10 Workout Mistakes You Don't Know You're Making

By , Linda Melone, Woman's Day
You do the rowing machine at the gym and walk outdoors when weather permits. So why does your back hurt and why don't your skinny jeans still fit? Poor form can up injury risks and common calorie-burning misconceptions can sabotage weight-loss results. Here, top experts share the biggest exercise mistakes women make and safer ways to get the most out of your favorite workouts. 

Mistake 1: Holding the treadmill rails
Sure, it feels easier because you're partially supporting your body weight as you walk, but you cheat yourself out of a greater calorie burn, says Michele Olson, PhD, CSCS, a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine (FACSM) and a professor of exercise science at Auburn University in Montgomery, AL. "Plus, you risk injury from using improper form."

Fitness fix: Stand firm and place only your fingertips on the rails. "If you need to grab the rails because of the incline, the grade isn’t appropriate for you," says Dr. Olson.  

Mistake 2: Strolling when walking outdoors.
That easy pace doesn’t lead to much calorie burning. "Women often overestimate their caloric expenditure," says Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, author of Beat the Gym: Personal Trainer Secrets—Without the Personal Trainer Price Tag. "The danger is in eating a muffin and thinking an hour of walking will burn it off."

Fitness fix: Speed up! A 150-pound woman burns about 140 more calories per hour walking at a brisk 4 mph than she does walking 2.5 mph, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. 

Mistake 3: Sitting too high or low on a stationary bike
This can strain your lower back, says Dr. Olson. "A seat that’s too low inhibits full use of the quadriceps and hamstrings, causing you to sit with your pelvis rolled under." On the other hand, a too-high seat can strain the Achilles tendon, she adds.
Fitness fix: "On each pedal stroke, the leg you push downward should become nearly straight, with your foot parallel to the floor," says Dr. Olson. If not, raise or lower the seat.

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I think that there is nothing wrong to hold on to the handrails on your treadmill, I do it all the time to stabilize myself and to prevent me from falling off the machine. As long as you ARE NOT supporting your weight on the rails, you will get a beneficial workout. I have lost around 5 pound just on the treadmill and holding on to it. Report
I must being be doing rule #1 wrong as I hold on to the rail. My equilibrium goes off and I go off the treadmill. I love doing my treadmill.This happen a couple of times, so I hold the rails. It hurts to go off. Report
Use DVDs inside when it is cold out. Report
Good tips. Report
Mistake 1: Holding the treadmill rail- Makes so much sense. I geuss holding on cause's bad form since swinging your arm is natural. I wondering if that is why My back hurts so bad. I'm exersicing to reduce pain,( and reduce weight) and I'm causing more. I've been doing it wrong for a year and a half. Looks like I need to start over, slow down the speed and learn to do it right and see if it helps, but its so hard because I liked walking on my treadmill on and high incline because I burn WAY MORE calorie's. I geuss I wasn't burning as many as I thought by cheating myself by holding on for balance. Thank you for the advice! Report
Sure holding the rails inhibits us from the best workout, or walking faster burns more calories, but really, no matter who you are and how fit you are, isn't the idea just to exercise in general? SOME exercise is better than pushing too hard, giving up and then NO exercise. Report
I work out on an elliptical machine and work out everyday I do allow myself to slow down on sundays but the rest of the week I work out everyday.I do break up the sessions into generally two per day one during the day and one in the eve.just because I work out vigourously each time and every week try to add more time to my workouts.I applaud those who work out every week and walking is great but deciding why you are walking makes a big difference for your work outs.Strolling is what I like to do but it usually doesn't take any lbs off and where we live the winter weather is a big factor.Strolling is wonderful and any exercise is good but I love to look around me when I walk and enjoy the scenery so I don't really call that exercise. Report
According to this "expert" I am doing everything wrong. I stroll a pleasant 3-4 miles a day at 3mph at most on my best days, taking time to talk with neighbors, pet the cats and dogs, and smell the flowers. I do my strength training with 3# dumbbells because that's the only equipment I own, but if I did have a treadmill, I surely would use the rails to keep the pressure off my painful arthritic knees. I don't belong to a gym, so I don't use any of the other machines mentioned. My results: ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. I've lost 39# in 6 months and I haven't been this strong since my youth. LDL cholestrol-down, blood sugar-way down, blood pressure-down, heart rate-down, triglycerides-down, mood-elevated. Go figure. I agree with JACK 714--the biggest mistake is not exercising. Report
Mistake 2: Strolling when walking outdoors.

What's wrong with strolling ? There seems to be a misconception that the only reason a person exercises is to burn calories. The benefits of exercise go far beyond how calories a person burns in X amount of time.

A nice stroll can help reduce a person's stress. I am a firm believer that stress is a neglected aspect of weight gain. If a person could reduce their stress, they'd automatically reduce their waistline.
I think the points about women using heavier weights and doing cardio intervals following the link to the full article were the most helpful. To create muscle growth, you have to do some damage. That's not going to happen with 3- or 5-pound weights. And once a specific weight proves less challenging as your body adapts, you have to up the weight. And you want to build muscle since this tissue is metabolically active. Fat just sits there. Muscle tissue burns calories, even at rest, meaning it is one of the few proven ways to boost your overall metabolism. This is particularly important for women in or nearing menopause.

Intervals are great because you can accomplish more calorie burn in less time. Who doesn't want that? Studies also have shown that intervals have the benefit of a post-exercise calorie burn, while steady rate cardio does not. One of my faves are Tabata drills. You do 20 seconds full out and then rest 10 seconds, repeating this pattern eight times for a total of 4 minutes. You can do it with any activity, like the cycle or treadmill, or even squat jumps or pushups. Report
Pretty common sense, but I didn't know about Zumba shoes! I haven't taken a class yet either.... oops. Report
I didn't realize that holding the rails on the treadmill was hampering a calorie burn, I'll try to let go - at least for some of the time. I hold on more for balance but maybe I need to try this without holding on and maybe that will strengthen my form in time. Report
For LJKSHS and AQUANESS212 - there's a link that you have to click on below the third point - says "Click here for more tips to get the most out of your workout from Woman's Day".......I've seen this before on other blogs (probably done to save space)..... Report
I only see three points too... Report
Am I missing something here? Because it says 10 tips and I only see three and no other page... Report
I hold the handrails because I can't walk straight and that helps me stay where I should. I fear I will fall if I don't hold on, at least lightly. I will try to walk without holding on. Report
I always hold the rails so good to know! Report
I have aways tryed to NOT hold the rails on the treadmill unless on a high incline, now I know thats needed then the incline is to high for me, thanks for the tip. Report
This was an interesting. I always hold the rails on the treadmill because I feel like I'm going to fall off otherwise, I didn't know it was interfering with my workout! Report
I can't walk 4 mph without the added side effect of 2 lovely hamstring pulls. That's why I run, I can only walk at one speed...SLOW. Report
I have a tendency to hold the rails as I feel it adds support. But thank you, I will try this!
For most of us the biggest mistake is not exercising. Haven't got to the fine points yet. Report
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