The 9 Workout Mistakes Women Make Most

By Dana Vogel, REDBOOK

JoggingAvoid these exercise mistakes to make sure you're getting the best workout.

1. Too Much Steady-Paced Cardio
Ramona Braganza, the celebrity trainer and Gold's Gym ambassador who developed REDBOOK's Wedding Dress Challenge fitness plan, says the number one mistake she sees women make is overdoing it on cardio-just running, running, running on a treadmill at one moderate pace, without changing things up. The key to getting more out of your workouts, says Braganza, is adding interval training-bursts of high-intensity moves-to your routine. So whether you're running, biking, swimming, whatever, go hard for a minute or two, then slow down (that's your recovery) for the same duration before going full-throttle again. Over time, shorten your recovery time.

Related: 50 Hot Steals Under $50

2. No Heavy Lifting
Many women resist strength training for fear of bulking up, but this is a huge misconception. Women don't bulk up as easily as men, and by adding just a little bit of lean muscle, you'll burn more calories all the time, not only during your workout, Braganza says. Nikki Kimbrough, another Gold's Gym Fitness trainer, recommends pylometrics-high-powered, weight-bearing moves such as squat jumps and lunges-as well as Pilates to her clients who are still hesitant to pick up a set of dumbbells.

3. Running on Empty
Another big mistake Braganza sees is women exercising without water, or on an empty stomach. Because so many people work out first thing in the morning or after work, they often haven't eaten in hours, she says. "It's futile to train without any source of energy." Try to eat a healthy snack or mini-meal like almonds, a piece of fruit, or a low-cal energy bar an hour before you hit the gym or pop in a fitness DVD, and always carry a water bottle.

Related: 10 Questions Men Are Too Scared to Ask Women

4. Bad Form
A potentially dangerous mistake that Gold Gym Fitness Institute member Robert Reames sees women making often is improper form. Not only will this hinder your progress, but it may lead to injuries that can sideline your weight-loss goals. If you work out at a gym, take advantage of the free personal training session most facilities give you when you sign up and have a professional trainer show you the right way to do several key exercises such as lunges, squats, and push-ups. If you're working out alone, try these moves Braganza developed specially for REDBOOK's Wedding Dress Challenge. Make sure to do them front of a mirror, which provides instant feedback on your form.

5. Skipping Out on Stretching
Braganza sees a lot of women come to the gym, jump on the treadmill, run and leave. If you're making the effort to work out, she says, spend the few extra minutes warming up beforehand and stretching afterward. This will help prevent injury, and you'll get more out of your workout.

Related: Easy Ways to Burn 100 Calories

6. Thinking You Can Be the Next Jillian Michaels Overnight
Kimbrough sees too many set unrealistic workout goals, or compare themselves to other women who can work out harder/faster/longer. This can actually lead to weight gain instead of weight loss, she says, either because you give up on exercising altogether, or you eat when you feel bad, or both. "Everyone's body is different," says Kimbrough, "and the important thing is to focus on you." Reames agrees: "Weight loss is a process; you can't go to the gym once and expect to come out with a whole new body. But I've seen so many women give up when they don't reach their goals quickly enough." Remember, all the hard work you'll put in to losing the weight will make the reward even sweeter!

7. Crunching It Up All the Time
Braganza says a big mistake women make is thinking that the more crunches they do, the faster they'll trade their one-piece for a bikini. But the move neglects the deep, hard-to-target midsection muscles, and your side abs. The basic plank-toes and forearms on the floor, body in a straight line from head to heels-is a better way to target your abs from all angles. Just hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat three times.

Related: 5 Products to Speed Up Your Mornings

8. Putting Your Workout on Autopilot
If you're using weights so light that you could fly through a set of reps, getting to the end of a workout without even breaking a sweat, or taking too many breaks, chances are you're not challenging your muscles enough, says Braganza, and you won't see results as quickly as you would if you pushed yourself a little harder. With strength training, the last few reps of any routine should not be easy, says Braganza; in fact, you should feel like you can barely eke them out.

9. Taking Shortcuts
If you're using weights so light that you could fly through a set of reps, getting to the end of a workout without even breaking a sweat, or taking too many breaks, chances are you're not challenging your muscles enough, says Braganza, and you won't see results as quickly as you would if you pushed yourself a little harder. With strength training, the last few reps of any routine should not be easy, says Braganza; in fact, you should feel like you can barely eke them out.

More from REDBOOK:


redbookstamp

Permissions: Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.