Exercise is critical for maintaining good health, but how you exercise is also important. Halfheartedly trotting along on the treadmill while checking Facebook on your mobile device may look like exercise and feel like exercise, but chances are, if your head's not fully in the game, you're not going to reap the benefits you should. Here are some of the biggest mistakes women make when they're working out.
- Using puny weights. Resistance training speeds up your metabolism so that you burn fat more efficiently, and it helps prevent bone loss and improve bone density. But the fear of developing manly pythons prevents many women from stepping up their strength training regimen. Take heart: Unless you're taking steroids, you'll have a hard time getting tickets to the gun show, since women's bodies simply don't produce the amount of testosterone required for that kind of bulk. So, don't be afraid to hit 'em hard! As long as you're cleared by your physician to push the limit, you can — and should — increase the intensity of your weightlifting as you build strength. If you can do more than 15 reps, you’re probably ready for heavier weights.
- Relying on monotonous cardiovascular exercises. Cardio burns calories, yes, but your step aerobics or cycling class shouldn't be the extent of your workout. That's because as your body becomes acclimated to a specific workout, the benefits begin to wane. Some cardio is important for cardiovascular health, but switching it up with strength training, biking, swimming, and other types of workouts will keep your metabolism humming, your muscles toned and healthy, and target every part of your body for excellent overall good health and fitness.
- Zoning out into super speed. If you are exercising properly, there's always something to concentrate on, whether it's your breathing, pace, balance, the contraction of your muscles or other elements such as your heart rate. And if your head isn't in the game, the workout won't have the ultimate impact it should. Staying focused on the mind-body connection and putting forth greater effort in your workouts will lead more quickly to the benefits you're hoping to glean from shaking your booty. So make your workouts as much about focus, or being in the moment, as physical activity.
- Trying to be a lady. Holding back in the gym because you don't want to grunt or sweat too profusely kind of defeats the purpose of working out. The gym is the one place in the world where it's perfectly okay to leave off the makeup, sweat up a stinky storm, and grunt and groan your way through reps. Limiting the intensity of your workout so that you'll be ladylike is a surefire way to limit the benefits of your workout. So, feel free to go all-out G.I. Jane at the gym, even if that means hollering like a banshee through your last rep or pointing your derriere full out to the wall to do your squats.
- Not responding to body cues. Women are our own worst critic, and when it comes to exercise and weight, we can be ridiculously hard on ourselves and let what others are doing dictate what we do. So, what if the woman next to you is twice your age and lifting twice as much as you are? What if your treadmill pace is slower than your neighbor's? Making comparisons like this only serves to reduce the effectiveness — and enjoyment — of your workout and your confidence. When you're at the gym, your focus should be only on your own body, your own level of fitness, and your own physical limitations or abilities. Go in with specific goals for you, and pay attention to cues like sweating, heart rate, and breathing to reach and maintain the intensity that's right for you.
So, hit the floor!