Time and effort are valuable and I wanted to share 8 common training mistakes. I see you busting it in the gym. I know you are working hard!
I'd like to make it a bit easier to dodge the things that don't work for the most people. As we work on our health and fitness it is helpful to avoid the things that cause us to trip up, full blown face-plant, or fail to see results. Your time matters. Let me help you use it wisely!
Mistake #1: Relying on Fatigue as a Measure of Success
Just being tired from exercise isn't the goal, and it doesn’t make you look better.
Sometimes I cringe when I see workouts posted on Instagram or Pinterest in the format of exercise challenges - like squat challenges, plank challenges, running challenges, and bizarre workouts that seem to be determined more by chance than by thoughtful planning. These workouts are not "bad" or "problematic" but if we just grab something here and there to make us tired, it may not be driving us to the type of exercise that works, that we enjoy, and the type of exercise that we will stick with.
If your goal is general health, being haphazard in your approach is more likely to be successful because we can avoid disease with proper duration of exercise ( a minimum of 30 mins/5 times a week). I find that most people want and are working toward something more specific than general health (even if it isn't always verbalized.)
Being systematic, using progressive overload, working on different muscle groups, and identifying the specific adaptations will make a significant difference in the outcomes we can expect. If that isn't a skill you have, it is totally okay! Find a great trainer or program, because it can make a huge difference.
Following a training program (or creating your own) will keep you focused and drive your efforts.
More isn't always better. Programming to avoid overtraining/under-training/and inappropriate use of your effort will save you time and help you actually see results!
Mistake #2: Focusing on the 5% Possible Advantage Instead of the 95% Improvement That We Can Count On
Many times we look for the advantage or edge by looking for the miracle supplement, or the quick fix. Most supplements or products only give about a 5% advantage. They are most helpful after we’ve already been doing the habits that make the biggest impact (the 95%). For example, if your resting metabolism is 2,000 kcals a day and you take a fat burner that artificially raises your metabolism, you may use an extra 100 calories each day (5%), and may negatively impact the health of your central nervous system. For a group of people who are competing in athletic or aesthetic endeavors, every possible edge is needed, so it may make sense in those populations to explore the 5%. For most people mastering the 95% will absolutely change the ball game, provide much longer lasting benefits, and do it without the additional risk.
The 95% difference comes from exercising regularly, eating nutritious foods in the proper quantity, staying properly hydrated, sleeping at least 8 hours a night, practicing deep breathing, and handling stress in a productive way. Find the style that helps you consistently hit the 95%. What helps you may look totally different than what works for other people.
Mistake #3: Skipping the Warm-Up
A simple 5-10 minute warm-up prepares our body for exercise and reduces risk of orthopedic and cardiac injury. If you have cardiovascular disease (or hypertension, high blood pressure) this is a non-negotiable safety moment. For all of us, this is an important part of training that should not be skipped or overlooked.
Starting at a lower intensity raises the heart rate, increases blood pressure, increases breathing rate, and safely prepares the body for higher intensity exercise.
Examples of warm-up activities include:
Walking, shoulder circles, calf raises, marching in place, overhead reach, high-knee jog, butt-kicker jog, skipping, stationary or walking lunges, body weight squats, trunk rotations, and inchworms.
Mistake #4: Applying Overly Rigid Parameters
It is easy to fall in either side of a harmful ditch, one side is so lax that we fail to follow through with our plans, and the other side is so rigid that there is no reasonable flexibility. This overly rigid approach can apply to exercise, nutrition, and recovery, and it can quickly lead to burnout and frustration because the joy of training is diminished. Being overly rigid can be something as simple as the inability to work around unexpected challenges and barriers (the machine you need is out of order, expected events, repeatedly doing exercise you despise because it is on your list, etc).
When we are so rigid that we isolate ourselves from social events, relationships, and experiences, we miss out on some of the beautiful things in life. This is typically sustainable for a short period of time but often leads people to walk away from fitness all-togther. You can be absolutely dedicated to your goals and still participate in your own way.
Because we can't foresee every potential challenge, building resiliency and flexibility to be able to work around real life situations will allow you to continue to make progress, and have fun while you do it!
Mistake #5: Waiting To Feel Motivated
Most of the time we are not overcome with excitement to exercise and eat healthy. Sometimes we wait to feel motivated to start our exercise, but often that time never happens. Make it happen even if you don't feel like it! Set a schedule so you don’t get to the end of the day and miss your workout.
Building the habit of exercise will help you to get through the times when you aren’t motivated. The most effective exercise program is the one that you consistently stick to. We all have days that are more difficult, and give yourself grace if you truly run into something that is out of your control.
Mistake #6: Doing Too-Much-Too-Soon
It’s easy to suddenly feel motivated and put our body under stress that it is not prepared to handle. The principle of progression helps guide us to start at a reasonable load and safely work up to a higher intensity.
Competitive people tend to want to push as hard as possible all the time. It is okay if you need to start slow and work up to a load that is reasonable for your fitness level. If we rush into exercise that we are not prepared for, it can result in burnout & injury (sprains, strains, broken bones, tendinitis, bursitis, etc.) It is okay if you need to back off or slow down.
I know how humbling this can be... I had to quit running for an entire year. It was brutal. But doing the appropriate exercise for my level of recovery allowed me to get back to the activity that I love, safely.
Get a full grasp of your current fitness level and work from there.
Mistake #7: Skipping Recovery and the Prescribed Rest Period
Resting and recovery is a crucial part of the exercise process. It allows our body to replenish the energy stores and give another effort for the next round.
Depending on your goal (strength, hypertrophy, endurance, etc.) the rest period during exercise may look very different. Skipping the prescribed rest period can delay or impede the results we can expect, because the energy stores are not replenished to ensure that we have proper form to execute the exercise. Rushing into the next set/rep will not give you better results.
Skipping rest and recovery after exercise can lead to reduced performance, weight gain, difficulty concentrating, frustration, excessive soreness, and blunted repair.
Mistake #8: Judging Results on Appearance Alone
Focusing on scale victories or appearance alone can set us up for failure. There are so many health and fitness benefits we get without seeing any changes on the scale. Use multiple methods to define success and be honest with yourself if something needs to change.
Increased muscle strength, cardiovascular endurance, stress reduction, decreased risk of disease, improved cholesterol, decreased blood pressure, better sleep, improved bone health, and so many other benefits cannot be seen from the outside.
I hope you learned something with me today. The more we learn together and increase our competence and confidence, the easier it will be to live healthy and train effectively!
You can do difficult things!
With my love,
About the Author
Dr. Monique Middlekauff is a Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEP) through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). She has been a certified personal trainer with the NSCA, ACSM, and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) for over 10 years.
She is a certified Higher Education Teaching Specialist (HETs) and has instructed courses ranging from introductory to graduate level including Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology, Exercise Physiology Lab, Resistance Training, Fitness Foundations, Aging and Exercise, and Skeletal Mechanics.
She is a former NCAA DI volleyball athlete and loves to exercise outdoors. Monique is certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), and is an Exercise is Medicine Level 3 credentialed provider. Monique works for a major health system in Idaho.
Her goal is to pursue health and overall wellbeing through evidence-based practice. Physical wellness comes in many forms, and she seeks to celebrate where you are, and challenge you to be better!