Workout Mistakes That Can Cause Real Damage

Going to the gym regularly requires determination and willpower. For those who have decided to take this step to establish a regular exercise routine, it’s a… Trista - June 4, 2018

Going to the gym regularly requires determination and willpower. For those who have decided to take this step to establish a regular exercise routine, it’s a great move in the right direction. However, too many beginners find it challenging to ask for help when first getting started and tend to learn bad habits that are hard to break. Beginners may resist asking for help because they are either too shy or too arrogant to admit they need some advice. You need to learn how to do the necessary exercises correctly from the very start, or your workouts will be plagued with difficulties. Many training routines include variations of these basic exercises, and if you are doing them incorrectly, they will be ineffective, and you won’t see the results you expect. If you don’t see results, you may lose heart and give up on exercising altogether instead of just making a few crucial adjustments.

Some people have been doing these exercises wrongly for years without realizing it. Doing them incorrectly not only makes them less effective but opens you up to injuries. You are training your body to perform a movement in a specific way. If you do this incorrectly, you can develop back pain, an aching neck, a damaged shoulder, and other injuries that can seriously affect your life quality. Learning good forms when doing basic exercises will help you maximize the results and encourage you to continue. When focusing on good form, the aim is to do exercises to keep a neutral spine and focus on your core stability. The following points reveal the mistakes you could make when doing basic exercises and fixing them.

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25. Squats

Exercises that employ multiple muscles at the same time are a great place to start, and squats will target your leg muscles and your core. Squats have been around forever for a good reason. They are functional, and you do the movement often in your daily life. Doing the squat correctly strengthens all the lower body muscles that are vital for performing many daily activities. People’s most common problems with squats are that their knees cave in, they round their backs, and they don’t go down far enough. When your shoulders are rounded, your back is rounded too. That causes you to go too low on your squat, creating an extra load.

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There is a proper way to squat. You have to take a stance a bit wider than shoulder-width with your hands out in front of you for balance. Sit back as if you were in a chair with your shoulders back, your chest up, and toes pointed out. Your knees should be behind your toes, and you should be looking forward with your chest up. Bend down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your weight on your heels as you rise again. As you get stronger, a multitude of variations can be added to the squat.

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24. Lunges

Lunges are one of the most effective lower body exercises. The stronger the muscles are around your knees, the better, and a lunge helps to strengthen these muscles. It can also help to improve your balance and build up your glutes and your quads. When all of these lower-body muscles are weak, it causes dysfunction and pain. The main problem that occurs when making a lunge is that you don’t keep your back straight, and you go forward instead of down. Your back must be straight with your shoulders back and your chest lifted. Another problem is that your feet aren’t in line with your hips, and you don’t keep your knee behind your toes.

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To make a stationary lunge correctly, put one foot in front of the other and drop your body straight down. Keep your back straight and your knee behind the toes. You shouldn’t be going forward but down. Look forward with your chest up as you go down, so you work the leg in a safe, functional way. You can do ten repetitions on one side and then put the other leg forward and do another ten on the other side. When you’ve perfected your technique, you can try to change your basic lunge using different equipment.

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23. Sit ups

When doing a sit-up, your entire back has to leave the floor. It’s essential to keep your knees up with your feet firmly planted on the ground for this exercise. Place your arms on opposing shoulders, so your arms are crossed over your chest. That allows you a central rising point. Problems commonly experienced when doing sit-ups are rounding the lower back, not breathing throughout the movement, and trying to do the exercise too quickly, so you’re virtually rocking back and forth. Putting your hands behind your neck and pulling on it is a common problem. Another problem is pushing your head forward too much and pulling your chin into your chest.

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To do a sit-up correctly, lie with your back on the ground with your knees bent. Draw your belly button into your spine to tighten your abs. Keep your feet flat on the floor and slowly lift your head and shoulders. Focusing your eyes on your knees, pull yourself up to your knees and hold your position. Slowly lower your head and shoulders back to the floor. A modification of the sit-up is doing it with crossed arms over the chest.

