It's Saturday morning. You wake up an hour early to hit the gym (bravo!) and put on your favorite workout clothes—a sports bra you've owned since Tiffany had a number-one hit, a cotton t-shirt, some random shorts from the dirty laundry pile and a pair of gym shoes from the mid-90s. You skip breakfast to spend an hour on your "I woke up like this" hair and makeup, grab your keys and head out the door.
Upon arrival, you hop on the treadmill and push yourself harder than ever for 20 minutes of what can only be described as the worst run of your life. But, you reason, since you haven't been to the gym for the past month this is what you have to do to make up for it.
Bringing water would have been a good idea, but since you don't have any, you spend the next ten minutes at the water fountain trying to replenish your fluids between gasps of air. Drenched in sweat, you head over to the weight room, struggle with some too-heavy weights at the bench and work your way, sloppily, around the nautilus equipment. Should you pass out and require medical attention, the EMTs could easily find you by following the trail of sweat you left wherever you went.
Maybe you were short on time, low on energy or you truly didn't know that you were making awful decisions. The good news is, there is hope—you can make your worst gym decisions better. Here's how:
Worst: Wearing makeup to the gym.
Best: Wearing no or minimal makeup.
You might think you need to look your best at the gym, but wearing heavy powders, foundations or concealers can clog pores and lead to breakouts—the opposite of looking pretty.
If you must wear something, try a lightweight or tinted moisturizer. Waterproof (read: also sweat-proof) mascara is a winner. Make up for lack of makeup by wearing flattering, comfortable clothing and pulling your hair back in a low ponytail or a stylish headband.
Worst: Not wiping off the gym equipment.
Best: Wiping your sweat off after each use with antibacterial spray or wipes provided by the gym.
Germs thrive in a wet, warm environment, making the gym a giant petri dish of MRSA, E. coli, trichophyton, human papillomavirus and other less-than-desirable-and-hard-to-pronounce germs.
Additionally, if you find yourself coming down with the sniffles, do everyone a favor and stay at home—common colds and flu germs can live on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours. Everyone will thank you for keeping those to yourself.
Worst: Not stretching or warming up before a workout.
Best: Warm up those muscles with some dynamic stretches.
Think butt kicks before a run or arm circles prior to shoulder work. This type of stretching mimics the movements you will use in your actual workout, helps prevent injury and is better for you than static stretching, in which you hold your muscles tight for several seconds. Use static stretches as a muscle cool down by stretching them to the full extent of their range of motion (without pain) when your workout is complete.
Worst: Not having the proper workout attire or footwear.
Best: Suiting up properly for your gym session.
You might think weight training in flip-flops is no big deal—until you stub your toe on the lat pull-down machine. Choosing the proper workout clothes and shoes can mean the difference between a painful, chafing run and a worry- and injury-free exercise session.
When it comes to selecting shoes, choose the right one for both your workout and foot type. By answering a few simple questions, this guide can help you choose the right shoe for you. Take a similar approach to purchasing athletic wear. Just because it fits and covers all of the important parts doesn't mean you should wear it. There are many factors to consider when making a purchase, from fit and sweat-wicking ability to coverage and activity appropriateness. Consider these six things when looking for workout apparel.
Worst: Not showering after you work out.
Best: Showering or at least changing your clothes after a workout.
Showering doesn't just eliminate offensive odors but also washes off a breeding ground of bacteria that, if left on your skin, could lead to breakouts or rashes. If you are squeezing in gym time between dropping the kids off at school and a doctor's appointment, showering might be out of the question. If that's the case, try freshening up a bit and definitely change your clothes to avoid any unwanted skin issues.
Worst: Eating too much before a workout.
Best: Eating a light snack right before or a meal several hours prior to your workout.
This might come as a surprise, but your workouts are not fueled by what you ate most recently. Instead, your body gets energy from the glycogen and fat stored in your muscles, liver and cells. If eating before a workout makes you feel sick, you can skip the Powerbar and get through just fine. However, if you haven't eaten in a long time or are sensitive to changes in your blood sugar, consider eating something light before your workout.
Worst: Not hydrating.
Best: Drinking that water!
Not only should you drink water before a workout, but also make sure you are drinking during and after you sweat to prevent dehydration. The Mayo Clinic recommends that you'll need to drink an extra 1.5 to 2 cups of water to replace any fluid loss. Pay attention to your body and make sure you drink adequate amounts of water, factoring in your intensity level, duration and the environment.
Worst: Using too much (or too little) weight.
Best: Figuring out how much weight you can truly lift.
There's no benefit to maxing out the bench press bar if you aren't sure you can handle it, unless you're trying to attract the wrong kind of attention. To know how much weight you should be lifting, follow these five guidelines.
Worst: Doing the same workout over and over.
Best: Varying your workouts.
Remember that old adage, "If nothing changes, nothing changes." This especially applies to exercise. If doing 10 pushups was hard for you to do a couple of weeks ago but is a piece of cake now, that means you are no longer building muscle. If you want to get stronger, start adding more reps. The same logic applies to any exercise. If you've got your Zumba class down to where you can do it at home, blindfolded and without an instructor, then maybe it's time to try boot camp. Unsure if your workout isn't working? Here are four signs it's time for a change.
Worst: Taking selfies or photos in the gym.
Best: Selfie if you must—but do it by yourself, in the locker room, taking care to make sure there is no one else in the camera's frame.
Also, don't take pictures of another gym goer doing something you think is incorrect or funny. You wouldn't want to see yourself online tomorrow as an example of a what-not-to-do-meme, and neither does anyone else.
Do you have any suggestions for making better decisions at the gym? Share them in the comments.
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