We polled 10 UAE trainers on what they’ve found to be the most common fitness mistakes. Here’s what they said you are doing wrong — and how you can start doing things right.
Mistake: Thinking you will see results right away
In short, you won’t — at least not results that will last, explains fitness pro Anna Holmes.
“In the fast-paced world we live in, we are on the hunt for the easiest and most accessible means to get shredded in 30 days,” she notes. “But is it sustainable and will it maintain results?”
The truth is that you can’t expect overnight miracles. Be ready to work hard and focus on consistency. “You need at least four to six weeks for changes to occur. You can’t undo years of bad habits you have created and expect to be transformed just like that.”
Fix the need for speed by chopping your goals into bite-sized chunks, suggests Holmes. Try taking pictures and measurements, logging your food and monitoring your sleep.
Mistake: Leaning on your machine
You know the drill: You clamber onto the treadmill, set it for a rapid walk, grip the rails, and off you go. It’s a fitness mistake, note the fitness pros.
“Holding the handrails while walking on the treadmill gives you bad posture and makes your workout not really that effective,” says fitness pro Walid Yari, aka “The Beast of the Middle East”.
The same goes for the stair master. Instead of gripping for dear life (and making the movement easier), try to let your arms swing naturally. The effort will go up but so will your calorie burn, and your form will be better.
Mistake: Focusing on heavy weight over form
Lifting heavy is important. But technique and proper form is often more so.
“I see people in the gym that have bad form and throw weights around like there’s no tomorrow and I literally cringe, because they are going to end up hurting themselves very badly,” says UAE PT Hendrik Hoogenboezem. This sometimes even happens when people are with personal trainers, he adds.
“Without good form, results cease to exist,” agrees Jennifer Chalouhi, Dubai personal trainer. Her solution? “Never rush into an exercise, and be in control with every breath.” Keep your belly button pulled into your spine, even when doing something basic like a bicep curl.
Online resources, like YouTube, are handy for practicing proper form.
Mistake: You can burn off a bad meal at the gym
If you’ve had a weekend of cheeky brunches and late-night indulgences, hitting the gym may not be the easiest solution. Studies have shown we overestimate how many calories we burn while exercising, and that dietary changes are much more achievable than thinking you can burn off your bad food habits.
“I see people spending endless time in the gym on the treadmill or stair master, doing two to three hours of cardio a day,” says Maria Markovicova, a health and fitness advocate. “There’s no need to add more hours working out, which adds more stress to our bodies.”
Instead, try to be as consistent as possible with your eating. “Are you eating high quality foods, balanced with proteins, carbs, fats and vitamins?” Asks Markovicova. “There’s no magic pill.”
“Diet is as important as the workout and maybe even more,” agrees Dejan Stipić, a calisthenics expert. “Avoid this by learning and researching about nutrition.”
If you do have a wild weekend or week, be kind to yourself and focus on getting back on the bandwagon with the next meal, not the next day. This way, notes Markovicova, you set yourself up for good habits.
Mistake: Skipping stretching
If you dash out at the end of a group workout before the cool-down has even begun, you shouldn’t, says Sara Otto, yoga instructor and co-founder of Core 8.
“Stretching prevents injuries and furthers your range of mobility. The repair process is vital.”
Instead give yourself even two minutes of cooling down, moving slowly through poses to prevent blood pooling and muscle soreness.
Mistake: Just doing what your friends are doing
Studies have shown that workout buddies help you push harder for longer — but that doesn’t always mean you should do your best friend’s training regime, especially if you don’t enjoy it.
“People often do what others tell them to do, rather than what they enjoy doing. Fitness isn’t the same for everyone,” cautions Charlotte Hodgson, Dubai cabin crew and a previous bikini competitor. “Some love doing weights, others love running or yoga.”
Try new things until you find your niche. “You’re more likely to stick to that, and you’ll be happier,” she adds.
Mistake: Thinking you can miss a day, or three, or five
Consistency is one of the most important things when it comes to training.
“People try it for a few months, don’t see the results they expected and give up because they think it doesn’t work, but in reality it does, it just takes time and patience,” says PT Nicole Drinkwater.
Instead of diving in headfirst with six-day-a-week workouts and crash diets, start slower, she suggests. “Set small goals and also reward yourself each time they’re met.”
If your standard workout gets boring, don’t panic, says Alena Wright, coach and founder of Beyou. “It doesn’t matter if you go for pilates, spinning, CrossFit or personal training. Just keep moving.”
Find something that will push you and that you enjoy. “Then you’ll keep coming back!”
It is still important that you listen to your body, Wright adds. “Especially women’s bodies, as they go through so much each month.” If you’re exhausted, do gentle yoga or go for a walk.
Mistake: Sticking to the same workout
Doing the one workout you love can be great, but it’s important to mix things up every now and then.
“I’m guilty of this too, but I see many people sticking to only one way of working out and not cross training,” says Crank spin instructor Amy Wu.
This is bad, she notes. Cross training has been shown to reduce the chance of injury, since you’re reducing the load on single muscle groups while strengthening the ones you don’t use as much. “And if you’re like me, I get bored pretty easily if I do the same thing all the time. Adding some variety helps keep me motivated.”
If you’re doing cardio, mix in a weights class. If you’re boxing, try pilates.
Featured photo Shutterstock
Danae Mercer is a freelance health and travel journalist. In addition to working as editor-in-chief of Women's Health Middle East and Men's Health Middle East, Danae has written for The Sunday Times, CNN Travel, Dubai Tourism, The Guardian, Afar, Bloomberg and many more. She's based in Dubai and is a trainer at Crank. instagram.com/danaemercer