The fact is, life is busy. So busy you may feel like you barely have time to breathe. It only stands to reason then that when you hit the gym, you mean business. You’re there to see results. You’re there to make progress. You’re there to achieve your goals.
So if you’ve been going to the gym, working hard and doing what you think you should be doing. But still, aren’t quite seeing your fitness improve as you thought. There’s no question you are downright frustrated. You’re might even be wondering if your body is broken.
This happens more often than you would imagine. Women are going to the gym and doing what they’ve been ‘told.’ And yet aren’t seeing much come out of it.
There are the distinct time-wasters (chatting for WAY too long with the hot guy at the squat rack or posing 13838 times in front of the mirror for that perfect selfie). Many of them aren’t so obvious. Some in fact that you may think are helping you out.
But they aren’t.
And that’s what we’re here to talk about today. I’m going to set the record straight in hopes that if you see yourself committing any of these near-fatal sins. You can straighten yourself up and get on to bigger and better things. Every woman working hard deserves to see her body improving, so let’s make that happen.
Time Waster #1: Endless Amounts Of Steady State Cardio
You have patience, and we get it. But seriously, if you’re spending more than 2-3 hours per week doing steady-state cardio, you may want to re-evaluate your program plan. Most women don’t need that much cardio training to make progress.
The fact is, you don’t change your body much with steady-state cardio. It can be a tool to help increase your total daily calorie burn and using it to achieve such can be a wise idea. If you need to do an hour of steady-state cardio a day, it may be time to evaluate your diet plan.
It becomes a lot easier to slash 200-300 calories from your meal plan in many cases than spend what feels like endless amounts of time doing steady-state cardio.
If you want to change how your body looks, you’re going to want to focus on things like weight lifting and high-intensity interval training. These are what will get you maximum results.
When you do that much steady-state cardio, you’re just going to set yourself up for issues such as overuse injuries, ongoing fatigue (which will mean less effort devoted to the things that matter), and gym burnout.
Time Waster #2: Not Forming A Plan
It’s also going to be essential that you have a plan in place for your workout session. Meaning, you aren’t wandering around, wondering what to do next.
Ask yourself this, if you were going to attempt to prepare a strawberry shortcake from scratch, would you do it without a recipe?
Not unless you were a professional chef, you wouldn’t! You need the guidance that a good recipe – a plan – provides.
The same goes for your workout sessions. Unless you have a pre-determined plan that is designed to help you get from point A to point B, you may be just spinning your wheels. You may be hitting the gym, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting to see results.
You may be doing the wrong exercises, the wrong set numbers, the crazy rep ranges, and taking the wrong amount of rest for your unique goal.
But unless you are a pro trainer, you won’t know that. Get a plan. It doesn’t have to be the fanciest most elaborate plan in the world. It should be a program designed to help you achieve your unique goal. There are hundreds of plans available online, so check those out or consult with a personal trainer.
You’ll feel a lot more confident going around the gym when you have a plan as well.
Time Waster #3: Not Tracking Rest Periods
Which brings us to our next point, failing to track your rest periods. You may be merely estimating how long you’re resting. For some, this works out fine. They know their body and their goal and can naturally select an appropriate amount of rest to accommodate.
For others, they are quite confused. They get caught up at the water fountain, get distracted by their social media newsfeed, or get lost in thought as they people watch others in the gym.
Rest periods need to be precise because this can dictate the nature of the results you see. If you aren’t tracking them, you may be wasting time during your workout program. This is because those exercises will be rendered nearly useless.
For example, if you only take 30 seconds of rest after doing a squat exercise, chances are you won’t be recovered enough after that squat to perform optimally on the next set.
But on the other hand, if you take two minutes to rest after a bicep curl, you’ll be more than recover and will have just wasted a good 90 seconds that could have been spent working – not to mention reduced the effectiveness of that exercise in the first place.
Either watch the clock in the gym or set your stopwatch. Both are great options.
Time Waster #4: Not Learning Proper Form
Here’s another that you need to know: not learning to use good form. You might think that you’re saving time because you skipped that initial intro session with a trainer and dove right into it. But if you’re now using poor form when you do your lifts, this could mean that you see minimal benefits from those lifts and worse yet, could be setting yourself up for injury.
Learning proper form is vital. It’s worth it to spend one week, two weeks – even a full month lifting very lightweight but making sure that your perform is down perfect.
