Hi and hello out there!
Today we are talking all about common fitness mistakes that you might be making, and how to fix them. This post discusses several things that I have seen friends and clients do over the years, and as a result, get frustrated in the absence of results. These mistakes happen often and are easy to make, so I want to address them to help you avoid them, too!
Thank you for reading, and please reach out if you have any questions at all. I am here for you!
Avoid these common fitness mistakes …
- skipping your warm-up
Skipping that crucial 5-10 minutes before throwing your body into a workout full of exercises could result in extra muscle stiffness, soreness, cramps, and even injury. Without proper prepping, our muscles may not recover from strenuous workouts like running, fast-paced group fitness classes, and especially heavy lifting. If you need help incorporating a stretching routine into your fitness routine, check out my post: 101 on Foam Rolling and Stretching. And don’t forget about dynamic stretching! (More on this below.)
- forgetting about dynamic stretches
If nothing else, do a few dynamic stretches before heading into a workout. If you’re not familiar with the term, dynamic stretches are active movements where joints and muscles complete a full range of motion. For example, a lunge with a twist is a dynamic stretching exercise that engages your hips, legs, and core muscles.
If you’re looking for something a little easier, try jumping jacks, arm circles, walking knee hugs, side shuffles, lunges, etc. The key is to activate your muscles before using them!
- going in blind, or without a plan
If you just work out to work out and do whatever once you get to the gym, that is probably the results that you are going to get … whatever results. This is fine if you’re just looking to maintain your current fitness level, weight, or strength, but definitely not the approach if you are looking to hit specific goals and improve.
Go in with a plan for success, and ask someone (like a trainer) for help with what that should look like for you if you need to!
- setting unrealistic goals
You want to set goals and make them SMART — specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Is the goal that you’re setting a realistic one? If not, you may be setting yourself up for a letdown and lose motivation to work out all together. See my post all about this called Setting SMART Goals and How To Achieve Them for more on this one.
- not focusing on form
Form is the most important thing to pay attention to while completing exercises! If you’re following along in a group exercise class (in person or at home), try to stand somewhere where you can see yourself in a mirror or reflection. Look and listen to what the instructor is saying, and keep an ear out for form cues. If you’re not sure what something should look or feel like, ask questions.
Improper form can lean to training unintended muscle groups and injuries. Take things slow and only advance movements when you feel comfortable with the first version. And if your muscles are tapping out during reps, take a modification like dropping to your knees during push-ups or a plank if needed. Don’t ever sacrifice your form to complete a set!
- not listening to your body
Your body is smart and tells you what it needs, so make sure you’re paying attention to cues!
There is a difference between giving your full effort and pushing way past it, just because you think you should. Rest days are key in any fitness routine (see more on that below), and it’s also essential to take cues from your body and listen to it. If an exercise feels too advanced or hurts more than it should, you definitely need to rest and/or modify. Maybe grab a sip of water and take a quick stretch. You’ll get much more out of the workout when you take the moments you need to regroup, rather than pushing through it and possibly injuring yourself.
- going all out, all the time
Let’s take a moment to remember that exercise itself is a stressor on the body. It’s important to have a variety of low-intensity formats included in our routines to avoid overtraining and enable our bodies to work smarter, not harder to see progress along the way.
This is how we grow! Don’t be afraid of adding a low-impact workouts like yoga, Pilates, barre, bodyweight workouts etc. into your weekly routine. Your body will thank you.
- looking over the non-scale victories
The sooner you start looking for the non-scale victories, the happier and more motivated you will be to keep going and growing. Trust me!
The scale can be a good indicator that you’re on the right track for progress, but it certainly isn’t the only way to measure up. In fact, it’s my least favorite way to gauge progress in any fitness journey. I personally don’t weigh myself anymore, and it’s because the number is always just a number. It doesn’t take your percentage of body fat versus muscle into consideration, how you feel in your clothes, or even acknowledge your increase in weights or speed in workouts. Those are all key factors!
- skipping rest days
Whether it’s one, two, or more, it is extremely important to include days to rest into any type of training plan. Whenever I create a workout schedule for a client, I ask them what is realistic to commit to and will most likely give them 3-4, 4-5, or 4-6 workouts a week at the very most. One rest day is built in on a weekly basis, and the others are for when life happens. You know, those unexpected things that come up, or even dinners or events that pop up and onto your schedule.
It all happens, and having that flexibility is part of any long-term training goals. See my post on 5 Reasons You Need Rest Days for more on this.
