Being aimless Perhaps you have a rough goal of wanting to lose weight or get better at your sport, but you need to set specific, smaller targets that will get you closer to achieving your overall aim. “It’s a well known fact that preparation is the key to success,” points out ‘sports shrink’ Don MacNaughton, author of The 12 Hidden Laws of Performance (£8.99, HeadShrink Publications). “Considerable research has been done in this area and results show that keeping a daily training diary can be enormously helpful. A diary allows goals to be set on a daily basis and makes recording results a form of daily analysis.”
Going through the motions It’s not enough to simply get your backside into a gym – you need to make each training session count. “It’s not the hours you put in, it’s what you put into the hours,”
Don quips. “Some gym members seem to be there every day – yet they never seem to improve their fitness or change their body shape,” he says. “They wonder why other gym goers have made enormous progress by only working out three times a week for no more than one hour each time,” he says. “It shows that a winning effort has little to do with quantity of effort but everything to do with quality.”
Follow Don MacNaughton on Twitter @donmac007
Ignoring weights “A lot of women think they’ll bulk up if they use weights, in fact it would take at least 2-3 very intense resistance training sessions per week for this to begin to happen,” explains Paul Sampson, PT and managing director of the International Training Club (the-itc.co.uk). “The most common mistake is not having a correctly designed programme, or just doing your own thing in the gym hoping to achieve results,” he adds. So, don’t be afraid to ask the gym staff – that’s what they’re there for!
Thinking situps = six-pack The sad truth is that abs work alone won’t give us a waist like Cameron Diaz’s. “Just doing stomach crunches twice a week won’t get the result you want. A toned midriff has a lot to do with your diet, as well as doing the correct exercises,” Paul tells us. “One of the best moves for abs is actually a squat, which targets your core muscles as they act as stabilisers, and this ultimately hits other body parts at the same time.” It pays to have a pro on hand who can supervise you to make sure you perform this exercise correctly and to get the most out of it, plus you’ll be improving your butt: “For bums and tums, do squats!” adds Paul.
Huffing and puffing Get out of puff after a few minutes of cardio? Obviously, this will improve with your general fitness, but you can also prep your body pre-exercise. “Firstly, work out what type of breather you are,” says breath coach, Alan Dolan. Not sure? “Simply put one hand on your upper chest and one hand on your abdomen, close your eyes and inhale through your nose. The extent to which your hands move will show you where your breath likes to be,” he explains. “80 percent of us are shallow upper chest breathers. If this is you, practise moving the air down into your abdomen – this will increase the amount of oxygen and energy entering your body.” If you’re in the minority, as an abdominal breather, Alan suggests practising what’s known as the three-part breath: “Sit in a semi-upright position and focus on inhaling into your abdomen, then extending the breath by moving it up into your ribcage and finally into your upper chest.”
Forgetting to breathe It’s all very well putting in the hours practising your sport in order to smash a PB, but don’t overlook training other, more specific areas. “For even better performance, a technique such as transformational breathing can be learned very quickly and easily. This will open the respiratory system even more, as well as releasing any tension held in the body. The technique can be used prior to or even during exercise when you feel in need of an energy or oxygen boost.” See the free ‘How To’ videos at breathguru.com for tutorials.
Skipping stretching “It is a major mistake not to stretch after a workout, as most injuries occur from muscles getting too tight,” says Jenny Fleming, yoga teacher at specialyoga.org.uk. According to Jenny, there are at least three stretches we should always make time for:
- “Ardha matsyendrasana or a spinal twist. This gives a lovely lateral stretch to your vertebrae, back muscles, and hips”
- “Pigeon pose, otherwise known as kapotasana, to release your hips and glutes”
- “Dhanurasana, sometimes called the bow pose, to stretch through the fronts of your thighs, release your shoulders, expand your chest and stretch your arms. It’s not only great for post-workout, but also after a day’s work, too”