Like most people, you probably enjoy visiting the gym. It's the place to hang out, catch up with friends, grab a health shake, and yes, get some exercise! Not many people actually think about safety and correct use of gym equipment. However, neglecting these key areas could lead to lifelong problems. Here are some dos and don'ts to follow.
1. Don't compare or compete
Everyone has unique genes, so what works for someone else may not work for you. There's no point wasting time trying to be something you're not. Instead, stick to your goals and work towards achieving your objectives.
2. Do have a spotter on standby
Regardless of whether you like to lift by yourself or hit the gym with a friend, some exercises should not be performed unless a spotter is present. Why? If, for some reason, you can no longer support a weight, a spotter will be able to relieve you immediately, so that you do not drop the weight or hurt yourself trying to hold it up. This is particularly important in the couple of reps, when you are really feeling the burn. A good spotter will also provide encouragement, and constructive criticism on lifting technique. A good spotter can identify when you need help with a rep, and give you just enough aid to help you complete it.
3. Don't compromise on posture when you chat
If you talk while exercising, you often get distracted or don't pay attention to your moves. This makes you compromise on your posture. Remember, right form and technique protect the joints and safeguard the body from exercise trauma, while wrong technique or jerky movements can cause serious injury.
4. Breathe right
Breathing is an important aspect of fitness training, especially in the case of weight training, yoga or pilates. For example, while performing weight training exercises, you should exhale when you exert and inhale when you release muscular tension.
5. Don't forget to stretch
A good time to stretch is immediately after an exercise session, while the body is still warm. Stretching increases flexibility and relaxes the muscles.
6. Drink plenty of water
Water loss due to perspiration needs to be replaced. Drink plenty of water before, after and during an exercise routine, to prevent dehydration.
7. Progress gradually
Your objective should be to gradually prepare the body to exercise, without over-training. A rule of the thumb is to increase the intensity, or weights, by 5 to 10 per cent at a time, as you progress.
8. Eat well
Healthy eating and exercising go hand in hand. Only if you eat healthy will you have the necessary energy to exercise and be active. Common sense, isn't it!
9. Don't use a ‘reel' model in real life
The truth is that real people, leading real lives, cannot look the same as those who live a reel-like existence. Set your own goals in the context of a lifestyle and image that is focuses on your health and happiness.
10. Have fun
Your fitness routine at the gym should always be enjoyable. Try different kinds of exercise to keep up interest levels and work towards building a great stress-buster routine.
The writer is a certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist.