Working out seems simple enough. Do a little running, lift some heavy objects, and hit the showers. Right?

Not exactly. Heading into any gym session without a plan can be highly ineffective, and even dangerous. To achieve your desired results and stay safe, there are four common gym mistakes that should always be avoided.

Skipping The Warm-up

This is a fitness sin that both amateur and seasoned gym-goers are guilty of committing. Walking into the gym and immediately heading to the nearest weight rack to start pumping iron is an incredibly unhealthy exercise habit.

A warm-up is a set of short, light exercises that prepare the body for exertion by increasing heart rate and blood circulation. Warm-ups make joints more pliable and help you get a sweat started. If you plan to work out around 80% of your maximum intensity, your warm-up should be conducted at around 30% of that intensity.

The Random Workout

Stringing together some random exercises with no focus or consistent periods of recovery will keep you from reaching your fitness goals. You should have a purpose and a plan every time you step into the gym. Aim to create realistic goals and do what feels right for you—not necessarily what you see everyone else doing.

You can add structure to your workouts by keeping a log. Keep track of your sets and reps and use your log to set new goals each month. This will help you see what’s working, and what needs to change to promote continued progress.

Troublesome Timing

If you go to the gym for sixty minutes, consider how much time you actually spend working out. Waiting for machines, water breaks, and pausing to change the music in your headphones won’t count towards your total workout time.

However, sticking to a set amount of time, whether it be 30, 45, or 60 minutes, is not necessary. There are countless different factors, unique to every individual, that make it essentially impossible to establish a standard workout length. A full-body workout for a beginner who is still building strength and endurance will be much shorter than a full-body regimen for a more advanced athlete. A well-structured half-hour workout is more productive than an hour or two of random exercise.

Smoothie Overload

Smoothies are, indeed, delicious and have become a staple of many gyms and fitness centers. While they do offer benefits like meal replacement, pre-workout energy, and post-workout recovery, smoothies must be consumed in moderation.

Smoothies typically contain protein, fat, and carbohydrates. While these macronutrients are beneficial, particularly when delivered at the right time, you still have to be careful about how many smoothies you consume.

It’s important to be aware of which smoothie ingredients provide valuable nutrition, and which ones add unnecessary calories and sugar. Many pre-workout supplements contain high amounts of caffeine. These drinks will provide you with a short-term burst of energy, leading to an eventual crash. They can also give you the sense that you crushed your workout when in reality you just bounced around the gym like a child on a sugar-high!

An awareness of these common gym errors will help you create your best workout plan, or tailor your current routine for maximum results. Remember to plan practically, and be consistent in your fitness and nutrition regimen.