One of the biggest reasons that beginners quit a new workout program is that they make easily avoidable mistakes. These mistakes are often due to the fact that they just don’t have all the information they need in order to use the most effective workout strategies.
They end up wasting their valuable time, getting injured, or quitting without any noticeable change in their physique or performance.
Use this list to avoid the most common and damaging mistakes. This advice will help you discover what you can do to improve your body and performance as fast as possible.
Mistake #1: Thinking you need to lose fat before you start working out.
When people say they need to lose body fat before starting a workout program, one of two things is usually going on. They are either struggling with a body image issue, or they haven’t yet reached the “action” phase of starting a new behavior. Either way, thinking they need to lose fat before hitting the gym is an excuse.
In both cases having a bit more information can help:
- The first place to start a fat loss program is with nutrition. A higher protein diet that is free of refined carbs and processed foods can help you lose body fat regardless of whether you hit the gym because it reduces hunger and leads people to eat fewer calories naturally.
- Thinking you can just start a running or walking program outside to lose fat before going to the gym rarely works because people lose lean muscle mass with cardio. This results in a large, negative decrease in metabolic rate. If they don’t reduce the amount of calories they eat, the fat never budges.
- On the other hand, resistance exercise like lifting weights is EXTREMELY important because it will help you preserve or even build muscle so that you increase your metabolic rate and can handle more calories every day.
Solution: The best approach is to combine a smart nutrition program and a strength training program that has you going to the gym. If you have a little extra time, throw in a few sprint interval sessions to get faster results.
Mistake #2: You have no plan.
Something that all successful trainees have embraced is to use a written workout plan. A progressive training plan has at least three benefits:
- It makes everything easier so that every time you hit the gym, whether you’re tired from a long stressful day at work or totally jazzed to get your sweat on, all you have to do is execute.
After all, most gyms are busy, and the people on the free weight floor are rarely the friendliest or most etiquette conscious people out there. No chance you’ll be intimidated or come up with excuses so that you bag it and go home as long as you have a plan.
- It helps you set goals and measure progress. It also ensures that you’re actually doing a type of workout that will help you reach those goals. For example, high-intensity workouts with weights are great for losing fat whereas a distance running program is better for training endurance but not very useful for fat loss.
- It ensures continued success because it only takes a few weeks of training for you to gain strength and adapt to the exercises you’re doing. Without a plan that helps you take it to the next level, you’ll end up wasting your time because your workouts will simply become too easy.
Solution: A progressive plan that includes what exercises you intend to do, weights, and the number of reps, sets, and rest periods will ensure that you keep getting better, whether your goal is physique oriented or performance based. It also ensures that you get adequate rest so that your nervous system and muscle tissue can regenerate and you don’t get injured or burnt out.
Mistake #3: You think it’s all or nothing.
The all-or-nothing mindset sabotages your ability to take action. It keeps you focused on what you aren’t doing rather than what you are. It creates a lot of guilt, frustration, and often leads to lower self-worth as you beat yourself up for what you don’t like about your body.
This negative thinking and focus on where you’re falling short with workouts depletes your motivation and often leads to ditching the program all together. At best, it produces an on-again off-again approach to exercise that is ineffective for changing your body and all-around unfulfilling.
Solution: First, it’s very important to create a realistic workout plan so that what you commit to doing is actually manageable. For example if you’re completely new to exercise it’s unrealistic to expect to want to work out five days a week for an hour. Training 2 to 4 times a week is much more manageable, depending on your goals, situation, and background.
Second, you need to stop the all-or-nothing thinking. Having a bad workout because you’re tired or even completely bagging it in favor of more sleep or an evening on the couch doesn’t make you a failure.
These things happen. Beating yourself up over it won’t help. Instead, realize that you made the choice to not work out. Then, commit to getting back to it tomorrow, remembering the following three points:
- Doing something is better than doing nothing.
- There will be hard days in the gym, but those are the ones that make a difference.
