Missed fitness opportunities

by Kim on November 19, 2013

Love It or Hate It: the new Sprint “everything is important” commercials?

…I LOVE them. Especially the newest one, featuring the phrase “Totes-McGotes, it’s cray-cray adorbs.” (If you’re anything like my husband, you just winced in pain.)

Typically, I’m not a cray-cray fan, and I’m perfectly happy without the word adorbs in my life, but the super formal recitation of them? Kiiiills me.

In other pop culture news, fellow Walking Dead fans: who else was ASLEEP through the entire last episode? What was that?? I’ve never had to turn to my husband in the middle of a show I’m somewhat invested in and say “I’m bored” (more than once actually—is that annoying?).

Also, I’m still following the Voice religiously, but there have been some major disappointments along the way, IMO. Like, how in the world was the cute blonde country girl (Olivia) cut so soon? I thought she was incredible! Is it because the show just can’t let cute blonde country girls win it every time?

Best performance of the entire season so far: Matthew Schuler‘s Hallelujah. WOW.

Ok, so I wanted to talk a little bit today about “missed opportunities” in fitness. You’ve probably seen similar lists under the word “mistakes,” but I didn’t want to call them that for a couple reasons:

–Mistakes suggest failure. These aren’t hand-slaps. Just some ways to get even better than you already are.

–I don’t like the way abundant information sometimes leads to people feeling overwhelmed or paralyzed by all the “rules” of fitness. Imperfect workouts are better than nonexistent ones.

–Some of these things are minor ideas that could be beneficial, but won’t necessarily hurt ya if they’re skipped either.

Missed Fitness Opps

Going too fast during strength training

I’m talking swinging-barbells-fast.

When you fly through strength exercises, you end up using momentum instead of muscle to lift the weight. I’ve found that 10 super-super-slow crunches are way more difficult (=effective) than 30 fast ones. Same goes for curls, bench press, squats, etc. If it feels like it’s getting easy, this could be the reason.

Take yo tiiiime.

Too much isolated movement/skimping on core work

We’re pretty good about getting our crunches or planks in here or there, but there’s a shift going on in the fitness world right now (that I love) to embrace a more synergistic core-focused approach to strength training. With this approach, most—if not all—moves in a workout are combo moves with tons of baked in core work, so you’re working your core ALL THE TIME instead of just during your devoted “ab time.” And instead of isolated arm or leg moves, you do hybrid lifts that have the arms, legs, and core ALL doing primary work at the same time.

Not only is this a really effective use of time and better for the core, but working more muscle groups together equals burning more calories. Win win win!

Static stretching pre-workout

New studies have found that not only does static stretching (like the old push-on-the-wall calf stretch) not help prevent injuries when done before exercise, but it may actually hinder your performance during exercise, especially during heavy strength training.

Instead, trainers are now recommending only dynamic warm-ups before workouts, like walking lunges, jumping jacks, or arm windmills (static stretching is still fine post-workout). So, moves with continuous movement that involve full ranges of motion, which are more about literally warming up your body and psychologically preparing you to work out than anything else.

(Works for me—I like those better anyway!)

Skipping balance work

Balance work isn’t just for older folks, people. One of the things NASM teaches is to not think of strength as a function of muscles, but of neuromuscular efficiency. And to get neuromuscular efficiency, you have to train your brain to manage your muscles as effectively as possible.

But if that doesn’t sell you, how about this: incorporating balance training into your workouts burns more calories!!

So wobble away—it’s helping you more than you know.

Unfair expectations

One of the most dangerous ones: expecting workouts to be fun.

Sure, it’s great if you can find something you legitimately like doing, but even then, I’d be willing to bet there are going to be some boring days. You can’t expect the heavens to open every time you pop in a workout video—sometimes, working out is just plain old work.

Some other dangerous expectations are thinking you’ll get results a few weeks into a new workout program and expecting exercise to make up for bad nutrition.

Sacrificing form for weight

It’s great to challenge yourself with big weights, and you probably know you’re not supposed to use so much weight that you end up sacrificing form.

BUT: it’s easier to do than you might think. (Especially in group classes, where peer pressure can be both a friend and a foe.)

You might not realize you’re bunching up your shoulders during curls or collapsing your knees in toward each other during squats. You might start out with great form and then let it go as you get tired.