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22. Pushups

When doing a pushup, you’re using your biceps, triceps, your back, and your chest, so when it’s done correctly, you’re getting an entire upper body workout. Whether you’ve done hundreds of pushups or are trying one for the first time, it’s easy to lose sight of form when making such a basic move. A common mistake is that people bring their hands up too high above their shoulders or too low, compromising their structure. If you sag your hips or stick your butt straight up in the air makes the exercise ineffective. Flaring the elbows out perpendicular to the body also renders it useless. Why? You are bending the hips up and down instead of bending the whole torso as one unit. Besides, you can also make the mistake of not going down far enough.

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You always want to start your pushup from the ground. Go down onto your chest and stomach, making sure you’re flat on the floor. Bring your hands even with your chest just below your shoulders. Push through the heels of the hand, press up, bringing the torso, chest, and thighs off the ground as one unit. Keep your abdominals tight, and make sure not to lock your elbows. You want to be parallel to the floor. Slowly lower yourself back to the ground and keep your torso, chest, and thighs as one unit.

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21. Dips

Some people swear by dips as a strength builder for the upper body. Others believe they place too much strain on the joints and connective tissue. Doing dips incorrectly can indeed wreak more havoc on the shoulders than just about any other exercise. Many people tend to do this exercise wrongly, mainly because they try to rush it. One problem comes from flaring the elbows out. Another is not going all the way down until the elbow bend is 90 degrees or not going all the way up until the arms are fully extended. You can also grip the dip bars wrongly so that your hands slip while your body moves.

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Grip the dip bars with your thumbs, put the heels of your palms on the bar, and squeeze hard. Raise yourself on the bars with straight arms. Look straight ahead when doing your dip, so your head stays straight and consciously brace your core and straighten your back. Go all the way down until your shoulders are below your elbows. Go back up until your arms are fully extended. Take your time doing the exercise, and remember to breathe. To reduce your risk of injury, you can modify a standard dip using your legs for leverage.

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20. Planking

This exercise fires up the core and targets not only your abdominals but your back, hips, shoulders, and chest. As you stabilize and balance your body, you are strengthening your core. If your back is not straight when doing the plank, it is ineffective. If you arch your back and don’t engage your abdominals, you put too much pressure on your spine. When your arm muscles get tired, your hips may start to sink, once again putting too much strain on your spine. If your head is too far up, it puts pressure on your neck, and the rest of your form falls apart.

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Some people choose to do the plank on their forearms before pushing it up to their hands. If you do this, it’s essential to keep your hands shoulder-distance apart, with your arms forming a right angle to the floor. Your shoulders should be in line with your hands, and you should not bend your neck. Keep your hips raised by squeezing your glutes and tucking your butt in a little. Take deep breaths as you engage your abdominal muscles and keep your eyes looking down, so your head and neck are aligned with the rest of your body.

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19. Step-Ups

Step-ups work the muscles throughout your hamstrings, quads, and glutes. Single leg training can be beneficial if you have an asymmetry between your two legs; it can help to prevent injuries. The step-up is a functional, multi-joint exercise that has a high carry-over into many daily activities. The wrong height does not allow you to engage your leg muscles at a height that’s challenging but not too difficult. Not placing your foot correctly on the step is another problem. Pushing off on the rear leg is probably one of the biggest mistakes because you are using momentum instead of strengthening the lead leg muscles.

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Doing this exercise is easy. Place your one foot on top of the step and press your weight into the foot’s heel. It should be at the hip level so that your hip, knee, and foot are at a 90-degree angle. Step up with the other foot, maintaining an erect posture and keeping your knee back behind your toe. Touch the step and drop back down. If you have issues with your knees, you don’t want to do it too quickly. Exhale as you lift and inhale as you lower. Do about 8 to 12 reps on each side and then switch legs.

