Summer’s here, which means it’s time to get serious about your fitness routine. Whether you’ve signed up for a 5K race, decided to try out yoga or you’re just looking to get back on track with your health, it’s easy to fall into destructive habits that can take away from your hard work and keep you from getting the results you want. Luckily, we’ve talked to fitness and nutrition experts alike and pinpointed these common fitness pitfalls as well as what you can do to prevent them.
1. You have a bad diet
You may have heard the saying before—“abs are made in the kitchen.” While the work that you’re putting in at the gym is important, it can all go to waste quickly if you’re not giving your body the fuel it needs to recover. Protein-rich foods and drinks such as yogurt, chocolate milk and bananas make great recovery snacks post-workout. However, as a collegiette it can be hard to bring these healthy foods into your diet when you’re on the go.
“Late-night pizza, dining hall food, drinking alcohol and not exercising are all factors that can contribute to weight gain in college,” says nutritionist and health expert Justine SanFilippo, who stresses the importance of eating healthy and exercising throughout your college years. “Try to only eat treats in moderation, and keep an overall healthy diet. Not only will this maintain your figure and improve your fitness, but it’ll help you do well in classes and prevent health issues in the future.”
However, eating healthier does not mean eating less. “A bad habit I always see amongst young women is skipping breakfast,” says Melanie Ludwig, a personal trainer and health expert. “Breakfast is so important because it kick starts your metabolism and gives you energy for the day, as well as any exercise you may be doing.”
While it may be tempting to reward yourself with a cookie or two after a hard workout, skip the empty calories and opt for a granola or protein bar instead. “I suggest healthy snacks before and after a workout such as a banana or energy bar,” says Ludwig. Your body will thank you!
2. You’re not getting enough sleep
Between going to class, working, attempting to maintain a social life and everything that comes in between, it’s nearly impossible to get the recommended eight hours of sleep each night as a collegiette. However, hitting the gym and then skipping out on sleep can take a major toll on your body over time.
“Most people require seven to eight hours of sleep a night which can be challenging in college,” says Ludwig. “If your body and mind are not rested, it is hard to have the energy to focus on a good workout. Not to mention, fatigue is also a risk factor for injury as you can lose your balance or trip and get hurt.”
Whether it means sneaking in a power nap after a run or setting a strict bedtime for yourself, do whatever it takes to make sure you’re getting the necessary ZZZs. If you don’t give your body the time to recover, you can’t expect results in return.
3. You’re doing the same workout every time
While it’s easy to fall in love with your favorite running trail or group yoga class, it’s important that you make time for a variety of workouts in your schedule. By doing the same workout every day, your body learns to adapt to the physical stress and over time will benefit less and less—to the point where doing the workout isn’t doing anything for you anymore.
“Doing the same workout every day is a recipe for staleness,” says Ludwig. “I tell my busiest clients to try and move their bodies most days of the week. Strength training is crucial so I recommend focusing on big muscle groups such as your upper body, core, and lower body two to three times a week. Exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, lunges and squats combine many of these muscle groups so you can do more work in less time.”
To avoid getting stuck in a routine, try working out with your friends or family members. Everyone’s preferences are different, and they may be able to introduce you to a new sport or gym routine that will surprise you. Or, sign up for classes you’ve never tried before; the new exercise will push your limits, and you’ll be able to do so in a guided environment. Being willing to step outside of your comfort zone is the key to getting results!
4. You’re only working one part of your body
You may have heard of spot reduction before, or the idea that you can focus on one part of your body that you where you want to lose weight or strengthen muscles. While the concept sounds ideal in theory, putting so much extra stress on one part of your body can lead to injury in the future. Plus, most spot reduction workouts are just myths.
“Don’t believe everything you see and read when it comes to exercise,” says Ludwig. Exercise is a science that is always evolving. You were born with certain genetics, and you can shape your body to the best of your genes. However, spot reducing or other “magic pill” exercises just aren’t realistic.
“Along with spot reduction, many young women are also under the impression that lifting weights will make you bulk up, but this isn’t true,” says SanFillippo. “Lifting weights can give you that toned look that many women want. It’s best to lift weights first, and then follow it with a cardio routine, because this helps your body burn more fat.”
Instead of buying into “fad” workouts like spot reduction, Ludwig recommends setting realistic goals with the SMART goal setting system. “SMART goals are specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, and timely,” she says. “If you miss a workout, cut yourself some slack. Always pick yourself up and keep your eye on your goals. Make your body a well-tuned machine, and your mind will also benefit.”
Regardless of your workout, make sure you’re paying attention to each part of your body. Lifting weights and using weight machines at the gym is a great way to make sure you’re targeting your lower half, abs, and upper half equally.
Don’t let your precious hours at the gym go to waste! If you’ve been working out regularly for several weeks or months and have yet to see results, take time to evaluate your own fitness routine and look for these common pitfalls that you may be falling into. Knowing your body, paying attention to nutrition as well as exercise and being willing to step outside of your comfort zone are all keys to success when it comes to achieving your goals and getting those results—just in time for summer. Best of luck, collegiettes!