Part of good form is good posture. I have to constantly remind myself to relax my shoulders, pulling them down and back, regardless of what I’m doing. (Hell, I just did it while typing that!)

The best way to manage your form—brace yourself—is by practicing moves in front of the mirror, ballerina style. Get into position, check your form, and then close your eyes and do a little body awareness to memorize how proper form feels.

I’ve done this a lot with squats, particularly, since they’re kind of a tricky to master (or at least, they were for me).

Lack of body awareness

Even if you’re paying close attention to what you’re doing, it’s very possible to think you’re doing something very differently than the way you’re actually doing it.

For example, in my recent fitness pics, I was surprised to see how low I was actually going into my lunges. Meaning: not very low. I thought I was going so much lower! Huge wake up call (and the same probably goes for my squats!).

Again, the best way to battle this is with a mirror. Or, get someone to take a bunch of pictures of you! (Right?? How fun does that sound?? Ha.)

Too much cardio

This has been a pretty hot topic lately, as more and more people are switching to shorter, high-intensity workouts over the traditional, long steady-state cardio sessions. Research has shown that lots of cardio jacks up cortisol levels (the bad guy responsible for belly fat) and increases inflammation in the body, among other things. (Giselle recently wrote a great post about her life as a reformed cardio junkie!)

In my opinion, the best reasons to do steady-state cardio are stress relief, enjoyment, and race training. If you love to run, by all means, run. If you’re like me and you like to just zone out on the treadmill for a little bit after a long day at work, totally fine. The key is to know what to expect from it (specifically, not much in the way of changes to body composition) and to make sure it’s not the only thing you do.

Phoning it in

You’re going through the motions of a workout, but you’re not really engaging your muscles as much as you could be.

I had a lightbulb moment somewhere along the way, when I realized that people in a group exercise class could be doing the same exact workout and getting either much more or much less out of it than others based on what they’re putting in.

For best non-phoned-in results, focus on actively engaging (flexing) whatever muscles you’re specifically working AND the muscles you’re not specifically working,  PLUS the core. (Always with the core, right?)

Too long of sessions

My general opinion is that there’s no need to workout for more than 45 minutes at a time, tops (unless you’re an endurance athlete—which many would argue isn’t necessary either, but that’s a whole ‘nother can). An hour of zombie-style training is less productive than 20 minutes of high-intensity, focused exercise, anyway, and HIIT training leads to longer post-workout calorie afterburns.

If it does take you an hour or longer to work out (outside of race training or something), I wonder if your rest periods are too long? O, are you trying to fit too much into one day’s workout?

What would you add to this list?

A few others that come to mind are lack of: variety, planning, sleep, and stick-to-itness. (Are you ok with that word?)


{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim November 21, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Your comment about too much information and feeling overwhelmed resonated really strongly with me. I’ve been reading healthy living blogs for about six months now because I’ve wanted to change my lifestyle and incorporate regular fitness into it. But to date, I’ve done nothing but walk in the gym, feel overwhelmed by all the machines that I don’t know how to use and walk out. It’ frustrating. I’m working on it though.
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Kim November 21, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Oh no! I’m so sad to hear that, Kim. That sounds so frustrating. Have you ever printed out a workout plan to bring with you? Pinterest is a great place to find printable workouts–here are a couple boards I love (not to overwhelm you even more!!):


I think it’s one of those “you gotta start somewhere” things. Does your gym offer classes? That might be a good way to ease in. Sometimes you can get a free intro personal training session too, which could give you some ideas and help you get comfortable with the machines.

As for healthy living blogs…yeah. They can be so overwhelming. One of the tricky things that I run into personally as a blogger is that most of the people who comment on my blog are other healthy living bloggers, who are already very comfortable with fitness as a lifestyle. So I fall into the trap of assuming that everybody’s at that same level of comfort, and I know that’s not the case. If you are feeling overwhelmed to the point of being paralyzed, though, I would maybe scale back on your reading a bit, just for sanity’s sake!

Let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help you out! And thanks so much for commenting!


Kim November 22, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Yes, you are so right. Sometimes you just have to start somewhere and go from there. I think bringing a print out of a workout and having a plan before you even step in the gym is a great idea. I’ll check out those pinterest links for a place to start. Thanks!
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Rosey Rebecca November 21, 2013 at 2:04 pm

You don’t know how many times I’ve had to stop myself from saying ‘adorbs.’ It’s not something I’d normally ever say, but when the mood strikes, ya know, you just have to go for it. My boyfriend would be right there with your husband if I ever tried to say ‘cray-cray.’