- not getting enough quality sleep
There are benefits to working out in the morning that include less distractions (your brain might not even be awake yet, so the to-do list isn’t lingering), a more tolerable climate for outdoor exercise, a better night’s sleep, and an overall boost in mood, productivity, focus, and more. My ideal workout time is in the mid-morning, after my breakfast has settled and while Skyler is at preschool, but there were days where I had to wake up at 5 a.m. or earlier to get my workouts in, or they didn’t happen. I’ve totally been there.
If you’ve got a busy schedule that calls for early morning workouts, just make sure you’re giving your body the rest it needs to support them. Adults generally need anywhere from seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night, so just make sure those early call times also include early bed times, or enough time to properly allow your body to rest and recover. It’s important!
- not incorporating enough variety in your workouts
If you’re consistent in showing up for your workouts, but you are doing the same workouts week after week, you’re going to eventually hit a plateau in growth. Over time, you should be feeling stronger, fitter, and/or start seeing changes on the scale or how your clothes fit. If not, you might need look at your program and give it a revamp.
At the very least, your routine needs to include low-intensity workouts along with your high-intensity days, stretching and recovery, and at least one rest day per week. Get out of your comfort zone, try a new type of workout, try different frequencies and even reconstruct your plan around how you feel if you’re stagnant.
- trying the wrong types of workouts for your goals
The workouts you choose to do should be formats that you enjoy and that also help you hit your goals. If you would like to gain strength and muscle, only doing cardio-based workouts like running isn’t going to get you there. Running is a great workout for losing weight, but if you don’t enjoy it, there might be a better workout for you to stick with long-term that you like showing up for like spinning, kickboxing, circuit training, etc.
HIIT is great for fat-loss, but just don’t get stuck in that fast pace all the time. My perfect variety of workouts that I personally love includes two or three strength sessions at the gym, two runs outside, and one day of barre, Pilates, yoga and at least one full rest day every week. Try different formats until you find what you love, and it might be time to talk with a coach or trainer if you’re not seeing the results that you’re looking for.
- putting too much emphasis on cardio, not enough strength training
I used to think that I couldn’t leave the gym without an intense set of sprints, a ride, or a climb involved in my workout, and I’m so glad that I learned more about what is most effective — a good combination of cardio AND strength training, ideally on different days of the week. Five high-intensity workouts per week became a trend for a while, but it’s not recommended and puts you dangerously close to overtraining. Mix it up and make sure to slow it down and incorporate lifting weights into your regular fitness routine.
Read more about this subject on my post Cardio vs. Strength Training: Why You Should Do Both.
- not having accountability
You’re more likely to show up for things if someone is expecting you, so don’t be afraid to tell people what your goals are and how often you plan to work out. Tell your spouse, find a friend in the same boat as you who would welcome motivation texts to check in before/after you work out, or even make it a date night!
See if one of your friends wants to go on this fitness journey with you, or hire a coach or personal trainer to help get you started and into a routine that works for you, your goals and your lifestyle.
- not drinking enough water or eating the right type of foods for fuel
Does anyone else sweat a lot during their workouts? That’s a clear indicator that your body is losing water, and dehydration can follow if you don’t keep plenty of it nearby. Health professionals recommend that you drink at least your body weight divided in half (in ounces) per day. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, you should be drinking 70 ounces of water per day. Are you drinking enough of it?
Also, don’t go into training on an empty stomach. It’s important to fuel your body for workouts with food that makes you feel good, ideally one or two hours before your workout. Your body needs healthy carbohydrates, such as whole grain cereals (with low-fat, skim or dairy-free milk), whole wheat toast, low-fat yogurt, whole grain pasta, brown rice, fruits and vegetables. Don’t forget the protein, just don’t overdo it!
If you only have ten minutes to eat before a workout, grab something like a banana and bring a protein bar with you in case you feel sluggish or light-headed. Believe it or not, my favorite post-workout recovery go-to is 500ml-750ml of chocolate milk which provides the perfect amount of recovery carbs and protein. Yum!
Are some of these workout habits hurting your goals?
Take another look at the list above, save this post and reference it whenever you’re in a workout slump or frustrated in your current fitness routine. I’d love to hear about your growth over time!
You might also like:
- HIIT It Bodyweight Workout
- How To Work Out Smarter, Not Harder
- How To Easily Add More Movement Into Your Days
- Fitness Tips To Stay Motivated During Quaranatine
[Photo credit: Jason Roth Photography. Brooklyn/NYC friends — he’s fantastic to work with! Feel free to message me for more information.]