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18. Deadlift

One movement you probably do more than any other is picking up things. The deadlift trains you for the activity. Many people are afraid of deadlifts because they think they will hurt themselves, which is possible when done incorrectly. Pulling with your back as you bring the weight past your knees can cause injury. Not keeping your chest out and your head up as you lift is another mistake. If your legs and arms are not vertical, you are at risk of falling and injuring your joints.

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Walk to the bar and stand under it in a shoulder-width stance. Keep the middle of your foot under the bar. Grab the bar with hands just outside the knees. Look slightly upward, take a deep breath in and drive upwards through the heels, with your shoulders back and your chest forward. As you reverse the movement, keep all your weight through your glutes and your heels. If you have a problem with back pain, some variations can be done rather than injuring your back further or altogether avoiding deadlifts. One of these is to widen your stance, which brings you closer to the ground and limits your range of motion.

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17. Bench Press

The bench press is used in many exercise routines and provides benefits for all kinds of athletes. It uses just about every muscle in your upper body. However, it can also be a dangerous exercise, injuring shoulders, wrists, and backs if done with the wrong form. One mistake is to lift your butt off the bench, which puts a strain on the middle and lower back and more pressure on the shoulders. Another problem is when shoulders are forward or flared outward instead of down and back. If your knees are bent at an obtuse angle, the barbell shifts forward, making the load uneven and the exercise ineffective.

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When you sit down, make sure that your feet are outside shoulder width, firmly planted on the ground. Lie back and take a grip on the bar with your hands just outside shoulder width. Lower the bar down, exhale, push your feet into the ground for support and drive your arms up towards the ceiling. You want a fully controlled movement down and up to work your chest. It’s important to engage your abdominals by pulling your belly button in towards your spine. The barbell should be approximately in line with your shoulders to keep the load balanced.

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16. Hip Bridge

Bridges are not only the perfect exercise for a perfect butt, but they will also help keep your back healthy and pain-free. They activate all the muscles in your posterior muscles. They are also simple and can be done just about anywhere. Your fitness level is not essential, so if you’re new to working out, this is an excellent exercise because it involves raising your butt and hips off the floor while your shoulders remain grounded. However, even the simplest of activities can be done with bad form and cause problems once again. If you arch your back while doing a hip bridge, you load your lower back instead of your buttocks.

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Start by lying flat on your back with your knees bent and your arms in low V by your hips. Your feet should be about hip distance apart, with your heels a few inches away from your butt. Raise your hips, so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Squeeze your buttocks as hard as you can and contract your abdominal muscles. Pause in the up position before lowering your body back to the starting position. Once you master this move, you can add modifications such as lifting your right leg straight up and doing a single-leg variation.

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15. Standing Calf-Raise

The standing calf-raise exercise will target them and give strength and definition. Functional mobility tends to be associated with the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings, but the calves are just as important. The calf muscle pulls the heel upwards, allowing for forwarding motion in walking, running, jogging, skipping, and sprinting. Your feet are not in the correct position on the platform. They are too far on or too far off and not aligned with your shoulders. You shouldn’t push off from the outside of your foot or your big toe. You reduce the exercise’s effectiveness if you don’t go as far up or down as you should.

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Stand up straight, pulling in your abdominal muscles with a third of your feet on the platform. That way, they are in line with your shoulders. Lift your heels as high as possible so that you’re on tiptoes. Hold for a few seconds. Now lower the heels until they’re below the platform, feeling the stretch in the calf muscles. Do variations on the standing calf raise by using a rocking motion and some dumbbells. Lift your feet up and forward as if you perform a standard calf raise and then rock back onto your ankles, so your toes are flexed and off the floor.

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14. Hyperextension

Hyperextensions mainly target your lower back muscles. They also target secondary muscle groups like the glutes and hamstrings. Not many other exercises focus on specifically strengthening your lower back muscles. Strengthening these muscles helps with good posture and can prevent you from developing neck and back problems later in life. Your body does not form a straight line, and your lower back is poorly arched. When bending down, you may go further than what your body can handle. Everyone has their limits, and you need to know yours. Simply letting go and swinging down in an uncontrolled way can damage your back and will not even strengthen your muscles.

