According to Ben Boudro, C.S.C.S., owner of Xceleration Fitness in Auburn Hills, Michigan, getting that fit body you crave includes increasing endurance and intensity, improving flexibility and balance and, last but certainly not least, building muscle.
That last one is extra important. After all, in order for your body to look strong and fit in the first place, more muscle is a necessity. “When we put that stress on our muscles, they adapt and grow bigger, and reveal themselves on your body leaving you toned,” explains Boudro.
That said, it's not as simple as picking up some weights and going to town. And even experienced gym-goers make mistakes on the quest for a sleek physique. To help you get on the fast-track to tight and toned, we asked top trainers to share mistakes you should avoid:
TRYING TO DO IT ALL ALONE
Especially during the warmer months when we’re faced with little-to-no alternative but to show some serious skin (hey, it’s hot out!), folks start taking their fitness routines more seriously. But, according to Boudro, this usually results in two scenarios: “Either people lace up the shoes and head out for a run or they go to the nearest gym without a plan and just jump in and try it on their own.” While the motivation is great, jumping into a new routine without any plan or direction can be challenging, and not too sustainable. The fix for this? Hire a professional. “Join in on boot camp, HIIT sessions, body-transformation challenges, power yoga, or whatever it is that will make you sweat,” Bourdo says. “Having someone coach you and lay out your work for you will keep you accountable, ensure you work harder and more consistently, and allow you to start seeing actual results.”
NOT MIXING IT UP ENOUGH
Committing to a workout program is a great first step—you start seeing results, gain more confidence, and have an overall easier time completing workouts. But one mistake that could cause you to plateau is repeating the same exercise routine over and over again. “Your body adjusts and adapts to workouts, so it’s important to constantly alter your routine to keep your body guessing and your muscles growing,” explains Boudro. He suggests increasing tempo—you can have a fast-, medium-, or slow-paced workout, each one with its own unique set of benefits. Another method is by mixing in low and heavy reps with high and fast reps. “This ensures you’re hitting the type I and type II fibres—it's always better to get both!"
NOT GETTING ENOUGH PROTEIN
When shaping up, your initial thought might be to cut calories, but you should actually focus on getting more protein. “Your muscles recover by using amino acids to help repair and build the muscle to be stronger than it was before,” explains Boudro. “If we don't supply our bodies with the protein, a.k.a. ‘recovery juice,’ then our muscles are not going to adapt and grow.” This is no good when you’re trying to tone your body. Consider filling up on healthy proteins like eggs, chicken, fish, lean meats, and high-quality protein powders. “Everybody requires a different amount of protein, but I always start my female clients off by aiming them toward 120 grams of protein per day,” he says. He recommends apps like MyFitnessPal or Amazon’s Alexa to make calculating your protein intake a whole lot easier.
NOT PUTTING IN ENOUGH TIME AND INTENSITY
Consider time and intensity partners—they go hand in hand. “If you find yourself completing a set of 10 dumbbell squat thrusters with two-pound pink rubber weights, and it didn't ‘feel’ that hard, chances are your muscles didn't think so either,” says Chris Ryan, C.S.C.S and founder of Chris Ryan Fitness. “The same goes for if you did the elliptical for a half hour and barely broke a sweat—chances are your muscles didn't think you wanted to make them toned.” Time and tension are the two single greatest factors to building muscle, burning fat, and getting that sexy, toned look you're striving for, he adds. “Negate one or the other and you will be spinning your wheels looking for the results you want.”
OVERDOING IT WITH THE AVOCADO
“I love almond butter and avocado as much as the next person and make them staples of both my nutrition and my clients' nutrition [plans], but it’s important to be aware that these superfoods are as nutrient dense as they are calorie dense,” says Ryan. “They can add up quickly and get stored as fat.” While kilojoule counting isn’t always necessary—nor does it work for everyone—staying mindful of your intake is key to toning up. “Own what you put in your body and, better yet, understand the fuel sources you choose more than anything,” he adds.
NOT DRINKING AMPLE WATER
Your body is made up of 60 percent water, so it’s obvious that you need to drink the stuff to function properly. Not getting your fair share leads to dehydration, which results in a number of workout-sabotaging factors such as fatigue, a slow metabolism, and even unhealthy cravings.
“Your muscles can't recover properly after your hard workouts when you’re dehydrated—nor can your body effectively burn fat, which negates all of your hard work,” says Ryan. Generally speaking, he recommends aiming to drink at least half your bodyweight in ounces of water daily. This means if you weigh 150 pounds, you’re drinking 75 ounces of water throughout the day. A great way to keep track is to get a 20-ounce bottle and make sure you are drinking at least four daily.
NOT GETTING ENOUGH REST
Rest periods are crucial—and not just for your physical and mental stamina. “When you work out hard, you cause small muscle tears which help strengthen your muscles over time,” Ryan says. “However, if you constantly work out, with little time off, you can put yourself in the ‘recovery hole’ and not achieve the results you want or put yourself at risk of injury.” Proper recovery means ample sleep, which your body needs to function at its best. “Everything adds up, so if one thing in your recovery is out of whack than the hard-earned results you want will be as well,” he says.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health.