13 Ways You're Actually Hurting Yourself During Your Workout Without Even Realizing

Workouts can be tough on the body, especially if we use improper form or limit our rest and recovery time. We often fail to realize when we are using a machine wrong or putting stress on our muscles, but by looking for the ways we might be hurting ourselves during exercise, we can correct our mishaps, keep our bodies safe from injury and achieve greater strength and long-term results.

As a certified health coach, I help people get excited to hit the gym and to learn how their bodies works, which movements are best for them, and how to fit in recovery foods, massage techniques, and rest days to lower stress and promote healthy, strong muscles. If you feel confident in your exercise abilities and performance, and if your body is able to function optimally without tension or discomfort, then you can build the body that you want. Putting in a solid effort to get in shape is a great accomplishment, and so there's no point in sabotaging all your hard work!

Here are thirteen ways that you might be hurting yourself during your workouts and how best to fix them. Being mindful with machine use, recovery time and the way your body feels is so important in working out safely and efficiently.

1. Not Warming Up

Experts agree that dynamic stretching as a warmup can prevent injuries and enhance performance. "Creating blood flow throughout the body will help reduce your risk for injury," says ACE certified personal trainer and Pilates professional, Colleen Shaughnessy, owner of LulaFit, over email with Bustle. "Foam roll, get your blood pumping and do some dynamic warm up exercises, such as walking lunges or kicks," Shaughnessy recommends.

2. Doing Static Stretches Pre-Workout

While dynamic stretching is beneficial, research shows that static stretching can increase risk of injury when performed prior to working out. "It can cause tearing in your muscles and decrease performance," says Shaughnessy. Avoid doing these sort of movements before working out, as they can hinder your endurance and strength.

3. Not Fueling Yourself Enough

While some people thrive off a morning workout on an empty stomach, many people need some fuel in order to boost endurance and prevent risk of dizziness, fatigue or lightheadedness. "Get the proper balance of carbohydrates and protein with a solid pre workout meal," says Shaughnessy. She suggests paring an apple or banana with a nut butter, such as peanut or almond.

4. Fueling Yourself Too Much

Like most things in life, there's a happy medium. While not fueling yourself can lead to a worse workout, eating too heavy of a meal before a workout can lead to cramping, nausea and bowel complications. Stick with a snack that incorporates complex carbs and protein, and avoid large portions and dense items, such as meats, beans, high-fiber dried fruits and cruciferous vegetables.

5. Working The Same Muscles Too Often

Without adding variety into your routine, you're at risk of overworking the same muscle groups too frequently and becoming injured or chronically inflamed. "Conscientiously and intelligently expanding or growing your workout and fitness program will take you to the next level without getting hurt," advises running coach and personal trainer Susie Lemmer, over email with Bustle. Shake things up to get full body workouts and let your muscles recover properly.

6. Doing It On Your Own

If you know that you are less likely to be intrinsically motivated and stick with a workout, or that you will not be able to learn movements on your own, seek help from others so that you can maximize your workout time, effort and results. "Need help? Hire a coach!" says Lemmer. Be OK with asking others for assistance.

7. Not Cooling Down Post-Workout

"Not cooling down afterwards by stretching or doing some form of myofascial work," says certified holistic health coach and personal trainer Jen Bruno with J.B. Fitness and Nutrition, over email with Bustle, can be an easy way to increase your chances of injury. "The cool down helps reduce adrenaline in your bloodstream and also brings heart rate back to normal levels," she adds.

8. Telling Yourself You're OK When You're Not

"Pushing through pain and not listening to the messages of your body," says Bruno, can be a real problem and can create chronic inflammation and lead to greater pain or injury. If pain persists, it can do major damage over time and impair your workout goals and physical performance and day-to-day activities.

9. Doing Movements That Don't Feel Good

If you feel a crack or sharp pain, it's best to stop what you are doing, do a little stretch, and try a different activity that can keep your body safe. Plus, if you find yourself chronically sore or fatigued, you might be doing wrong form or excessive movements in one designated area. Just because your friend does pull-ups, doesn't mean you have to if it doesn't feel right. Do what's best for your body.

10. Comparing Yourself To Others

A little friendly competition never hurts, and experts say that competition can drive motivation to succeed, however, it can do damage when we compare ourselves to others and hold ourselves to unrealistic standards. Focus on your own body, its abilities, efforts and accomplishments, and do activities that you enjoy and can sustain longterm without pushing your body to unsafe limits.

11. You Aren't Intrinsically Motivated

While external rewards, such as a new workout shirt, a scone, or a manicure, can drive us to want to exercise, if we focus more on material items, we aren't working out for the right reasons. Having a negative perspective, thinking that workouts are boring or are needed in order to eat a certain way can be self-destructive, so it's better to shift to a positive stance. Think of exercise as fun and empowering, instead.

12. Not Performing Exercises Correctly

"Be sure you’re doing each exercise correctly. In other words, if you're unsure of how to do an exercise, I do not recommend doing it. Ask a fitness professional to teach you. We are all here to help and want to help," says PJ Stahl, a Reebok Trainer, over email correspondence with Bustle. "Many people get injured from repeated bad form, and it is so disappointing because they put forth the effort and most of the time, they didn't even know they were doing it wrong", adds Madeline Dolente, a Reebok Trainer, over email with Bustle. Don't let your efforts go to waste!

13. Start Small & Build Up

Starting with too much weight or intensity can hurt your exercise efforts. "Start slowly and start with light weight. There are many stabilizing muscles that need to be strengthened to support each exercise. You don't want to rush this process," says Stahl. He recommends starting with light weights, or no weights, and doing ten reps to see how you feel in the coming week.

While there's the temptation to jump into a routine or compare ourselves to others' performances, it's best to start small and work ourselves up in order to build strength and keep our bones and muscles healthy and free from injury. Look at yourself in the mirror, listen to your body, and fuel right for tremendous and sustainable workout results.

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