7 Exercise Mistakes Your Trainer Won't Tell You You're MakingWhen my friend who's a personal trainer came to town, I didn't have to sacrifice my gym time to keep her entertained-she gladly came along. But I did have to sacrifice my pride: Apparently, my bicep curls weren't extended fully enough for her standards. But if your personal trainer isn't also your personal friend, he or she may be less inclined to speak up. Some trainers' critiques are sensitive, others aren't in their field of expertise, and most are things you probably don't want to hear. At the end of the day, personal trainers walk a fine line between keeping you in shape and keeping themselves in business. So I've volunteered to be the middle (wo)man. I asked a couple of personal trainers to tell it to me straight: What are we doing wrong? And trust me, they didn't hold back. So swallow your pride and read on. Just please don't kill the messenger.
1. You Don't Know Your Tricep from Your TrapeziusQuick: what muscle group do push-ups work? If you said "arms," you're wrong. The move really targets your chest and, to a lesser extent, your shoulders. "A lot of people can't identify where they should feel the burn," says Heather Guith, a certified personal trainer in Chicago. If you're one of them, your weightlifting form could be wrong and your regimen might not match your goals. Want Michelle Obama's arms? If you're planning to do push-ups to get them, you'll be wanting for a long time. In the case of exercise, knowledge is literally power.
2. You Equate Time With WorkSo you go to gym every day and still aren't seeing results? Guith has two questions for you: "What do you do here every day? And what do you do besides this?" she asks. "Just because you are at the gym for a long time doesn't mean you are working as hard as you can that whole time." Yes, showing up is half the battle. But flipping through magazines and chit-chatting with friends alone won't change your body. What will? Pushing yourself a little harder each session than your last: Boost the treadmill's incline, add a few pounds to your weights, or intersperse your jog with a few short interval sprints. Because (unfortunately), the benefits of gym time don't work by osmosis.
3. You're Afraid of WeightsListen up, elliptical fanatics: Cardio is not enough to get the body of your dreams. In fact, Paul Berry, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and exercise science graduate student in Washington, DC, says it's probably the least important part of your routine. Weight training builds lean muscle mass, which, in turn, boosts your metabolic rate. The more lean muscle you have, the more fat you burn-even when you're just sitting still. "If you only have 30 minutes, the best thing you can do for long-term results is to weight train because you'll keep burning fat for the rest of the day," he says. What's more, adds Guith, weight training doesn't make you as hungry as cardio, so you're less likely to overeat post-workout and more likely to lose weight. And no, you won't bulk up. "Women don't have enough testosterone to build muscle like men," says Berry. So kiss your fears good-bye once and for all, and make a date with the weights.
4. You're Too ComfortableGuith worries that we've taken the mantra "listen to your body" a little too far. If you want to change your body, you need to change your routine and challenge your muscles. "Stepping outside of your comfort zone is a must," says Guith, "but people don't want to hear that they actually have to be uncomfortable." Here's a good rule of thumb: If you can physically do more than 15 repetitions, pick heavier weights. "You should feel the burn by eight to 15 reps," says Berry. "If you can keep going, you might as well be doing cardio."
5. You Ignore 80% of What MattersNo matter what your health goals are-weight loss, bodybuilding, strength, or speed-trainers agree that achieving them relies only 20% on exercise. The other 80%? Nutrition. "It's really easy to eat 500 calories, but not so easy to burn 500 calories," explains Guith. Berry advises focusing on "wise food choices" rather than calories. "Picking fresh foods over processed ones can make a tremendous difference in your body shape and how you feel," he says.
6. You Make ExcusesFor trainers, it's a broken record: "I don't have time." But who does? That's right, no one. You have to make time. To get motivated, Berry suggests packing your (healthy) lunch and exercise clothes the night before. Even better? Get an exercise buddy. "You need a support group-a friend, a trainer, a class-to keep you accountable," says Berry. "A companion is probably one of the top five most important things needed to maintain your fitness." So if time is tight, think of it as killing two birds with one stone: You can catch up with a friend or loved one while you exercise. You'll strengthen your bodies and your relationship.
7. You Underestimate YourselfSome of Guith's favorite clients (yes, trainers have favorites too) have doubted their abilities. "And then they surprise themselves-their mile time was faster than they thought or they find out that they can do 20 push-ups on their fingertips." The bottom line? "You're stronger than you think." So give yourself a pep talk and go that extra mile. Like all these tips, doing so will make you a trainer fave-and, more importantly, finally give you the results you crave.
This article was originally published on The Daily Muse. For more smart health advice, check out:
The Real Reason You Aren't Going to the Gym
Why Beer Drinkers Don't Get Fat: Your Guide to Healthy Indulgences
4 Effortless Ways to Live a Healthy Life
About the Author: Anna Miller is a health writer in Washington, D.C., where she's been published in The Washington Post and US News & World Report. She is a proud Michigan Wolverine, beer enthusiast, and two-time marathoner who can't go a day without peanut butter. On any one day, you may find her rehearsing for a community theater musical, working her way into an embassy party, running around the Washington Monument in her underwear (ok, once! For charity!), or listening to a panel at the National Press Club. For these reasons, she has been called "a weird-stuff-o-meter" and takes it as a compliment. Follow her @AnnaMedaris.
Photo courtesy of lululemon athletica.