The Top 10 Most Common Fitness Mistakes
(and How to Avoid Them)
Having a regular exercise program is an important part of staying fit, but people frequently make mistakes that sabotage their hard work and keep their efforts from being as effective as they could be. Below is a list of ten of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to working out.
1) Not having a specific plan or goal. Just going to the gym for the sake of working out may help you blow off some steam or burn some calories, but not having a specific plan is a recipe for failure. You’ve probably seen some of these indecisive people at the gym who appear to be just hanging out.
The Solution-Determine your goals and objectives first so you can develop a program that will address those issues and help you accomplish those objectives. Then you can get in and get out without worrying about what you should do once you get there.
2) Having an incomplete fitness program. Your workout program should address strength training, cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility, and stress management. These different components don’t need to be incorporated in every workout, but you will want to make sure you are not completely omitting any of these areas from your program. You don’t want to be the muscle guy or gal who can’t run for a minute without getting winded or the cardio fanatic who can’t do 10 pushups.
The Solution-Take a closer look at your workout and assess if there are some aspects of fitness you are completely neglecting. Incorporate those components of fitness into your daily activity so you can get more balanced results.
3) Overtraining. This is especially common when someone is just starting a program and is gung ho. If you go too hard and overdo it on your first few workouts, it can be discouraging and painful. I really messed up my knees by training for a marathon for just over two months, as opposed to allowing sufficient time to build up my exercise load gradually. Overtraining is also common among serious athletes who exercise too frequently or too hard without giving their body the needed time to recuperate and recover.
The Solution- Give yourself time to build up and ease into a new program by making gradual progress. You don’t want to burn out or get injured, so allow your body time to adapt to the new stresses you are placing on it. You also need to remember to get enough rest. If you are overtraining or putting too much stress on your body, skipping a workout and giving your body enough time to heal can actually be beneficial.
4) Underestimating the Importance of Nutrition. You can’t exercise your way out of poor nutrition. Intense exercise breaks the body down, and you need to eat a healthy diet that will give your body the building blocks required to become even stronger. What kind of fuel are you using to run your body? If it’s empty calories coming from junk food or highly refined food, then you are asking your body to perform an impossible task.
The Solution- Many people work so hard exercising but sabotage their efforts with poor nutrition. Give your body the nutrients it needs. Remember that nutrition is even more important than your physical activity, in fact, many fitness experts believe the results you get are 70% nutrition and 30% exercise.
5) Having Unrealistic Expectations. Are you trying to lose 35 pounds in a month? It took you time to get out of shape, and it will take you some time to get back into shape. We live in a society that tells us that we should look like fitness models and have six-pack abs. That is simply not realistic for most people, but we can all make improvements and be our healthiest selves.
The Solution- You need to take into account your current condition, genetics, commitment level, and other factors when setting goals and determining expectations. Having realistic expectations will keep you from getting discouraged. Gradual or slow progress is still exciting as long as you are going in the right direction.
6) Not Being Accountable. It’s way too easy to talk yourself out of previously set goals when things gets difficult, but you are much more likely to stick to your program when you are accountable to someone else. The single most important service a trainer provides is accountability. If you are going to make lasting changes, then you have to be determined to change, and this is accomplished much more easily and faster if you have others supporting you in your efforts.
The Solution- Enlist the help of a workout partner, friend, or trainer. Having someone who is willing to support you in your efforts and hold you to what you said makes a huge difference. Sharing your goals and commitments with others can be very motivating, but just make sure you don’t share your goals with people who don’t believe in you or who don’t care if you succeed.
7) Failing to Periodize Your Workout. Your body adapts quickly to change, so if you are in an exercise rut and do the same routine every time you workout, you will stop making progress. Not only does doing the exact same exercise all the time keep you from getting ahead, it is also monotonous and can make exercise a dreaded experience.
The Solution- Change the variables of your workout occasionally by adjusting to the duration, intensity, frequency, and type of exercise. Instead of always opting for the treadmill, do some cardio work on a stair stepper, bike, or jumping rope instead in order to add some variety. Doing so will allow your body to continue to progress and will make your workout more interesting.
8) Not Warming Up or Cooling Down. The warm up and cool down part of an exercise program may not seem as glamorous or fun as actually working out, but don’t ignore them. They are important to help your body adjust prior to exercise and to help you avoid injury. These activities obviously help your body prepare for a workout, but they also help your mind get focused and ready, too.
The Solution- Spend a few minutes before you exercise warming up and remember to cool down afterwards. Remember that stretching is most effective after a workout when your body is still warm and pliable.
9) Using Improper Technique. Using poor form will not isolate the muscles you are trying to focus on. Bad form can be dangerous and may also cause injury. I used to think you could learn proper form by watching what others are doing at the gym, but lots of people have horrible form when working out. Although you can still get stronger and get results with poor technique, doing so with proper form will be more effective, safer, and make your efforts more productive.
The Solution- Invest in several sessions with a trainer to make sure you learn safe and effective form. Once you learn the basic habits you will be much better off. Remember, the mirrors at the gym aren’t just there for the narcissists to check themselves out. Observe your form as you perform exercises to make sure your technique is correct.
10) Kidding Yourself. The 11th commandment is “Thou shalt not kid thyself.” Most people underestimate the amount of calories they consume and overestimate their activity level. When I feel like I’m doing everything right but not getting the results I want, usually after closer examination I find I have just been going through the motions and have not been very strict with my program.
The Solution- Be honest with yourself. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator will not burn off the cupcakes you had at lunch, and ketchup and fries don’t count as two servings of vegetables! Be honest and accurate with what you are doing. We all know deep down inside if we are giving our best or just faking it.
I know these 10 mistakes are real and can make a big difference because I have been guilty of making all of these mistakes over time and still struggle with some of them today. Identify which of these things may be holding you back and work on improving them. Remember not to beat yourself up or get discouraged, but just keep on making more improvements each day so your workouts will be much more effective.