- When you’re starting a new behavior and trying to make a habit stick, showing up really is half the battle. Effort matters, but in the early days, the reality is that the most important thing is to get your butt to the gym consistently if you ever want to make any progress.
Mistake #4: “If I miss it, it won’t matter.”
This one is sort of like the careless sister of the “It’s all or nothing” mindset. But it can be just as harmful to success because it opens the door to ditching your program altogether.
Solution: Realize that when you start rationalizing why you should skip your workouts, you are engaging in thinking that is only going to sabotage your success.
When you find yourself doing it, notice it and choose to stop. Understand that changing your body is about stringing together a series of workouts in which you show up, put in hard work, and challenge your physical capacities.
When you think about it this way you realize that EVERY workout matters.
Mistake #5: Not learning proper form or copying what others do.
Something that a lot of people don’t realize is that working out is a skill.
Unfortunately this means that most people in the gym do not know how to train properly. It is not a good idea to copy others because even if they do have half a clue as to proper technique, they will have different goals and experience from you.
Here are some of the immense benefits you can get from learning how to train:
- You’ll accelerate strength development.
- You’ll gain more muscle and likely lose more body fat.
- You can eliminate joint pain linked to faulty movement patterns.
- You’ll have a skill for life that will allow you to avoid the health and body composition changes like belly fat gain, high blood pressure, or diabetes that are often thought of as inevitable as you age.
- Most importantly, you won’t look like a bonehead in the gym.
Solution: Your best bet is to learn from an experienced personal trainer who can teach you everything from lifting technique to how to design your workouts.
Prioritize learning technique for the biggest bang for your buck exercises that will allow you to make progress quickly: deadlift, squat, split squat, step up, chest press, pull-down, and overhead press.
Mistake #6: Packing weights, cardio, and flexibility into the same session.
A lot of people worry about whether they should do cardio or weights first in their workout. The reality is that for best results you should do weights and cardio intervals in separate sessions.
This allows you to approach each workout with focus and drive so that you don’t waste time. You also get the optimal hormone response for fat loss and building muscle.
Best of all, it will allow you to keep workouts relatively short so that you avoid boredom and the excessive physical stress.
Solution: For most novices who want to lose body fat, four 1-hour-long weight workouts a week will allow you to train with a superior degree of effort and determination for faster progressions. This will give you about 45 minutes if training time, with 15 minutes left for warm-up and cool down.
If you want more variety or have conditioning/moderate endurance goals, try two to three hour-long weight workouts a week and two SEPARATE interval cardio workouts that last 20 to 30 minutes.
If flexibility is a priority, it should be worked on in sessions that are separate from weight or conditioning training. For example, you could do three to four weight workouts a week and two to three 15 to 20 minute flexibility sessions.
Mistake #7: Ignoring the role of diet in body composition.
You can’t out-train a bad diet, a fact that is never more true than in regards to body composition.
When it comes to losing body fat, working out properly can set you up for success and accelerate results. But that doesn’t mean that all you have to do is start working out and you’ll definitely lose body fat.
When people start exercising without any attention to diet, they often compensate by eating more calories than normal, thereby offsetting the calories burned during the workout.
Solution: It’s very important to adopt nutrition habits that will set you up for success. For fat loss, many people get good, sustainable results by choosing a higher protein diet that contains lots of vegetables and plenty of healthy fats. Avoiding refined carbs and processed foods is recommended in favor of whole, real foods.
If putting on muscle is your goal, eating plenty of protein daily in the range of 1.6 to 2 g/kg of bodyweight is indicated. Many novices benefit from getting the bulk of their protein from whole sources (meat, eggs, dairy, beans) and using whey protein after workouts to reach their daily goal.
Final Words: Don’t get sidetracked by self-doubt or mistakes. Remember to stay positive, be consistent, and don’t succumb to self-sabotage and excuses. By starting to work out properly, you have this incredible power to transform your life for the better!