A habit is something you do when you don’t know what you’re doing. Habits develop over time and take little energy, which is why they are easy to follow. We naturally, almost unconsciously, fall back on them—especially when we are tired.
Habits can wield a powerful influence over your workouts, which can be greatly affected by both good and bad habits. Good habits are to work out consistently and refuel with good carbs, vegetables and protein after each workout. Bad habits, on the other hand, prevent you from training well and recovering properly. That makes for a huge waste of your time and energy.
Here are the four bad habits I see the most often, with my recommended solutions for each.
1. Not Getting Enough Sleep
Having a bad night’s sleep happens from time to time. But if it happens regularly because you stay up late, you will be left with little motivation and energy for your day’s workout. Also, you won’t be able to recover as well as you should.
Being tired also prevents you from starting new habits and keeping them going, or at the very least makes it extremely challenging. Willpower is not simply a skill; it’s a limited resource that gets depleted throughout the day. If you start the day tired, your motivation will be very low that day.
Sleep is the linchpin that gives you the ability to develop good habits, keep new habits going and fight off old bad habits.
The Solution Set a bedtime and stick to it—for example, going to bed every night at 10 p.m. and waking up at 6 a.m. Going to bed is not when you start the process of getting ready for bed but when you turn the lights off and actually sleep. A pre-sleep ritual of turning off all screens 30 minutes before bedtime will be hugely helpful. Yes, this means no surfing the web, watching TV or seeing what’s new on Instagram right before bed. Why? Because the blue light emitted from these screens overstimulate the brain and make it harder to fall asleep. Try setting an alarm 30 minutes before bed as a reminder to turn off all electronics and start winding down.
2. Failing to Properly Hydrate There’s nothing exciting about drinking H2O, but that doesn’t give you an excuse for failing to drink your fair share. A lack of hydration will leave you tired and feeling sluggish.
If you haven’t heard, your body is mostly water. Water helps transport nutrients, which keep you healthy and energized. It also regulates your body temperature while you work out.
The Solution Have a glass or two of water first thing in the morning. You have been sleeping for six to eight hours, and your body needs water in the morning. And no, coffee is not a replacement. Throughout the day, carry a water bottle wherever you go. This will keep hydration in the front of your mind.
3. Skipping Your Warm-Up and Not Doing Warm-Up Sets It is far too common to see someone just start a heavy set of Bench or Squat without properly warming up their body. By not warming up first, you leave yourself open for muscle pulls. Why? Because you have not properly primed your nervous system and muscles to do the work you are about to ask of them. At the very least you’re leaving some serious strength and power gains behind. (Assuming you don’t injure yourself in the process.)
You don’t hop in a high-performance automobile in the dead of winter and expect it to run at 100 mph without warming up first. The same can be said for your body.
Lastly, if you are planning to deadlift 315 for your first set, you can’t just throw 315 on the bar and hope for the best. Technically you can, but at some point you will damage your lower back. By skipping warm-up sets, you are not properly getting your body prepared to lift the weight you are asking it to lift.
The warm-up prepares your body to get ready to move in a holistic way, whereas warm-up sets prepare the body to lift in a specific movement pattern.
The Solution Don’t overcomplicate your warm-up. Keep it simple and short. The warm-up should only take five to 10 minutes of your time.
Example: Foam Roll, Push Ups, Bodyweight Squats, Walking Lunge, Toy Soldiers, Side Shuffles, Sprints.
As for warm-up sets, use the simple rule of for every hundred pounds, do one warm up set.
Example: I want to Deadlift 315×5 for my working set
Warm up 1: 135×10
Warm up 2: 225×8
Warm up 3: 285×4
First set: 315×5
4. Not Having A Plan Not having a plan of what you are going to do when you step foot in the gym may work in the beginning. Just kind of messing around with some Bench Presses here and a few Front Squats there might pay off initially, but your progress will quickly grind to a halt.
Failing to have a plan causes you to waste time and saps your motivation, because you won’t always know what to do. Plus it makes it impossible to track progress.
The Solution Find a qualified professional to write a program that meets your needs and abilities. Use an online resource like STACK.com for guidance. Sit down and write out a month of programming or even two weeks’ worth.
If you have any one of the above bad habits, pick one that seems easy to change or that is the most interesting to you. Try it for a few weeks and see how it fits into your life.