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The Five Most Common Exercise Mistakes

Exercise, in some form or another, should be a part of our day-to-day lives. But, with so many apps and internet programmes available, we don’t always seek out professional guidance or advice and that’s when mistakes can happen.
Don't try this at home.
Don't try this at home.

Exercise, in some form or another, should be a part of our day-to-day lives. But, with so many apps and internet programmes available, we don't always seek out professional guidance or advice and that's when mistakes can happen.

Personal trainer Leanne Hall says that we all make exercise mistakes from time to time, but most of these mistakes are easily corrected.

"The most common reason that people make mistakes is because they have a lack of exercise knowledge, are overloading their muscles, or have unrealistic goals," she said.

She also believes that the explosion of exercise apps has something to answer for.

"These apps can make people feel that they know what they're doing, so they become overconfident which can contribute to incorrect technique and injury," she said.

So what are the most common exercise mistakes and why is it important that we avoid them?

Incorrect technique

Doing an exercise incorrectly is dangerous for a number of reasons, least of all because it can lead to injury, both acute and chronic.

"It's easy to do joint and soft tissue damage, and this can lead to both short-term and long-term problems," Hall said.

She adds that incorrect technique can also mean that you're working at a speed or strength that's not right for you.

"In my experience, the most common exercises that people get wrong are the compound exercises such as squats, lunges and deadlifts," she said.

In order to avoid this mistake, Hall recommends seeking advice or support from a professional or, alternatively, training with someone who knows what they're doing. Once you know the technique, working out in front of a mirror is helpful to ensure you're on form.

Not stretching -- before and after

"Dynamic stretching before exercise helps to prepare the muscles and joints for the load you're about to put on them," Hall said.

On the flipside, Hall said that after exercise static stretching helps reduces muscle soreness.

"If you don't perform before-and-after-exercise stretching, you run the risk of acute injury and delayed onset muscle soreness, which can impact on your future workouts," she said.

To avoid this risk, Hall suggests stretching every time you exercise.

"Give it a go and see if it makes a difference," she said.

Unrealistic expectations

"There are a lot of people who fall into the trap of expecting too much too soon, or expecting to achieve the same results as someone who's been training much longer than them," Hall said.

To avoid this, she recommends looking after your body first by thinking about goals that are smart and not likely to lead to injury.

"If your goal is to lose weight, then work towards a 0.5-1kg loss per week," she said.

"If your goal is to get fitter, then increase the intensity of your workouts by no more than 10 percent per week. But if your goal is to bulk up, aim for smaller increments in weight, try varying workout intensities and ensure you're eating enough protein."

It's really important to understand how your diet may be affecting your workout regime, and balancing the right levels of macronutrients for your goals may help to keep you on track.

Hall said that the key is to work with your body, get professional advice and make slow and steady progress, as opposed to trying to achieve sudden gains.

"Unrealistic expectations can not only lead to injury and sickness, but also disappointment, anxiety and even depression," she said.

Ignoring an injury

"If an injury is ignored, it can lead to chronic inflammation, meaning that recovery will take much longer," Hall said.

It can also have a psychological impact because frustration at an inability to achieve the same results can often result in depression.

"To ensure an injury doesn't turn into something much worse requiring prolonged treatment and recovery, see a health professional as soon as possible," Hall said.

She also said "beware of Dr Google!"

Not taking rest days

"Not taking rest days makes you more susceptible to illness because your immune system is depleted due to prolonged elevated cortisol," Hall said.

She said that not resting can also lead to low energy, fatigue and depression.

"How many rest days someone needs is dependent on their current fitness, ability and goals," Hall said. "But everyone should take at least one day off a week, and training should vary in intensity with a mix of yoga, pilates and HIIT."

If you're not taking a rest day, Hall said you need to ask yourself why, think about what your goals are and re-evaluate if they're realistic or not. She also said you must consider if you're driven by guilt avoidance.

"If so, start by having a "recovery" day where you do something nurturing and gentle, as opposed to doing "nothing," she said.

"Take time to tune in and listen to what your body is telling you."

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