When it comes to fitness, most people focus mainly on the actual workout, not what comes before it. However, your pre-workout habits matter just as much as your time spent in the gym. In addition to getting into workout gear and crafting the perfect playlist, you want to make sure you’re not doing anything that could ruin your workout—or put your health at risk.
“Pre-workout habits can set you up for either an amazing or an awful workout,” says personal trainer Dempsey Marks. “If you set yourself up for success by making sure that you’re properly fueled, hydrated, and rested, your body is not only able to perform at a higher level, but you will also be in a better mindset to really push yourself in your training.”
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To help you reach your fitness goals and make sure you stay safe, here are pre-workout habits to avoid.
Don’t: Eat Heavy
When looking at pre-workout habits, it’s important to focus on nutrition. While you never want to go into a workout hungry, you also don’t want to eat too much. “Eating too much or too soon before your workout can lead to nausea, cramps, acid reflux, indigestion, and overall decreased performance,” says Marks. “Aim to have a light meal or snack at least an hour before your session instead.” Try to eat a balance of carbs, fats, and protein with snacks like pretzels and cottage cheese or an apple with peanut butter.
While a big meal can slow you down, eating too little can leave you sluggish and fatigued during your workout. “Make sure you have 20-30 grams of carbohydrates before you hit the gym to sustain your blood sugar levels,” says personal trainer Henry Halse. Be sure to eat this at least an hour before the gym. Ideally, you’ll eat a balanced meal a few hours before your workout. Then follow up with a snack an hour before exercise.
Don’t: Static Stretching
Contrary to popular belief, static stretching is one of the pre-workout habits to avoid. “Statically stretching (holding a stretch) has been shown to actually decrease your strength if performed before a workout,” says Marks. “Plus, stretching cold muscles can lead to injuries like strains.” Static stretching isn’t ideal before a workout. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t warm up at all. Instead, opt for dynamic (moving) stretches. Or perform some light cardio to warm your muscles up and prevent injury. Save the static stretching for post-workout recovery.
Don’t: Over-The-Counter, Anti-Inflammatory Medication
You may be tempted to pre-load the ibuprofen to minimize post-workout soreness or to alleviate pain from an existing injury. But you’re better off waiting to pop that pill. “Doing this can lead to further injury, as your body won’t have the pain signals to know if you’re pushing past your threshold,” says Aaptiv trainer Jennifer Giamo. Invest in a foam roller to help with muscle soreness and post-workout stiffness instead.
Don’t: Nap For More Than 30 Minutes
It’s definitely not a good idea to exercise while running low on sleep. But a long, luxurious nap will also start you off on the wrong foot. “Napping more than 30 minutes can cause you to feel sluggish and more tired than taking just a quick 15-minute snooze,” says Giamo.
Don’t: Drink Alcohol
You should avoid drinking any alcohol before working out. “Although this might seem obvious, drinking even a little alcohol before a workout should be off-limits,” says Marks. “Alcohol affects your motor skills and coordination, putting you at risk for injury. It also leads to dehydration.” You’re better off enjoying yourself at happy hour and fitting in a workout the following morning.
Don’t: Try A New Supplement
Right before a workout isn’t the time to try out a new supplement or sports drink. “Before you add a new pre-workout powder or sports drink into your pre-gym routine, try a small dose first to make sure it agrees with your stomach,” says Halse. “If it doesn’t, you don’t want to find out in the middle of your workout.”
Avoid these pre-workout habits before you get moving. You might find that your workouts improve and you feel better overall.
By avoiding the bad habits, you can make room for the good ones. Let Aaptiv help you on your fitness journey with audio-based workouts in many different categories.