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Position yourself on a Roman Chair facing forward. Ask someone to point one out if you don’t know what it is. Cross your arms in front of your chest and slowly lower your upper body down. Once your torso is completely bent over and virtually perpendicular to the floor, slowly return to the starting position and repeat. Raise your torso to hip level, and don’t round your back when bending down. The motion should be made fluidly and slowly for the best results. As you grow stronger, you can perform variations such as grasping a weight plate in your arms to give extra resistance.

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13. Two Arm Dumbbell Row

Two-arm dumbbell rows work your biceps and your lats. They complement hyperextensions well by focusing on similar but different muscle groups. This exercise also help to strengthen the back and the spine, improving posture. They stimulate most of the upper body, including the back, neck, arms, and shoulders. Don’t bend, round, or hunch your back. If you don’t maintain a straight line from your waist to your head, you stress your lower back. Another mistake is to tense your muscles and perform the exercise too quickly.

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With a dumbbell in each hand, bend forward at the waist, so your chest is leaning over your feet. Keep your knees slightly bent with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Starting with arms fully extended, let the dumbbells hang down at about mid-shin level. Hold the dumbbells, so your thumbs are pointing in towards each other, and your palms face your body. Next, lift the dumbbells and close to your stomach. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat. Keep your head straight and your shoulders back to keep your back stable. Use a slow, fluid motion to get the best out of the exercise.

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12. Barbell Back Squat

Using a barbell when squatting helps to engage the core and yield better results. The barbell back squat is one of the most common exercises seen at the gym as you can challenge your legs and go heavy. If your form is incorrect, this exercise is dangerous. If it’s done right, it improves overall strength and core stability. Your knees go beyond your toes, and you round your back. When your back is rounded, the barbell rests on your neck rather than your muscles. You go so low that your knees give in. Your heels lift, and you fall forward.

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Set up a bar on a squat rack so that you can step under the bar and rest it on your back behind your shoulders. Pull your elbows back, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. When you contract your shoulder muscles like this, the barbell will rest on them instead of on your neck. Once the barbell is resting properly, step away from the rack. The barbell should be in line with the middle of your feet. Set your feet between hip and shoulder-width apart and sit your butt back into a squat without lifting your feet, letting your knees buckle, or arching your back.

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11. Dumbbell Lunge

Lunges with weights require good balance, so if you have issues keeping your balance, start by doing the exercise without weights. Start with a lighter weight before progressing to a heavier one. A workout with weights increases the work done by the muscles and is very important for bone health. One mistake is to twist your knee sideways, which makes the exercise ineffective and can cause injury. Letting the knee of the forward stepping leg go beyond the tip of the toes can aggravate the knee joint. Lifting the rear foot onto the toes affects your balance.

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Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Hang arms at your sides with your palms facing your thighs. Your feet should be slightly less than shoulder-width apart. Take a step forward with your right leg, bending the knee until the front thigh is almost parallel to the ground. Your left leg should be bent at the knee and balanced on the toes, and the knee of your right leg should not go past the tip of the toes. Step back into the starting position and repeat with the other leg.

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10. Running

Running is another good form of exercise, and you don’t have to just do it at home or in your neighborhood. Some cities have parks or trails for walking and running as well. Get outside and enjoy the fresh air while getting in some good cardio, too. Be sure to wear proper running shoes, though, and bring water to help you stay hydrated. Don’t go out for a jog in flip-flops. You’ll be wishing you had grabbed your tennis shoes before heading out the door. Pace yourself as well. If you start to get winded, stop and take a break, don’t overdo it.

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It’s a good idea to stretch your legs before taking off down the road or down that trail. You may end up pulling a muscle if you don’t. Taking breaks to drink some water and catch your breath is a good idea as well. Your heart shouldn’t feel like it’s pounding out of your chest, and you shouldn’t feel like you’re about to pass out either. Maybe set a goal for yourself, run a quarter mile the first time, half a mile the second, and so on, until you have reached your goal of how far you wish to run at a time.

