Let’s face it: working out isn’t always as self-explanatory as it seems. Those seeking logical advice often find themselves swimming through a perilous ocean of fitness myths and legends. Be at ease; we’re here to help. What follows are some very basic, but important, do’s and don’ts for exercising safely and efficiently.

DO stretch thoroughly before and after a workout. Your muscles need to be prepared. Stretching “wakes up” the body and gets the blood flowing, allowing you to be more flexible and less likely to pull a muscle.

10 to 15 minutes is more than enough to get you going. Post-workout stretching is equally important: your body has been put under stress, so it needs something to help it relax. Don’t skip stretching!

DO have a goal in mind. Whether this goal is specific (i.e. losing a certain percentage of body fat) or non-specific (i.e. maintaining a healthy physique), having a goal lays a path for you to follow.

It is much easier to establish a routine that you can stick to if you make a goal for yourself.

DO establish a routine. A major reason resolutions are often broken is because people don’t stay on course. Make your routine is a definite part of your day. It’s far easier to reach a goal if you stay consistent. In the end, it will be worth all your time and effort.

DO mix up your workouts. Though you may have a set time of when to workout, don’t do the exact same workout every time. It becomes mundane, thus easier to skip. Mixing up your exercises keeps your mind occupied and your muscles in a state of “muscle confusion.” This term refers to the body’s state of readiness and responsiveness. Seek out new and different exercises and rotate them every few weeks. You’ll continue to have fun, and your body will continue to benefit.

DO the exercises with proper form. This is where many injuries often occur. Even seemingly simple exercises may have some details that need to be observed. When taking on a new exercise, be sure you know exactly how it should be done, so the proper area of the body gets worked. Sit-ups require that you squeeze the right abdominal muscles at the right peak of contraction, never going too high or too low. When using dumbbells be sure to use the proper weight to ensure that the arms (biceps) are doing all the work. If the rest of your body is flailing about, then you’re risking injury and wasting a lot of time, energy and most of all potential results. Take it slow and feel the results.

DON’T workout half-way. You don’t have to spend five hours, six days a week in the gym. No need to become a gym rat, but devote an adequate time to your workout. If all you have to work with is 15 minutes, then make sure you use every minute. It’ll be more rewarding rather than doing one rep before declaring you’re done.

DO “listen” to your body. It’s important to recognize when your body is reaching its limit. Challenging yourself is good, but going to a point you’re not ready for is a recipe for disaster. Let your tolerance build over time. Doing those five extra reps can be a great boost, but do them correctly.

DON’T forget about the diet and don’t only diet. All the exercise in the world won’t make a difference if you don’t eat right. Never fear, this does not mean you will be doomed to a diet of lettuce and tofu. Like all things in life, food choice is a matter of balance. You can still have burgers, pizza, and onion rings, just not every day. Mix it up with veggies, fruit or other healthy options. Combining healthy meals during some days with a few cheat days now and then works just fine. Balance it out, and play it smart.

DO find an exercise you enjoy. This discovery will call for a little searching. If you feel right at home in a gym lifting weights or using straps, then go for it. On the contrary, if you would rather hike, bike, or run, then take any of those on. The same goes for the exercise environment. Do you need the structure of a classroom setting, beginning something like yoga or Tai Chi? Or would you feel more comfortable setting up a custom routine at home? Too many people get roped into something they don’t really enjoy and then quit. Find something that works and works well for you. Have fun!

DON’T be afraid to rest. Taking a day off is not the same action as breaking routine. After your exercises, your body will need time to recover from the workout. These days are actually very helpful for your development. Sore muscles means they are transforming into stronger muscles.

Doing your workout every other day or three times a week is perfectly fine. If you’re the type to do something every day, then you can go for a walk or take the stairs rather than the elevator on your rest days. Unless you’re training for the Spartan Run, you are allowed to take it easy. Remember, all work and no rest will make your body hate you!

Related Stories

More from Daniel Shaw

Editorial Board

At the University of Missouri, real change happened — but only when loss of university revenue was threatened. Missouri student…

More In Magazine

Natalie Hollenbeck Senior Copy Editor

College is a stressful environment submitting students to sensory overload. Many students decrease stress or clear their mind via exercise,…