Feeling short on time?
Even when you’re stressed and busy, studies have shown that exercise will improve your mood and productivity and help to keep you healthy.
So, what about saving time while you’re at the gym?
From not stretching before your cardio session to rushing through your reps, we look at which gym shortcuts are true timesavers and which are potentially dangerous.
Gym Shortcut #1: Not Entering Your Age and Weight Into the Cardio Machine
Do you spend the time to put in your weight and age before you hop on the elliptical, or do you just press the quick-start button and get to work?
“This is one that I’m not really a stickler on,” says Josh Anderson, a personal trainer and founder and editor of DIY Active. “While punching in your appropriate weight, height and age can help show you more accurately the number of calories you burn (or your heart rate) during your turn on the treadmill, the main thing is to actually get on there and do it!”
Even if you do take the time to enter your info, don’t put too much weight on the output data.
“Sadly, the calorie counters on cardio machines are not too accurate, so don’t get too psyched to have that hamburger after your elliptical machine says you burned 600 calories during your workout,” explains Jill Brown, a workout guru and owner of Jill Brown Fitness. “The percent of inaccuracy tends to range between 15 to 25 percent, and that’s only if you enter your age, weight and gender.”
Verdict: This shortcut is OK.
Gym Shortcut #2: Not Stopping to Drink During Your Workout
How often during your gym session do you stop to drink?
“We all know that we are supposed to drink water throughout the day,” says Anderson, “so why would you all of a sudden skip water during your workout when you are most active?”
With your body in high gear, it’s important to keep it running smoothly and efficiently, so it’s crucial to stay hydrated during your workouts.
Extreme physical exertion can cause a sweat loss of a percentage of your body weight, but studies have shown that a mild loss can even cause dehydration symptoms to start and cause a decline in your endurance, motivation and perceived effort. So take time during your workout to drink up.
According to a U.S. National Library of Medicine publication, exercisers should drink about two cups of water at least two hours before a workout and sip half a cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes throughout a workout to stay hydrated.
Verdict: Don’t skip stopping to drink.
Gym Shortcut #3: Not Wiping Down the Machine Before Using It
Skipping out on cleaning your workout machine may save you a few precious minutes, but it could cost you in the long run.
“Cardio equipment (especially ones with those foam-rubber seats), free weights and machines are crawling with germs and bacteria,” says Brown.
And it’s not just your average cold viruses either. “Researchers who tested gym equipment also found more frightening germs like Staphylococcus, E. coli, Klebsiella, fungi and yeast,” she says.
While wiping down the equipment won’t guarantee that you don’t get sick, it will definitely decrease the number of germs you come in contact with.
Verdict: Don’t skip wiping down the equipment.
Gym Shortcut #4: Not Stretching Before a Workout
When you’re short on time, it can be hard to spare a few minutes on either side of your workout to stretch.
And does that stretching really matter?
Fitness pros don’t always agree.
“This has often been a debate,” says Brown. “Will stretching before a workout prevent an injury?
Some say yes. Others say don’t stretch because it will inhibit your ability to push maximum load.
All in all, research has not shown much correlation between injury prevention and pre-workout (or even post-workout) stretching.”
Your best bet, says Brown, is to do a warm-up that is similar or the same as your workout, but a lighter intensity.
Hitting the treadmill? Walk for a few minutes first.
Working your biceps with free weights? Start with lighter weights before hitting the heavier ones.
“Also be aware of how you’re coming in to your workout,” says Brown. “If you’re sore and fatigued from a previous workout, you’re more likely to get injured. Your form will be a little off and your movements will be hampered from the pain or stiffness.” On days like this, take more time to warm up with stretching or a foam roller session.
Verdict: It's OK to skip stretching.
Gym Shortcut #5: Not Logging Your Weight Stats
Do you usually have the lat pull-down machine at 55 pounds? Or was it 75 pounds?
“We’ve all been here,” says Anderson. “Many times we either grab a weight that is way too light and doesn’t push us or way too heavy with which we can only get one or two reps with bad form.”
Having a workout log isn’t a must, according to Anderson, but it can help keep you on track so that you are constantly pushing yourself to new personal records each workout. It also ensures you don’t hurt yourself by going too heavy.
Some gyms now offer workout machines that will remind you of your latest lifting weight when you enter a personalized code. If your gym isn’t that techy yet, opt for a tracking app like Gym Goal, Strong or Gym Buddy. Or, of course, there’s a good old-fashioned notebook and pencil.
Verdict: Don’t skip logging your stats.