7 Bad Exercise Habits to Break Right Now
If you’re not reaching your goals, experts say these obstacles could be to blame.
Wondering why you can’t *quite* hit that race PR you’ve been after (for a long time now) or sick of not seeing the results you’d like from that new strength training regime you started? It may not have anything to do with your weekly milages or how many reps you're cranking out, but rather some bad exercise habits you might not even realize you’re guilty of doing. (BTW, here are 15 bad gym habits we all need to quit.)
Curious what behaviors you should change up? Here are some of the bad exercise habits likely standing in the way of your results. (Related: The Best Way to Successfully Quit a Bad Habit for Good)
Bad Exercise Habit #1: You Play the Blame Game
Here’s something interesting to know: Children who have active parents tend to be more active themselves, says Bernard Fuemmeler, Ph.D., associate director of cancer prevention and control at Virginia Commonwealth University. And while that’s *good news* if your parents were marathon runners, if your parents weren’t super fit, it’s still on you to find a way to enjoy fitness (read: no excuses!). To get started, figure out your current activity levels first, says Fuemmeler. A smartwatch (these ones totally rival the Apple Watch) can help. "Find your baseline, and from there you can start to challenge yourself gradually.” Just don't go nuts or cram a week's worth of exercise into a day or two either—that could lead to injury. Instead, work regular exercise into your weekly routine. (Related: How I'm Using My Love of Fitness to Teach My Kid to Enjoy Exercise)
Bad Exercise Habit #2: You Have Poor Form
Whether from a lack of proper guidance, not asking for advice, or being new to the gym, many people don't realize the importance of good form when exercising (but it’s super important to master, especially with moves like squats and lunges). Exercising with poor form can be dangerous to your joints and muscles, and even minimize the effect of your workout. Make sure you learn the right form from a certified instructor or expert from the get-go. Bad exercise habits can be difficult to get rid of later in the game.
Bad Exercise Habit #3: You Often Exercise On an Empty Stomach
While there’s a debate about whether or not you should work out without eating beforehand, it’s usually a good idea to fuel your body before you start exercising. And while fasted cardio, for example—doing cardio on an empty stomach in the morning—can be both good and bad for your body, it's not the most sustainable thing, explains Jay Cardiello, a fitness expert and ISSA, and NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. (Related: Should You Be Doing Fasted Cardio?)
He suggests getting in your glucose before starting your workout (these are the best breakfasts to eat before every kind of workout). That's because when your blood sugar is too low, your body extracts glycogen from the muscle tissues once it runs out. What does that mean, exactly? You start losing muscle instead of building it. Yikes. Not to mention low blood sugar can also cause dizziness and weakness during training, so eat a banana or berries before working out to skip those negative side effects. (Related: Here’s Why Carbs Are Actually So Important for Your Workout)
Bad Exercise Habit #4: You Live By Cardio
Cardio can burn a lot of calories, yes, but overdoing it can minimize strength, cause muscle atrophy, and even lead to fat-loss plateaus. If you're on a strict diet plan and combine it with an overdose of cardio? It can take even more of a toll on your muscles. To maintain strength, Karina Baymiller, a USA powerlifting club coach and founder of Knox Strength & Performance suggests a few 15-minute HIIT or conditioning sessions a week. (This workout combines HIIT and strength training so you won’t have to choose.)
Bad Exercise Habit #5: You’re Always Starving Even Though You Eat Enough
You need to eat after working out, and you need to eat right. Otherwise, “your body breaks down muscles into amino acids to convert into glucose,” says John Ivy, Ph.D., chair emeritus of kinesiology at the University of Texas at Austin. Translation: Your body will essentially start sabotaging itself. Avoid eating refined or processed foods, and aim to have a good mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. (Related: What to Eat Before and After Your Workout)
Bad Exercise Habit #6: You’re Not Getting Enough Protein
Protein is essential to help your body recover from training and helps repair sore muscles. A protein-rich diet helps to increase the fat metabolism in your body since you burn more calories while digesting and protein takes longer to break down. Science backs it up: The body burns up to 30 percent of the calories consumed from protein during the digestion process, according to research reviewed by Precision Nutrition, so load up in every meal—even breakfast. (Related: 14 Post-Workout Snacks Trainers and Dietitians Swear By)
Bad Exercise Habit #7: You Don’t Sleep Enough
Adequate sleep allows your muscles to recover. Without it, you can't exercise at full intensity and muscles feel sore from yesterday's gym sesh because they couldn't repair themselves. (After all, some experts believe that sleep is the most important thing for a better body.) Not to mention sleep helps mitigate stress, which in turn reduces cortisol levels that are responsible for balancing hormones such as testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH). All that's to say that you should aim to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.