Your pre-exercise habits can go a long way toward making each workout really count. Make sure you’re really giving it your all (and reaping all the benefits) when you hit the gym, trail, studio or wherever else your workout takes you by avoiding some common mistakes.
Here are eight things experts say you should never do before your workout, as they can derail your performance before you even break a sweat.
1. Apply Lotion
Keeping your skin hydrated with a daily application of lotion is great — especially during drier winter months — but not before your workout. This is especially true if you lift weights, says Nick Rizzo, training director at RunRepeat.com.
“The last thing you want while using any form of weights or equipment is slippery hands, as those become an immediate danger to you,” he says. “Not to mention a danger to anyone else who has the gross experience of touching your left-over hand residue afterward as well.”
Save the lotion for after your post-workout shower — putting it on can even double as a massage for your just-worked muscles.
2. Drink Alcohol
Hitting up happy hour before you hit the gym is a major no-no, for a number of reasons. With your reflexes impaired, “you are waiting for an accident to happen, either en route to the gym or in the gym itself,” says functional medicine nurse practitioner, Cynthia Thurlow.
Plus, drinking alcohol before your workout will just make you less coordinated, more sluggish and less likely to give it your all. You’re better off skipping your gym session if you knocked a few back and putting in a little extra work the next day.
3. Drink Too Much Caffeine
Watch your coffee, tea and pre-workout supplement intake to make sure you’re not overindulging. “Although caffeine can be a great pick-me-up pre-workout, it can also dehydrate you, elevate your heart rate and cause dizziness,” says yoga teacher Zac Armstrong, master trainer for YogaSix.
Depending on when you drank it, caffeine can also cause you to crash — possibly during your workout — says ACE-certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist Lyuda Bouzinova. A crash usually happens three to four hours after. So if you’re going to have that latte or supplement, it’s better to drink up closer to your workout and not overdo it.
4. Eat a Big Meal
Properly fueling before a workout can be full of potential pitfalls, says ACE-certified personal trainer Timothy Lyman, and director of training programs at Fleet Feet Pittsburgh.
“While it’s important to give your body the right kind of calories it needs to perform or recover from an activity, a common mistake I see is athletes eating too close to a workout,” he says.
“This can result in gastrointestinal distress and poor absorption of nutrients, both of which hinder performance.” He says it’s OK to workout in a fasted state or to eat a quickly digested snack if you’re really ravenous.
5. Do Static Stretches
Stretching can be a great way to warm up your muscles and stave off stiffness. But the type of stretches you do really matter. Static stretches (ones you hold for an extended period of time) are great for relaxing your body and aiding in recovery, says Jorden Gold, co-founder and chief stretch officer for Stretch Zone, but that also makes them less-than-ideal for your pre-exercise routine.
What’s more, Lyman says static stretching can put you at higher risk for injury, so you want to do something dynamic instead. “A good warm-up would be things that mimic the results/effects of the activity you are about to perform, he says.
“For running, that means jumping jacks and hip openers rather than standing toe touches or a quadriceps stretch.” For weight lifters, he suggests focused mobility work on the areas you plan to target.
6. Spend Lots of Time on the Foam Roller
In general, save the rolling for after your workout. “While rolling can increase blood flow to an area, if you’re about to lift heavy weights, spending 20 minutes rolling out your lower back might not be the best idea, as it can destabilize the area,” says Luke Jones, movement coach and content creator at HERO Movement.
If you have a major problem area — unusually tight IT bands, for instance — that you need to quickly address for mobility’s sake, that’s the only reason to break out the foam roller pre-workout.
7. Finish Another Intense Workout
Back-to-back workouts may make you feel like a total beast, but they won’t do you any favors when it comes to seeing results — and they can even set you back. “Our muscles need rest to recover,” says personal trainer Jennifer Fidder.
“Unless you are a professional athlete, performing several workouts back-to-back might not be a good idea and can lead to injuries and fatigue.” Stick to one workout at a time so you won’t have to pull double recovery from overtraining.
8. Eat Foods With Common Allergens
If you do eat a meal or snack before you hit the gym, do your fellow gym-goers a favor and steer clear of foods with common allergens, like peanuts. “Eating common allergens right before the gym can make the gym a dangerous place for others,” Rizzo says.
“While it is expected that you wash your hands before the gym, you can still get leftover allergens from your quick peanut snack in the car on your clothes.” Even trace amounts can be enough to cause someone with a severe allergy a considerable reaction.