As for your missed fitness opportunities, THANK YOU for including sacrificing form for heavier weights. I see people do this ALL THE TIME and it drives me mad!

And I totally phone it in sometimes but I try REALLY hard not to because I’m secretly afraid that Jillian Michaels will find me and make me alternate between squats and push-ups for three hours straight.
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Kim November 21, 2013 at 2:11 pm

HAHA no lie: I was doing a JM workout last night and she literally said “don’t you dare phone this in” RIGHT as I was considering it.

It was tots cray-cray! Just kidding.

I try to remind myself, in those phone-in moments, that all I’m doing is wasting my own time. Doesn’t always help, but it’s something. :)


Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy November 20, 2013 at 8:29 pm

I’m with ya on the shorter workouts! The only time I work out for 60 minutes is when I take a Zumba class (I don’t want to be rude and leave early), or if I’m training for a half marathon.
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Kim November 21, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Same here! I can always feel myself wilting in the last few minutes of hour-long classes, but I stick it out even though I don’t think it’s totally necessary. :)


Ali November 20, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I love all your tips too and agree with them. It’s my biggest pet peeve when I see someone at the gym trying to use a weight that is way too heavy for them and the horrible form that ensues! It gets people no where.


Kim November 21, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Right. I’m not sure how often people just don’t realize they’re using poor form vs. purposefully forcing the heavier weight onto themselves. I’m guessing it’s accidental more often than not, which is why it’s so great to be vain and stare at yourself in the mirror when you work out. :)


Katie @ Daily Cup of Kate November 20, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I loved Olivia too! And I hate the whole tweeting to save someone rule…stupid.
Anyway, I used to head to a 45 min spin class then go to a 60 min strength class at the gym and found myself giving 50% to the first class and 50% to the second. Now, I workout for 30-45 minutes max and give 100% the entire time– way more efficient and a much better workout!
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Kim November 21, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Good call on the change-up!

Yeah, the texting thing…why! Not that I would probably participate, but what about all of us who watch on DVR?


ErikaMC November 20, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Sprint commercials = hilarious!

I have cut back on my cardio and have seen much better results with more strength training.

Would your 45 minute workout include your warm up and cool down? With a warm up and cool down my total workout time is right at an hour.

Does yoga count? I love the way yoga feels on a quiet Sunday morning so I tend to drag those out a little over an hour – I just can’t stop myself!


Kim November 21, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I go to classes that are an hour long–it’s not the end of the world, I just think there’s a point of diminishing returns. In my experience, that’s been right around 45 min. But as long as you’re feeling good and not dragging yourself through it, longer sessions could work for you (especially if we’re talking about gentle restorative yoga). My biggest concern is when people think more exercise is always better than less, or when they putter through a loooong, low-intensity workout instead of blasting through a short, high-intensity one.

And then there’s the small percentage of people who get so into working out that they don’t really know when to stop and end up overtraining. It doesn’t sound like that’s you, though!


Britt @ A Life Worth Living November 20, 2013 at 7:14 am

Totally agreed on all of those! My fitness regime has totally changed over the past few years so instead of exclusively doing cardio (like so many people boast will give you a big weight loss) to lifting weights more.
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Kim November 21, 2013 at 12:34 pm

I mean, cardio can help with weight loss, and some of it is necessary for heart health–there are just WAAY better ways to do it. :)

I thought it was funny that in my personal training textbook, there’s one small chapter on cardio and the rest of the entire book is about strength training. Cardio is a major afterthought!


Britt @ A Life Worth Living November 21, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I actually just started NASM myself and I noticed that too lol
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Alex @ Alex Runs For Food November 20, 2013 at 1:56 am

I felt the exact same way about walking dead! I was watching is with my dad and we both thought Sundays episode was stupid!! I don’t care about the governor I want to watch about the people in the prison!!
Also love all your tips!! I did not know the tip about pre workout stretching so thanks for the info!!
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Kim November 21, 2013 at 12:39 pm

“I don’t care about the governor” — exactly!!!! :) I don’t know if they were trying to get us to sympathize with him or like him, but it wasn’t working for me. I miss Rick! And I feel so unresolved about Carol!!


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