- Mistake #1: You Rely on Cardio to Peel Off Pounds
For most women, sweaty aerobic exercise alone isn’t enough. “Research shows that weight loss is minimal if it isn’t accompanied by dieting,” says Amy Luke, PhD, a nutritional epidemiologist at the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago. “We may compensate for the extra energy we’re burning during physical activity by doing less the rest of the day, or more commonly, we feel famished after working out, so we eat more.”
The Solution: Keep your diet in check. To drop a pound, which is 3,500 calories, in one week, aim to eat 300 fewer calories every day (300 x 7 = 2,100) while burning 300 calories from exercise five times a week (300 x 5 = 1,500). Follow our “Slimmer in 7 Days!” plan, not only to burn 1,500 calories a week but also to firm up from head to toe. Plus, to beat the post-workout hunger attack, pack a low-cal snack like a piece of fruit. “You plan for exercise. You need to plan what you’re going to eat afterward,” says John Porcari, PhD, a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse and a FITNESS advisory board member. Drinking lots of water helps too.
- Mistake #2: You Race Through Your Reps
Two things could be going on here: Either your weights are too light, which is often the case for women, or they’re too heavy, and you’re letting momentum or gravity take over. Either way, your muscles aren’t being sufficiently challenged, which is why they’re not getting more toned. “To see an improvement in definition, you need to have an increase in the protein content of muscle fibers, and that happens when the muscles are stressed and being called on to exert more force,” Bushman explains.
The Solution: If you don’t believe you’ve done just about all you can do by the end of a set, pick a heavier weight. “You want there to be a bit of strain on the second-to-last and last reps,” Bushman says. Reach for a lighter dumbbell when you aren’t moving the weight with steady control as you lift and lower.
- Mistake #3 You Skip the Warm-Up
You may think you’re saving time, but you’re actually just compromising the first 5 to 10 minutes of your workout. “Your body literally needs to warm up so that blood flow increases, the nervous system wakes up, and the body starts to use energy and oxygen more efficiently,” says Michael Bracko, a sports physiologist and director at the Institute for Hockey Research in Calgary. The upshot: Every step feels like less of a slog, and calorie burn kicks into high gear.The Solution: Bracko says that the best warm-up is to do your chosen exercise at a low intensity. Runners, for example, should walk, then jog. “Keep at it until you break a sweat,” Bracko says. Alternately, you can try “dynamic” stretches, which are moves that take your body through the range of motions you’re about to do. For a runner, that can mean high knees, butt kicks, and forward, reverse, and side lunges. “Avoid static stretching, where you’re holding poses for several counts. That actually calms the system down and can impair performance,” Bracko adds.
- Mistake #4 : Your Workout Is the Sole Activity You Get
Sit all day and you’re missing out on burning an easy 900 extra calories. That’s the difference between what people who aren’t sedentary melt in non-exercise activity during day versus what couch potatoes burn, says James Levine, MD, PhD, an obesity expert at the Mayo Clinic and author of Move a Little, Lose a Lot. “Humans are basically built to be moving. The mechanisms that drive metabolism switch on when a person stands and they switch off as soon as she sits,” Dr. Levine says.
The Solution: The more active you are, the better. At the very least, you should get up every hour and walk or march in place. One easy change Dr. Levine recommends: Pace the floor when you’re on the phone. Make it a habit and weight loss will be just several calls away!