Fitness & Health

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Less pain, more game

NEWBIE OR NOT, it is easy to injure yourself while working out—stretch, pull, or lift the wrong way and you could end up damaging your muscles. This week, in part one of a two-part series, Stuart Thomas, a graduate of the University of Ottawa’s human kinetics program, explains the most common mistakes gymgoers make and how to avoid them.


Hitting the machines and neglecting rest

If you’re looking to increase your strength, Thomas recommends steering clear of machines because they can be intimidating and don’t offer the best workout. Instead, hit the free weights, but make sure you rest muscles between sets. Thomas says, “You should be resting at least five minutes between each set … or at least working a totally unrelated muscle group.”


Working out with social show-offs 

Working out in a group can hamper your progress for two reasons. First, there’s the fine line between motivation and peer pressure. This is especially noticeable amongst groups of guys—if the first guy benches 120 pounds, everyone after can feel that they have to either maintain or up it. Thomas points out the tendency for large groups to “stand around a bench [while] one of them works out. The others will watch, and they’ll rotate. You’re there for an hour and a half, and you’ll maybe get a 15-minute workout.”

To maximize your time, but still enjoy the company of a friend, choose your workout partner wisely. The benefit to choosing a much fitter friend to hit the gym with is that they’ll have the experience and know how to help you. At the same time, you’re not going to be tempted to try and match them.


Being afraid to ask for help

The gym can be an intimidating place. For those who are worried everyone around them knows what they’re doing, fear not, says Thomas. “[At] the U of O gym especially, there’s a lot of people that show up once a month or once a week and they’re just as much guessing at what they’re doing as you are.” To avoid guesswork and potential injury, don’t be afraid to ask for help from a gym employee.


Attempting too much, too soon

Some newbies will hit the gym for a really intense workout, and two to three days later experience pain that can only be described as DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness. This causes two problems for the gymgoer, according to Thomas: They can’t work out again due to the soreness, and they associate the workout with pain. The key is to start with easy, full-body workouts and work your way up. If you remember only one thing, make it Thomas’ number one tip: “Take it slow, do things you know how to do and expand them. And if you don’t know how to do anything, then get help.”

Sarah Horlick