ABC News On Call Wellness—February 23, 2009
It's a new year and you're finally at the gym or outside, exercising, moving around and, generally, feeling good about what you are doing.
Days, weeks, months go by and ... nothing happens. Or you are in pain. Or you hate your routine so much you break out in hives at the sight of a rowing machine.
As it turns out, there are lots of little -- or big -- mistakes that you can make at the gym that can lead to an ineffective workout, or even injury.
Dr. Lisa R. Callahan, medical director of the Women's Sports Medicine Center at Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, said that if you do go to the gym to be social, acknowledge to yourself what you're doing. But do not assume that others are there for the same reason.
"Don't interrupt people who want to get a workout," Callahan said. "It's not good to mismatch your desire for socialization with the other people around you."
Similar to conversation, other distractions, such as reading or watching television, which can slow you down, literally, may lead to a less intense, less effective workouts.
There is a multitude of ways to look and feel better, and chances are that those who are exercising want the benefits of all of them. Setting a goal could be the best way to get there, but it is often the step that people skip in favor of jumping right on the treadmill.
Callahan urged people to consider goals that are not related to appearance.
"You want to lose weight, but why?" Callahan said. "There's a million things it will do for you rather than making your thighs thinner," including reducing stress, the risk of high blood pressure or diabetes, and improved sleep and sex life.
"You've got to think, I'm doing this as an investment in me," Callahan said, pointing out that studies show that people who exercise with health goals in mind report more satisfaction with their fitness routine.
Spotting someone is to assist them with an exercise where necessary if that person needs help. People typically spot each other when doing activities that involve a lot of weight, particularly when that weight is being lifted above the body, such as during a chest press.
Having a spotter can be very helpful -- and a good safety measure -- but many people don't know how to spot correctly.
Rather than focusing on the person exercising to see when and where they might need help, spotters could get distracted by a conversation or by something else going on in the gym and neglect their friend.
"If you need a spotter and are using a spotter, they should be paying attention," Callahan said. "Especially if you're not familiar with the equipment."
Weekend warrior sounds like a glamorous title to be carried with pride but it comes with caveats.
"You kind of get all the pain without the gain," Callahan said.
Weekend warrior refers to anyone who gets the bulk of their physical activity during a few days of the week, usually on the weekends, often because of work or family-related time constraints.
"If you only work out hard two days a week and on consecutive days, the risk of injury goes up," Callahan said. "Your muscles aren't prepared and you're likely to overdo it."
A week's worth of rest between exercising keeps your muscles from adapting to exertion and getting stronger, decreasing the overall effectiveness of the exercise.
Callahan is not a fan of the adage, "no pain, no gain."
"That's a 70s mentality that we can't stamp out," Callahan said. "Your workout should be hard and invigorating enough to feel like you did something, but you don't want to be dragging out the door painfully."
While some soreness and pain is inevitable during exercise, not recognizing or ignoring signs that something is wrong could lead to more serious complications.
Persistent pain, increasing pain, or swollen joints can be signs that something is wrong and that you should stop and rest or seek medical attention.
"[Injuries] can become long term and it's a lot harder to get rid of a problem later," Callahan said.
This story originally appeared at abcnews.com.