Q: What is the most common exercise mistake that people make? I getting back into fitness and I want to make sure that I do everything right!
A: One exercise mistake that people make is that they overdo it when returning from a break. If you haven’t exercised in a while and experience a sudden boost of motivation, it may be tempting to dive right back. Unfortunately, this often has the opposite effect of what you intend: instead of getting back into the swing of things, you may end up with an injury and unable to work out for another extended period of time.
So the question then becomes: how do you avoid this exercise mistake and return safely?
As a general rule, you should aim for about 50 to 70% of your normal routine or intensity if it has been two to four weeks since your last workout. Much longer than this and your goal will then be to simply “get the blood pumping;” you are unlikely to perform at top level after several months away from the gym and it doesn’t help t try and force it. Plus, you may find that you have difficulty just getting used to the routine again: waking up early, eating a small healthy snack, choosing your favorite songs, and deciding which machines you want to incorporate.
It is also a good idea to focus on cardio rather than weights. You never know how your muscles will react, and cardiovascular exercise is less likely to result in pain and injury. Do you normally spend 20-30 minutes running on the treadmill, following by a weight training session? You could still try to perform a 20-30-minute treadmill routine, but alternate between running and walking for a little less intensity. Then gradually increase your weights until you reach your previous level or strength and continue from there.
The point is: don’t be too hard yourself. There is no need to push so hard that you are rendered incapable of working out at all. Working too hard can also result in an injury, and you don’t want to end up needing physiotherapy! Just focus the fact that you are returning to your fitness goals and be proud that you have taken the first step. You can always add intensity down the road, but not without a solid foundation!