Today's Friday Five is devoted solely to mistakes that people make at the gym - most of which I saw this morning. There is a group of three women that have been coming for a few months. They never improve even though losing weight and "getting in shape" are their professed goals.
1. Not working hard enough. Effort is required. If you lolly-gag from one machine to the next, you are wasting time. If you are counting lolly-gagging time as part of your workout and telling people, "I work out for an hour a day and I get no results!" well then you are deceiving yourself and others.
If you are a young, healthy (although perhaps overweight) adult, there isn't a reason that you should still be having the treadmill on 0% incline and 3.0 mph after several months. 3.0 mph isn't even a brisk walk. It's a stroll. It's a 20 min. mile. Chances are if you aren't breaking a sweat, then guess what? You're not exerting any effort. Don't expect success without effort.
2. Using itty bitty light weights. If it feels too easy, then it IS too easy. 15 reps with a 3 lb dumbbell isn't going to firm up your triceps or biceps. If you are using the thigh machine and it's banging and clanging together because the weight is so light that your thighs are flinging the parts around like you're tossing pancakes, USE MORE WEIGHT.
Using momentum can fit here, too, sort of as a sub-category. I see people using momentum to even lift teensy weensy weights. Lift slower (not that you have to lift at snail's pace) and make sure it is your muscle moving the weight, not just the momentum you've created by swinging it around quickly. (Exception: Many kettlebell exercises are designed with momentum in mind. Know which exercises use momentum and which exercises don't. Hint: Those thigh machines DON'T require momentum).
3. POOR FORM. It doesn't just look funny, it can hurt you. For instance, when doing a front raise, don't lift your arms higher than shoulder level.
When doing squats and lunges, knees should never go over the toes. While you are performing the exercise, look down occasionally and make sure you can still see the tip of your toes. Pressing your heel firmly into the floor can help with this - and also help you maintain balance.
Poor form can happen on cardio equipment, too. Don't lean or slouch over a machine. Stand up tall. Don't hold on too tightly. And really, it's not the place to catch up on your reading. If you can focus on a book or magazine, chances are pretty darn good that you're not exerting the amount of effort that you should be in order to attain your goals.
4. Neglecting body parts. Yes, doing back extensions is boring but you need to make sure all of the muscles are getting a balanced workout. You can do this in a split routine and not have to hit the same muscles in a given workout...but make sure you do even the things you hate doing on a regular basis. Don't pick a part of your body that you think you need to work on and focus on that alone. If you develop strong quadriceps, unless you balance out those hamstrings and glutes to match them, you will wind up with knee injuries.
5. Poor gym etiquette. Wipe down ALL equipment when you're done using it. This means wiping down dumbbells, barbells, mats, benches, medicine balls, bands, cable machine attachments, weight machines, cardio equipment, etc, etc, etc. No one wants your germs and you shouldn't want anyone else's. It is wise to wipe things down before you use them, as well, just in case some clod didn't do it before you.
Don't change the radio station unless you make sure that no one else is listening to that. Don't put it on screamo music unless you've gotten the "okay" from other patrons.
Bonus peeves: I really hate when people say "I ran on the treadmill for 'X' minutes" - when the truth of the matter is they walked, and even that usually at turtle speed. Running is running; walking is walking. One is high impact, the other low.
I also freak a bit (inside, of course) when people talking about 5ks and 10ks and call them marathons. A marathon is 26.2 miles. Period. Anything else has another name.