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9. Swimming

Swimming is such a fun and relaxing exercise. Anyone can do it! Even if you’re not sure how to swim confidently, you can use floaties or a life jacket to help you float. It’s excellent for your joints because it doesn’t put pressure on them while you move, and you are in constant motion in the water, even when you don’t realize it. Not everyone has a pool, but there are community centers, public pools, and beaches available to the public for swimming access. Just be sure to put sunscreen on if you are swimming outdoors.

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Some great exercises to do in the pool can include backstroke. While floating on your back, row with your arms while kicking with your legs. The breaststroke is another one while floating on your chest, row with your arms, and kicking with your legs. You can keep your head up out of the water the whole time or hold your breath with your face down in the water while taking breaths of air every few strokes. Treading water is another form of water exercise that is pretty simple to try too. Staying calm and keeping your head above water, you slowly move your arms and legs back and forth to keep yourself afloat.

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8. Bicycling

Like running, you’re not limited to just your neighborhood. Feel free to explore and go beyond just your block. Find some trails on a lovely sunny day and take your bike for a ride. Be sure to wear some comfortable shoes like tennis shoes or sneakers. Pants or shorts such as sweat pants, leggings, basketball, or bicycle shorts would also be a good idea for some added comfort. Bring a water bottle with you to help stay hydrated along the way, especially on those hot days in case you sweat.

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When your legs start to feel tired, stop and take a break. Make sure not to push yourself either. It’s easy to pull a muscle by doing something you’re not used to if you overdo it. Also, make sure you are riding a bike that you are comfortable with. Riding one that is too big or small for you can cause back problems. Be sure the tires are also fully pumped with air before going for a ride so that the ride is smooth—nothing like going for a bike ride and having a flat tire when you’re nowhere near home.

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7. Yoga

Yoga is not only good exercise, but it’s also beneficial for relaxing and meditating. It can help you find your center of balance and help calm you when you feel stressed or overwhelmed. You can do yoga in the comfort of your own home, or find a yoga studio and join a group of others looking for some relaxing exercise like you. All you’ll need is a yoga mat and some comfortable clothes, such as yoga or sweat pants, and an oversized t-shirt or sweatshirt.

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If you choose to do yoga at home, you may find some yoga videos on the internet or in stores, ranging from beginners to experts. You are also not limited to just doing yoga indoors. Take your mat outside for some outdoor stretches and meditation. You may find you even prefer to do your yoga outside better than indoors. There are so many different poses and stretches to do when doing yoga. You may also find that your balance needs some work, which yoga can help with that, too.

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6. Stretching

When exercising, it’s important to remember that stretching plays a role. You’ll want to stretch before starting any type of exercise, especially when it’s one that is using a lot of leg and arm muscles. It’s easy to tear muscles and tendons when they’re not properly warmed up first, and you will be left feeling even achier than you would if you don’t stretch beforehand. Simple stretches will even work just fine, too. It’s also good to sometimes stretch, even when you don’t plan on exercising at that time.

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Stretching after you wake up helps your muscles to relax. Poor posture is caused by tense muscles that aren’t stretched, and over time will lead to back problems. Think about how cats and dogs stretch as soon as they wake up from their naps before they run off to play or eat. They have the right idea! Stretching takes a minute to do if you’re in a hurry. You’ll be thanking yourself in no time that you had taken the time to stretch. Make sure you stretch all of the time. You can do it after waking up, after sitting for a while, before exercising, or just because.

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5. Eating Healthy

Now you don’t have to go on a diet just because you decided to pick up a healthier lifestyle of exercising, but it is good to pick up more nutritious eating habits. Eating fast food and processed junk food may seem like a good idea when you’re on the go and don’t have time to cook, but it’s not healthy for you. It’s not that hard to make quick and easy healthy meals at home either. You can always meal prep on a day you are less busy so that you don’t have to worry about meals for the rest of the week.

