wake up just 15 minutes earlier and do a short 10-minute workout in the morning, and then fit in two more 10-minute bouts of exercise at other intervals in your day. Studies show this strategy can be even more effective than one continuous sweat session, and you’ll be more likely to get a full night’s sleep, which is vital to your health and losing weight.

Focusing on One Area of Your Body

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Strategy: Your workout regimen consists of running and doing hundreds of crunches every day in an effort to burn belly fat.

How it can backfire: Only training one area of your body sets you up for failure in several ways. First, you can’t spot reduce (heard that before?), so only working one "problem area" isn’t going to eliminate fat in that specific spot. Second, overdeveloping one muscle and neglecting everything else creates imbalances in your body that can increase your risk of pain and injury. It's also not an efficient way to lower your body fat, which is really what is will reduce that "problem area."

Solution: The best way to target one area is to work it in conjunction with the rest of your body, using a balanced plan that includes a cardio, strength, and flexibility component. You can work on developing lean muscle mass in one area of your body. For example, if you want to reduce arm flab, feel free to target your upper body in your routine, just be sure to also include moves for the rest of your body.

Trying All the Latest Fitness Trends

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Strategy: You know mixing up your workouts is a good way to challenge your body and bust out of a workout rut, so you try any and every form of exercise you ever hear or read about.

How it can backfire: After reading about celebs who swear by Barre workouts to tighten and tone their butts, you decide to join a Barre studio. The next week, your best friend raves about CrossFit so you cancel your Barre membership and train with her. Then you hear about this amazing cycling studio, and so on. While mixing up your routine is generally a good thing, if you simply "taste" everything that comes your way and never stick with anything long enough to improve, you’ll never have the chance to reap the benefits.

Solution: You can stick with a workout plan that incorporates several different exercise styles, but be consistent with it for at least four to six weeks. If you want to try Barre workouts, do them once or twice a week, alternating days with other workouts you enjoy such as jogging, yoga, or lifting weights.

Sticking to One Workout Routine

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Strategy: You’ve fallen in love with yoga, and now it’s the only form of exercise you’ll do.

How it can backfire: Finding a workout that you love is a fantastic way to stay motivated and make progress. However, you might be missing out by doing only one style of training. Top athletes often do other activities or exercises in addition to practicing their sport to help improve their performance—and you should too.

Solution: Keep doing what you love, but try to supplement it with other activities that may help boost your results and overall fitness level. If you're a devoted yogi, adding some water exercise to your routine will challenge your core muscles in a totally new way, helping to improve your balance and alignment on the mat.

Following the 'No Pain, No Gain' Methodology

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Strategy: If you aren’t drenched in sweat, blood, or tears by the end of your workout, you don’t consider it a successful session. Your motto is “go hard or go home” each and every time you train.

How it can backfire: A recent study found that exercise can be enjoyable and offer the same benefits (if not more) when you don’t beat yourself up during your workouts. The research, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that people who exercised three days a week at a "somewhat hard" intensity (that they actually found enjoyable) improved their aerobic capacity (something which has also been linked to improvements in BMI and blood pressure) by as much as 17 percent. Too much intensity all the time may make you feel worse after you exercise, not better, which isn’t a long-term strategy for success. Plus, continuously pushing your body to its limits can be stressful on your system, making you more susceptible to injury, illness, and overtraining.

Solution: Balance is key. Keep some high-intensity workouts in your rotation, just don’t let that be the only type of training you do. Alternate days of harder sessions (like CrossFit) with a softer routine (like a yoga class) the next.

Over (or Under) Estimating Yourself

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Strategy: You lift too much (or not enough) weight, do intense, athletic plyometrics (or avoid jumping altogether), or you throw yourself into crow pose (or are afraid to even try a headstand). We get it; you like to be the best—at everything.

How it can backfire: Challenging yourself with too much, too fast is a recipe for injury, and not challenging yourself enough can keep you from seeing results.

Solution: Ask for guidance. If you always feel injured or worn out after a workout (or never challenged at all), you may benefit from one-on-one advice and exercise customization from a trainer or instructor. If you're unsure about your current fitness level, meet with a professional who can easily help you construct a program that is appropriate for your goals, levels, and preferences. You’ll be more likely to stick with it, may prevent future injury, and see better results faster (and in the long run).

Hitting the Gym Twice a Day... Every Day

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Strategy: Bikini season is right around the corner, so you're doubling up on your daily workout routine.

How it can backfire: When it comes to exercise, more is not necessarily better. You need to have the energy to put your focus and attention into every second of your sweat session, and if you can keep going for two hours, you're probably not getting everything out of your workout that you should be. Believe it or not, with the right workout plan, you can do everything you need to do in as little as 10 minutes. Plus, clocking in extra time at the gym may make you more likely to succumb to the “I burned it, I earned it” mentality, which tends to have you overestimating the amount of calories you burned off and underestimating how many you're eating.

Solution: It's time to change it up! Spinning in the morning and then heading back for another class in the evening is not the best way to fit into your skinny jeans. To really change your body, try adding some strength and interval training to your routine. And remember: No matter how awesome your exercise routine is, good nutrition is a huge part of the equation. For best results, be sure to pair your workouts with a healthy diet.

You Work Out with a Buddy

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Strategy: You exercise with a friend that helps hold you accountable and make you more likely to show up.

How it can backfire: While your gym buddy may help you show up for your workout, exercising with a friend who likes to gossip more than she likes to hit the weights, run the laps, or do the work, might not do you much good.

Solution: If you know you do better with company, search for a workout partner with like minded goals and a training focus that matches (or even exceeds) yours. You’ll be inspired to stay on track and on task during your workouts.


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