It's always a little awkward to know where to look or what to do during your rest intervals. After all, you can only stare at the floor, your shoes and the back wall so many times until your phone seems ever so tempting.
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And while scrolling through social media, drinking a peanut butter shake or stretching between sets may all seem like good ideas in the moment, these are just a few mistakes you'll want to avoid during your workout. Read on to learn which common habits may be slowing your progress at the gym.
Although your rest intervals between sets may seem like ample time to shoot a text to a friend, check a work e-mail or scroll through Instagram, this mistake can turn a 30 or 45-second recovery into 3 minutes, ultimately lowering your heart rate and minimizing your workout intensity, says April Whitney, certified personal trainer.
"Over time, this can negatively affect your fitness levels and work capacity, the number of calories burned during a session, or simply make it harder to achieve your goals," Whitney says.
If you find you just can't resist the siren song of your smartphone, Whitney offers this tip: "Instead of trying to limit your phone use, immediately set a timer for your rest period after finishing a set. That way, if you do end up scrolling on social media, you'll be interrupted and can get back to your workout."
2. Drink a High-Fat Shake
Bringing a shake to your workout isn't a bad idea, per se, especially if you don't have time to eat before your training session. In fact, a workout shake may be just what you need to boost your blood sugar and give your body some extra energy.
But the type of drink you choose can make a huge difference, Whitney says. Prioritize a mixture that's higher in carbohydrates and protein, rather than fats like coconut oil, nut butter, avocado or hydrogenated fats and oils.
"While fats are an important part of your diet, consuming them during a workout will slow your digestion and cause discomfort as you exercise," Whitney says. "Carbohydrates, on the other hand, will provide you with the fast energy you need to fuel your workout."
3. Hold Stretches During Rest Intervals
Stretching during rest intervals is a good way to keep the body warm and moving throughout your workout. And while you need both static stretches (where you hold for longer time) and dynamic stretching (controlled movements that prep the muscles), there's a time and place for each.
Static stretching is best reserved for your post-workout cooldown, Whitney says. Holding long stretches before training can thwart your workout performance, according to an April 2013 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. After having athletes statically stretch before lifting weights, researchers found that it negatively affected their power output.
Likewise, you'll want to avoid static stretches during your workout, too. If you want to keep the body from cooling down during your rest intervals, try some dynamic stretches instead, Whitney says. A few lateral lunges or hip circles between squat sets should do the trick.
4. Rush Through Your Reps
We can't always devote hours and hours to our workouts, but that doesn't mean you should try to squeeze an hour-long session into 20 minutes. The last thing you want to do is rush from move to move and leave the gym feeling stiff, achy or worse, injured.
If you're short on time, it's wiser to prioritize fewer exercise with proper form, rather than rushing through an entire workout, Whitney says.
"Rushing can lead to preventable injury due to improper form, not being warmed up or your nervous system not having enough time to recover between sets," she says. "Instead, do less with better form and mind-muscle connection."
Short on Time?
There are plenty of quick, 20-minute workouts you can try!
5. Abandon Equipment in the Middle of the Floor
Although your gym may feel like home, don't treat the space as if it's your bedroom (even if you are working out in your bedroom). For the safety of yourself — and potentially other gym-goers — keep good workout etiquette front-of-mind as you train.
At the top of the list: Re-rack your weights after you're done with them. Putting your weights away not only keeps the space tidy but will help prevent you and others from tripping or hurting themselves, Whitney says.
Also, do your best to put plates away in their designated spaces — don't stack a 45-pound plate in the 10-pound slot.
6. Leave Your Machine Sweaty
Wiping down each machine after use can seem tedious, but it's a non-negotiable, Whitney says. Most gyms will have several cleaning stations in the weight room and cardio area, making it a quick, easy part of your routine. Wipe down all the surfaces of the machine or equipment as thoroughly as possible.
Respect your gym community and do your part in helping keep all your fellow gym-goers healthy and safe, Whitney says.