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Instead of a bag of chips, trade it for some crunchy carrots. Are you looking for something sweeter? Trade that candy bar for juicy fruit, such as berries or an apple. Make sure to add fiber and protein into your daily diet as well, and cut out unnecessary sugars when you can. Your body will be thanking you. You will soon be feeling so much better, and it may also help build up more muscle and exercise. Remember, you don’t have to go on a diet to eat healthily. You just have to make smarter choices with what you eat and drink.

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4. Staying Hydrated

Staying hydrated while exercising is probably one of the most important things to remember to do. If you’re not hydrated while exercising, you may become dizzy and even faint, causing you to fall, which may lead to injury. Especially if it’s warmer where you are working out, whether indoors or out. Water is the best thing to carry with you even when going for a walk, but even a beverage with electrolytes will do. Just be sure you’re not drinking something that’s loaded with sugar while exercising. It’ll only dehydrate you more.

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You would think that beverages such as Gatorade or Powerade would be good to have while exercising, but they can be loaded with sugars, and drinking too much of them can dehydrate you more, making you feel sick. Water is honestly the best drink to have around you when doing any exercise, especially if it involves something that will make you work up a sweat. Be sure to stay away from sodas and juices while exercising, as those are also loaded with sugars. You may even realize you’re dehydrated if you finish a workout and have excessive thirst and headaches.

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3. Taking Breaks

Remember, it’s a good idea to occasionally take breaks when you start to feel tired, out of breath, or thirsty when exercising. Over-exerting yourself isn’t suitable for your body and can damage your muscles if you’re not careful. So listen to your body when it tells you to slow down and take a breather. For example, when you’re running and your legs start to feel like noodles, it just might be time to stop and give them a break.

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Another example of taking a break would be if you’re swimming laps in a pool and get short of breath, it’s best to stop and sit on the side for a bit to catch your breath. If you continue to swim, you may make yourself go into panic mode and put your body into shock, or even have a panic or asthma attack if you’re prone to them. Work your way up slowly to reach your goal of how much you can do at a time, don’t go all-in at once, or you may regret it afterward.

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2. Wearing Proper Attire

Wearing the proper clothing for whatever workout you plan on doing is a good start. If you plan on going for a jog or lifting weight or doing squats, for example, sweatpants or comfortable shorts might be a good idea to wear, along with a baggy shirt or sweatshirt if it’s chilly. If you are outside, wear tennis shoes or sneakers that fit your feet well, and be sure that they are tied, so you do not trip over the laces. When swimming, you can wear a swimsuit of your choice, even shorts or a t-shirt over your suit if that’s more comfortable for you, too.

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When doing any sort of activities and exercises outside, it’s important to remember to wear sunscreen on any part of your skin exposed to the sun. Also, remember that you can still get sunburned on a cloudy day if you’re outside too long with exposed skin on a warm day. If you’re riding a bicycle on a sunny day, it may be a good idea to wear sunglasses to help protect your eyes. The same goes for when you are going for a walk or out running.

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1. Having Fun While Exercising

Making games out of exercising is a fun way to exercise without making it feel like work. Set goals or timers for yourself. See how many times you can jump rope in 30 seconds, or challenge a friend and see who can ride their bike the fastest around the block. If you make it seem like a game, it will make it seem a lot more fun and might just encourage you to get up and get moving around more, too.

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If you’re at the public pool with your kids, but all they want to do is float around on pool floaties, see if they can swim to one end of the pool and back in under two minutes. They won’t think it’s work, it won’t feel like exercise, and they’ll have fun doing it. You could set the same goal for yourself too. Maybe put a timer for yourself for 20 minutes, and see what different exercises you can accomplish in that amount of time, without overdoing it, of course. Furthermore, remember, don’t forget to stretch, hydrate, rest, and eat properly!