Whether you’re starting from scratch or getting back on track, you undoubtedly have high hopes that your fitness regimen will succeed. However, you could fall prey to one of a handful of classic mistakes that can nip even the most well-intentioned plan in the bud. Here’s how to avoid the top eight beginners’ blunders:
The Problem: A surprising number of sports injuries have one underlying cause: trying to do too much, too soon.
The Fix: There is no hurry. You haven’t trained in a long time or maybe not ever, but you don’t need to make up for lost time. Start slowly and listen to your body, which means don’t lift weights that seem too heavy or stretch too far if you’re not limber enough yet. There’s a difference, however, between being injured and being sore. Muscle soreness is to be expected after a workout, especially when you first start a fitness program.
The Problem: Inexperience in any activity can lessen its effectiveness, and can also be dangerous.
The Fix: Is this your first spin class, yoga class or first time in the gym? If you’re not sure how something works, how long you should do it, or how often, you need to find out. Read up on the subject, consult a trainer or ask the staff at your gym. No one will criticize you for wanting to get the most out of your workout, and asking a question is a lot less painful than the injury you could suffer from not asking. I’ve written previously about the many websites that offer helpful instructional videos on how to do exercises correctly, such as the American Council on Exercise’s (ACE) Kick Start Workout Guide goo.gl/Srxtm, as well as their complete library of great exercise resources: acefitness.org/acefit/exercise-library-main/. If you want to add yoga to your routine, go to Yoga Journal’s extensive library here: yogajournal.com/video/level/beginner/.
The Problem: “I’ll start tomorrow” is a common phrase for beginning exercisers who put off the start of their fitness activities by waiting for the “right moment.” Another issue is putting off your exercise until later in the day, but never actually getting to it.
The Fix: For the “start tomorrow” syndrome — the best time to start is right now. Don’t keep putting off your exercise for another day. As for when you should do your exercise, choose the time that’s right for you, put it into your calendar and do it. Think of it as a regular appointment to be kept like any other. If you plan to go to the gym after work, take your gear with you to the office. Stopping at home to change your clothes, have a snack or tidy up the house is likely to land you on the couch watching a rerun of your favorite TV show rather than in your spin class.
The Problem: You buy a treadmill and every morning before work you get up at 5 a.m. to start walking. The first three minutes feel like an hour — you don’t know how you’re going to make it to 10 minutes, much less 30.
The Fix: If you choose an activity that’s fun you’ll be more likely to stick with it. It’s also important to set up a regimen that is entertaining from the start. For instance, if you are on the treadmill or elliptical, try to have a special TV series you watch only when you’re exercising. Or perhaps it’s reading all your magazines and newspapers on your tablet. Other options: Work out with a partner; hire a personal trainer; create workout music lists; report your progress using a smartphone app.
It’s also important to change your routine every so often. Even the most challenging workouts can get tedious after a while. Jump on a different machine; take a new class; or take your workout outdoors.
Working without a Plan
The Problem: You finally make it to the gym, but you don’t even know where to start. If you think you can just wing it — it’s not likely.
The Fix: Know what you’re going to do BEFORE you get to the gym or before you start any exercise routine. It’s also important to set goals. See: dietdetective.com/weekly-column/getting-smarter for more information on goal-setting.
Lack of Consistency
The Problem: You exercise once and believe it should have some immediate effect — like losing weight.
The Fix: Exercising once in a while is not bad, but it’s being consistent that will bring results. You need to pick an activity or activities that you can do at least five days a week for months at a time to get real sustainable results. That’s why it’s important to try several types of exercise routines and make sure you really like the one(s) you finally choose.
The Problem: You make your exercise avoidable and easy to skip.
The Fix: Make sure you pick a fitness center where you feel comfortable and that is close to your home or office. Or, if you don’t like to exercise at a fitness center, try creating your own home gym, or at the very least, buy an exercise machine (e.g., a treadmill, elliptical or stationary bicycle).
The Problem: I’m too tired; I have no time — there are so many excuses.
The Fix: Excuse bust. I’ve written about this more than 50 times (seriously). Come up with every excuse you might have for not exercising, and then write down an excuse buster. See my column Making Excuses — It’s so Easy (dietdetective.com/weekly-column/making-excuses-%E2%80%93-its-so-easy).
CHARLES PLATKIN, Ph.D., M.P.H., THE DIET DETECTIVE is one of the country's leading nutrition and public health advocates, whose syndicated health, nutrition and fitness column, the Diet Detective appears in more than 100 daily newspapers nationally. Dr. Platkin is also the founder of DietDetective.com, which offers nutrition, food, and fitness information. Platkin is a health expert and blogger featured on Everydayhealth.com, Active.com and Fitnessmagazine.com. Additionally, Platkin is a Distinguished Lecturer at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College in New York City.