Avoid mistakes and make your gym experience count.
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For a lot of people, getting to the gym is the hardest step—but getting the most out of your workout can be just as difficult. Personal trainer Andrea Metcalf knows it all too well. Don't let one of these gym mistakes waste your hard work.
1. Reading on the Treadmill
I understand we all have limited time, but unless you are planning on walking for more than an hour, put down the book and get focused. Try for alternating intervals of slow and fast—or inclines and flats—to fight the boredom factor. Pushing yourself will pay off: Just 10 minutes of vigorous exercise can equal up to 30 minutes of slow walking.

2. Stretching Before Your Workout
Your body may feel like a stretch before you step out the door for a jog, but the most important time to stretch is actually after your workout. If you must stretch before you exercise, use moving stretches or dynamic movements that mimic the activity you are about to engage in. For walking, try ankle rocks or leg swings across the body for running.

3. Forgetting to Stretch After Your Workout
Many people finish their workout with a set of crunches and then head right to the locker room. But after using your muscles and tightening them up, it's best to release the tension and return them to a relaxed state of tension. Simply stretching the main muscle groups (hip flexors, outer thighs, chest, shoulders and ankles) not only increases blood flow and circulation to reduce muscle soreness, but it also helps attain better posture and alignment.

Try Andrea's basic Live-ilates stretches.

4. Drinking Cold Water During Your Workout
We all know it's important to hydrate before, during and after our workouts—but you may not know that room-temperature water better hydrates the body than cold water. Humans have to use energy to warm the water to absorb it, so although the cold may feel quenching, it will take longer to be utilized. You can try adding a pinch of salt to your water bottle to help balance any electrolytes you may have lost during a sweaty workout.

5. Doing the Same Thing Each Time
Although creating a routine will give you confidence in the gym, doing the same movement patterns consistently will result in reduced calorie burn and muscle building. Why? Our bodies are smart. They become very efficient at utilizing the least amount of energy possible to perform the same movement. If you are a walker, increasing your speed and incline, or changing your route, can be enough to keep the body guessing. For weight training, try different exercises that target the same muscle groups. Typically, your body has a six-to-eight week learning curve. So if you don't love change, make your cycles every two to three months for your best return on results.

6. Skipping a Workout
"Time is a created thing, to say you have no time means you really don't want to."
— Lao Tzu, father of Taoism

Even when you don't think you have time, you do. Even 10 minutes of exercise has an impact on the body, and you can sneak that much into your day anywhere: standing in line at the grocery store (pick up one leg and balance in a tree pose); waiting in an elevator (squat against the wall); or standing in the shower (lean on the wall and do a few push ups). Remember: Every little bit counts!

7. Working Out Every Day
Even the president takes a day off! Realistically, your body needs the rest and recovery time to rebuild and be at its best. If you are an exercise fanatic, remember how important rest is to rebuilding muscle tears and easing muscle soreness. Change the intensity or just stretch on the seventh day of workouts. Or integrate Pilates or yoga into your regular routine.

8. Training for a Marathon to Lose Weight
Weight loss and marathon training should not be discussed in the same breath. When you run a marathon—a wonderful motivation goal, by the way—you are teaching your body to conserve energy to be able to maintain movement for an extended three-to-six-hour course. This energy efficiency does not compute well when your goal is to burn the most amount of calories and be a metabolic engine.

9. Thinking 10 Minutes Isn't Worth It
Whether you have a full hour for exercise, or as little as 10 minutes, it is a proven fact that incremental exercise contributes to a healthy lifestyle and helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular and other diseases. Think of the gutter on a house filled with leaves. If you use the hose to rinse the leaves away and have low pressure throughout the day, you could turn on the water and slowly they would be rinsed away. Your circulation system works in a similar fashion. Now just think: If you turn the full pressure on the hose, maybe it would take only 10 minutes!

10. Thinking You Are Too Old to Exercise
Want proof that exercise is for every age? I recently met with Jane Fonda at World Fitness Day in Atlanta. At 72 years old, she looks fantastic! Jane gathered up a group of more than 3,000 people of all ages—including Billy Blanks, Denise Austin, Richard Simmons, the Pointer Sisters, Debbie Allen and Ludacris—for an event to inspire better health for everyone.

Which of these mistakes are you guilty of? Share your history in the comments area.

Keep Reading:
Start things up with Andrea's Live-ilates exercises 
Don't do it! Bob Greene reveals 10 weight loss mistakes he's tired of seeing
Do you lift weights? If not, you should!
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