Weight training equipment – Get to know the do’s & don’ts
Before starting your weight training programme, make sure you can perform each exercise with the correct technique. The improper use of weights or machines can lead to injuries, which can either be an acute injury (i.e. you will feel it immediately), or a chronic injury (symptoms may be more subtle and it takes longer before it really bothers you). Incorrect techniques may also cause ineffective use of the target muscles, which means you will not develop the muscles correctly.
You would be surprised how many people are shy, afraid or embarrassed to ask for advice and assistance. Make sure you ask the most knowledgeable instructor or staff member for advice (this is not necessarily the guy with the biggest muscles). Remember the golden rule: if it hurts, it’s wrong. You should be tired, even absolutely exhausted after your workout, but you should never hurt.
Have a session or two with a personal trainer
You know the saying, “one is never too old to learn”? Well, this also applies to regular gym bunnies. It is imperative to learn correct lifting techniques and also to learn the most desirable exercise sequence for optimal results. Training your body to obtain the desired effect is a science, and one area in your life where intuition or imitating fellow gym goers is just not good enough. A good personal trainer will let you know about the latest trends in gym exercises and could thus introduce you to novel training methods. This way you can ensure variety in your training which will keep you motivated as well as interested. You don’t need to spend an entire month with a trainer, just a few sessions can make a world of a difference.
Scrap the sugary ‘energy’ drinks
A lot of people make the mistake of taking electrolyte or glucose containing drinks during their gym session, when in fact their bodies really don’t need it. Sipping on a sports drink during your workout will cause your blood sugar levels to spike which may come crushing down soon after, or sometimes even during exercise. This can leave you dizzy, faint and even nauseous. Stick to good old fashioned water and you will easily manage your hydration levels. It is even better to drink ice cold water, rather than water at room temperature, as it will make you drink more often and even help you burn an extra few calories.
Extend your gym session with a pre-workout snack
Your body always prefers to burn carbohydrates, mainly because the energy from carbohydrates are released at a faster rate and it is readily available as glucose in the blood and glycogen in the muscles. For this reason many people believe that they will burn more fat if they don’t eat before their training session, in other words in a glycogen depleted state. Although this may be true, you will unfortunately not be able to exercise for long enough, or at a high enough intensity, to burn significant amounts of fat. The reason being, that without adequate glucose in your blood and glycogen in your muscles to fuel your exercise session, you will soon be dead tired and not able to complete your session.
It is preferable to have a small snack before your training session, consisting of low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates. Low GI carbs are found in fruit (apples, berries, cherries, grapes, pears, strawberries, vegetables, wholegrain bread, rice, pasta and cereals). Low GI carbs are slowly released into the bloodstream, keeping your blood sugar levels stable and helping you maintain your exercise intensity. Just remember that the more calories you consume before exercise, the longer digestion takes and the slower the release of energy. So keep the portion small and go exclusively for the low GI options.
Put the phone…down
I am amazed at how many people take their electronic toys to gym and cling to these as if it were a gym towel. They barely finish a set before grabbing their phone and frantically page through their messages, or Facebook page. I bet some people spend more time in the gym on their electronic devices than actually exercising. What is the point? Unless you’re using your phone for music, if you have clear training goals, there really shouldn’t be time to do anything else but exercise. Remind yourself why you are going to the gym – to work on that beautiful body and to relax your mind. Focus more on your exercise session, and less on your twitter feed.
Prof Elmarie Terblanche is the Chairperson of the Sport Science Department at Stellenbosch University.