Here are six training mistakes everyone makes – and what you should do instead
You’ve found a workout that you love and you’ve got a goal in mind, so it’s full steam ahead, right? Well, maybe not. Hitting the gym and doing the same routine every day with no break in between won’t help you achieve those targets – in fact, it will probably make it harder. “Recovery is massively important, because if you’re not doing it properly, you won’t get the most out of your workouts,” says Ben Camara, PT and co-founder of No 1 Fitness (no1fitness.co.uk). “If you’re not recovering enough, your muscles are constantly being broken down and don’t have the chance to get stronger – often doing more harm than good.” The question is, are you doing it the right way? We asked the experts for the most common recovery mistakes people make and what you should do instead.
You’re not giving yourself enough time
It’s vital to give your body a rest between exercise. “The most common mistake people make is not understanding the impact of their workouts on their bodies and not allowing time between sessions for recovery,” explains Ten Health and Fitness master trainer and massage therapist Eudelyn Gonzales (ten.co.uk). “Your body actually gets stronger in the recovery phase – if you don’t allow enough recovery time between sessions, you’ll make slower progress towards your goals and you’ll increase the risk and severity of injury in your workouts. Recovery time after training varies depending on a number of factors – in particular the exercise that you’re doing. For most people, low impact workouts such as Pilates can be done daily, whereas higher impact sessions, including HIIT, cross fit and cardio require longer recovery times.”
You’re not getting enough sleep
Be honest, how much shut-eye did you actually get last night? “One of the biggest factors that affects post-workout recovery is not getting enough good quality sleep,” says Eudelyn. “For professional athletes, this is a fundamental part of maximising recovery after workouts and maintaining peak performance, and it’s something everyone should look to improve. People’s needs are different, but for most of us between six to eight hours is about right. A lack of slumber is also associated with increased cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone and is linked to diabetes, weight gain, obesity and immune system suppression, among other problems.”
You’re not stretching correctly
If you suffer from delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), it could be that you’re not stretching properly after a workout, as Ben explains. “Stretching can be immensely helpful when it comes to promoting recovery. Try yoga, mobility drills, or active isolated training – this is when one muscle is stretched to its natural range of motion for around three seconds, before returning to the start position and repeating 10 times, which also gives the opposing muscle time to relax. It’s important to hold stretches for a minimum of two minutes – anything less than that won’t have enough of a neuromuscular response from your body to make any significant changes.”
You always do the same workout
Staying in your comfort zone may be good for your confidence but it could actually be hindering and not helping your muscles. “Too many people just do the same workout or the same discipline day in, day out – and that’s where fatigue, plateauing, boredom and injuries creep in,” explains Eudelyn. “By switching between different disciplines, or by working different areas, you’re varying the movement patterns and keeping your body challenged, as well as allowing one set of muscles to rest while you work another set. If you’re trying to exercise more effectively and more often, injury prevention needs to be high up on your agenda. I recommend adding a prehabilitative element to your workout – such as Pilates – that’s designed to improve movement patterns, posture and alignment and to prevent injury.”
You don’t get massages
You may only associate them with spa days, but massages could be the key to decreasing your recovery time. “Probably the most common recovery mistake is not getting regular massages – or, as is the case for most exercisers, any massages at all,” states Eudelyn. “Massages boost your circulation, increasing muscle oxygenation and lymphatic flow and reducing toxins in your body, as well as improving your flexibility and reducing DOMS and helping to re-align your posture, reducing risk of injury. If you’re exercising four to five times a week, try to book yourself a treatment once or twice a month.” If that’s not possible, you could reap similar benefits at home with a foam roller. “Make sure it’s positioned under the muscle you want to target, allowing the weight of your body to apply pressure for a minimum of 30-60 seconds, smooth out areas where there may have been toughness or rigidity while targeting each muscle group,” Ben advises.
You’re not fuelling yourself properly
What you eat and drink after exercise has an effect on how well your body recovers, so it’s important to get it right. “Eating something light and protein-based after a session will help muscle repair and recovery,” says Eudelyn. “However, this doesn’t mean avoiding carbohydrates altogether – after all, they’re one of the best and most readily available forms of fuel that you can give your body. It’s also important to stay hydrated before, during and after training sessions, including low impact classes such as Pilates and yoga – just because you’re not sweating a lot doesn’t mean that you’re not losing fluid. It’s very easy to become dehydrated, and this will affect not only your performance and recovery, but also your overall wellness.”