Most common mistakes you make at the gym and how to avoid them

Millions of people sign up to the gym in a bid to get fit, lose weight and tone up, but often the workouts we do can be ineffective and even cause injury due to some common mistakes. Lorraine Furmedge, Fitness First PT Ambassador shares some of the most common mistakes people make at the gym, and what you should be doing instead.

Overusing the treadmill – focus on effort rather than time

"Assuming that you are using the treadmill for an aerobic workout then you really don't need to be on there any longer than 20 - 30 minutes. If you are using it to help you train for an event then that’s a different story and you should be following a planned programme to ensure you are 'event ready'!

The best way to get the most out of your treadmill workout is to think about the effort you are putting in rather than being concerned on time… you want to get off at the end of your session hot, sweaty and breathing hard, but still be able to talk. That’s a much better rule of thumb as that way you will know you will have made the most of your time on the treadmill."

Skipping weights due to fear of bulking up

"It is worth noting that it's quite hard for women to 'bulk up' as we don’t have a lot of natural testosterone in our bodies, and it this hormone that helps to bulk muscles as well as a planned high protein diet.

If you are looking to tone and shape your muscles then you want to go for low weights, high reps. Aim for two to three sets of 12 to 16 reps per exercise. That way you tire the muscles out so that encourages them to change shape but not build muscle.

If you are looking to build muscle (look bigger) then you want to use heavier weights and lower reps, Aiming for two to three sets of six – eight reps per exercise."

Overdoing it at the gym

"Assuming you are following a programme that includes aerobic (CV - Cardiovascular) and Resistance (Weights) then by the end of that programme you should be hot, sweaty and tired. At this point if you carry on you will be putting yourself at risk of injury."

Spending too much time on cardio exercises

"As above, again assuming you are following an inclusive programme, there is no need to be in the gym for hours and hours. You will work a lot more efficiently if you follow a programme and ensure you are giving everything your full effort and attention, 45 minutes to an hour is plenty, ideally at least 3 times a week. Think of your effort levels on a scale of 1 - 10… one you are not doing anything to ten you simply couldn’t work any harder… Each workout you want to finish between an eight and nine.

Not cooling down and stretching after a workout

"Lots of people think that they don't need to warm up or cool down and stretch after a workout… you do.

A warm up, which needs to be no more than 3-6 minutes, allows your brain and body to prepare for the workout to come. By warming your body up slowly your brain releases extra hormones into your muscles and joints to help prevent injury.

A cool down and stretch at the end of your workout enables your body temperature and heart rate to return to normal as well as reducing the rate at which blood is pumped round your body steadily as well as encouraging any lactic acid (It’s lactic acid that gives that 'burning' feeling in your muscles) that has developed to be flushed out of the system.

If you simply just stop, you risk the blood that is moving very fast round your body to go drain away from your heart towards your legs and this can make you feel unwell to say the least and your muscles to feel sore the next day."