Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. But when it comes to keeping fit, what you don’t know might hurt you. Here are four common things that can hinder your fitness level, or even cause pain and injury.

Focusing Only on Cardio

Strength training, such as weight lifting and resistance exercises, has incredible health benefits for men and women alike. It helps you burn more calories and improves the strength of bones, muscles, and tendons. Building stronger muscles also helps support bones, possibly decreasing the risk of injury. Women can benefit from strength training by building lean muscle mass and do not build “bulk” unless they follow a strict bodybuilding regimen.

Doing the Same Routine Every Time

It’s easy to get in a fitness rut and do the same thing over and over. Not only does this often lead to boredom, but your muscles get used to the exercise and don’t have to work as hard. This can have a negative effect on your fitness goals. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends you change your routine regularly for maximum results (and enjoyment).

Exercising Without Any Fuel

Working out first thing in the morning, without any food or hydration, will not allow your body to perform to its maximum potential. Your workout could be hindered by a lack of energy provided by food, causing lightheadedness or mild dehydration. Plan to wake up an hour before your workout and eat a small snack with some lean protein. Always bring a water bottle with you, and drink before, during, and after your workout.

Zoning out While You Work out

While your favorite music can get you motivated for the elliptical or treadmill, reading a book or watching TV may not be helpful. Studies show that the mind can have a powerful effect on your muscles, and elite athletes use visualization before important competitions and events. Instead of using distractions, focus on what you’re doing. As you’re exercising, picture specific muscles you wish to target. Think about each one during strength training reps.

Knowing how to maximize your workout – and avoid common pitfalls – will allow you to be at your best every time.

Sources:

http://www.active.com/fitness/articles/5-benefits-of-weight-training

https://www.acsm.org/docs/current-comments/rtandip.pdf

http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/15/health/eat-before-workout

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14998709