The more often you execute an exercise using perfect form, the better that movement pattern will get ingrained in your mind and the easier it will be to maintain it as you move forward with your workout sessions.
This will also dramatically decrease your risk of injury over time. Because let’s face the facts, if you’re down and out with an injury, you really won’t be seeing much for progress while you’re in the gym.
Time Waster #5: Being Afraid Of Variety
Some people get onto their workout program, and that’s where they stay, day in and day out. They’re too scared to venture away. While it’s good to have a plan, this doesn’t mean it’s written in stone. While some ideas will have built-in variety (which is a great thing!), others don’t, and you’ll need to add it in.
You’ll waste time in the gym if you do the same workouts week after week. The reason for this is because the body begins to adapt to the workouts you’re doing, and when that happens, you can hit a real progress plateau.
For instance, think back to the last time you tried a new exercise. Chances are you were pretty sore the next day. It is because your body wasn’t made to experience something it hadn’t done before and was reacting as such. There were many adaptations taking place as it got used to that movement pattern. It rebuilt itself back up stronger so that should you do it again in the future, it could handle it better.
This is progress.
While soreness isn’t always a good indicator of progress, in other words, you don’t need to be sore to see results; it is a good indicator that you are continually challenging your body and it will be responding in due time.
Make it your mission to change one thing in every workout that you do. It doesn’t need to be significant so that it throws off your entire plan but make one tiny adjustment. This might be doing a walking lunge instead of a stationary lunge, for instance.
Over time, doing so will show in the results you see.
Time Waster #6: Getting Caught Up With The TV Or A Book
If you’re doing cardio and catching up with your favorite TV show or reading that book you’ve meant to get through, there’s a good chance you’re mostly wasting time in the gym.
To see results, you need to be working quite hard – so hard that watching TV is a struggle. You should not want to watch TV because you need to focus on what you’re doing.
The only exception to this may be a light recovery cardio session if you’re doing it where you must go at a low intensity to render that session effective for what it’s trying to help you achieve (active recovery).
The TV will cause you to waste time in the gym and fail to see the progress you’re looking. So think hard about turning on that cardio theatre screen.
Time Waster #7: Performing Too Many Isolation Exercises
While there are a time and a place for isolation exercises, most people are better off leaving these to a minimum with their workout program.
You’ll see the best overall results for your time invested if you focus on compound exercises, which are moves that require you to exert a high amount of energy and work for multiple muscle groups at once.
These are the exercises that will help you push your body to the limit, burn the most calories, and evoke the best muscle building growth response.
Isolation exercises are great to fine-tune a muscle that has been built up to a level that you have been happy. They are not designed to get you from point A to point B in your physique plan. They’re designed to get you looking ‘perfect’ once you’re already near point B, to begin with.
The problem with spending too much time doing isolation exercises when at the gym is that it’ll take you forever to get through all the muscles, meaning your entire workout may last 90-120 minutes when you could have been done in 45-60 had you just done compound exercises instead.
So not only are you wasting time so to speak because your workout is taking longer, but also because it’s less effective.
Time Waster #8: Not Setting Specific Goals
Finally, the last time waster you want to ensure you don’t commit is not set concrete goals for yourself. You need to have that vision of what it is that you want to obtain when you hit the gym because it’s this vision that becomes your driving force every time you’re in there.
If you don’t have a clear vision, it becomes tough to not only motivate yourself to put in the effort needed to see results; thus you waste time giving a half try, but to know how far you’ve come.
You want to feel the feeling of success is knowing when you reached smaller goals on your way to a larger purpose and let this feeling keep you committed. Without that vision, this is all impossible, however.
So take some time and be sure you set both short-term and long-term goals. Some people view goal setting as ‘wasted time,’ but it’s not. It’s some of the best well-spent time there is.
By keeping these gym time wasters in mind, you can ensure that you are on the path to ultimate results and are using the limited time you get in each wisely.
Shannon Clark holds a degree in Exercise Science from the University of Alberta, where she specialized in Sports Performance and Psychology. In addition to her degree, she is an AFLCA certified personal trainer and has been working in the field for over 15 years now, and has helped others of all ages lose weight, build muscle, and improve their physical performance. She’s been featured in Bodybuilding.com, Muscle & Strength Hers and Oxygen magazine.