Regardless of the time of day I get to the gym, I’m guaranteed to find one thing every single time. Can you guess it? Here’s a hint, it’s one of these:

A. People with a severe case of bed head
B. Weights strewn all over the gym as if a bomb went off in the center of the weight room
C. Someone sitting on a machine incorrectly and/or using it for the wrong body part, which will likely end badly
D. A person texting, reading a newspaper on a stationary bike and pedaling so slow the gears hardly engage
E. All of the above

A no-brainer, right? Clearly “E” is the obvious correct answer.

Yup, it’s a major mess, but the only one I’d like to concern us with today is “C,” which actually also encompasses “D.”

As for the others, a little hair gel solves “A,” and not being a jerk takes care of “B.”

Before I get into mistakes, let me first clear up the difference between the incorrect use of a machine and what I call “off label” use.

In the case of the latter, it is possible to use a machine other than how it was intended but only if you really know what you’re doing.

It’s like using Botox to take care of headaches and jaw pain. The same product not only smooths out forehead wrinkles but takes the edge off of migraines. No wrinkles + no headaches = happiness.

More often, I see people using machines and doing exercises in ways that at best ensures they’ll never see results, or at worst, they’ll end up in the ER.

Neither sounds like a great option.

Most of all, I assume if you’re putting in the effort you’d want to see the fruits of your labor, right?

So here I give you the five most common exercise mistakes and ways to avoid them…

1. You’d rather walk 10 miles than lift a single pound

It’s easy to put on a pair of walking shoes and head out the door or on a treadmill. Therein lies the beauty of cardio. You can even catch up on the news, listen to music or chat with a friend.

But if you do only cardio, you’re missing a major piece of the ageless body puzzle.

Truth is, you must do some sort of resistance training along with cardio if you want to firm up all over. You can’t tone fat. 

Weight training includes dumbbells, kettlebells, weight machines, fitness tubing, your own body weight and more. Challenging your muscles is the ONLY – repeat – ONLY way to reverse the process of muscle loss that occurs naturally with age.

“But what if I swing my arms?” you may wonder. Nope, not enough.
“Or I can carry hand weights, right?” Sorry, but no again.

This brings me to #2…

2. You do 50 reps of everything

To see real results in the form of tighter muscles, less flab and more strength, you need to use enough resistance or weight that causes a slight struggle around rep number 12. This means getting three more reps for a total of 15 takes effort.

If the struggle is not real, it’s not really working. It’s simply science.

Muscles responsible for “tone” do not kick in when you’re using light weights. Activating them takes work. Bottom line: Use enough weight to reach 12 to 15 reps per set. Much more than that and you’re burning calories but won’t likely see much change.

3. You stay in the fat-burning zone

Who doesn’t want to burn fat, right? Here’s the thing: You burn fat all day long, whether you’re reading this, walking or shopping for shoes in Macy’s.

Hop on any piece of cardio and you’ll see a chart indicating where your heart rate “should” be to enter into the coveted “fat-burning zone.” It’s referring to a pace where you burn a higher percentage of fat. This does not mean you’re burning more calories overall, however, which is the real goal.

By working harder you’ll burn more calories and more fat. Make sense?

The best way to increase calorie burn lies with interval training. Studies show by alternating hard, all-out effort, with lower intensity, “rest” periods, you burn more calories than simple steady state workouts. (See links below for details.)

4. You cheat 

Cutting corners on form does nothing good. Sure, you may get out of the gym three minutes sooner, but taking shortcuts only compromises results.
Case in point: By holding on to the treadmill railing you support a small percentage of your own body weight, which makes the exercise feel easier. Problem is, it feels easier because you’re taking away some of the effort and burning fewer calories.

Instead, lower the resistance and do it without holding on or use a very light touch.

I see this the most on the treadmill, especially on an incline. This is double trouble because by holding on and leaning backward you literally level out the grade, eliminating all the benefits of walking on an incline.

You burn fewer calories and take away from the incline’s booty boosting effect. Instead, let go, lower the incline if you can’t do it without holding on, and lean into the machine as if you’re walking up an actual hill.

Feel that burn?

Other mistakes include “dropping” the weight instead of easing it down slowly, only working your favorite muscle groups (e.g. abs), or skipping out on stretching, warm-ups and cool downs.

5. You expect too much too soon

It’s good to have goals, but not if they include losing 10 lbs. in a week or getting in shape in a few days. That just sets you up for failure.

I once worked with a client who quit after two weeks because she didn’t see any difference in her body. For the record, that’s crazy talk.

It takes a couple of weeks alone for your nervous system to get an idea of what’s going on. It’s why you feel shaky when lifting weights for the first time. Your system needs to adjust to the new challenge.

Give it time! It takes at least a month or two – realistically three – to see actual changes in the muscle. Be consistent, work hard, and you will see results.

Promise.

NOW YOU…

What’s your biggest exercise frustration? Let me know in the comments section below and I’ll help if I can… 

Other posts you may like:

Fat burning intervals for women over 50 (includes a new video!)

3 Keys to get started and keep going

3 Steps to create an effective weight loss strategy

Got questions? Drop me a line at linda@lindamelone.com. I’d love to hear from you!

P.S. Are you a member of my Ageless After 50 group for women (sorry, no boys allowed!)? I’m doing a series of short videos all week long, which you can find in the group, so be sure to hop on!

Your Ageless Body Coach,