By Alan Bichara
I was a beginner once at the gym as well and I started knowing very little or at least I thought I knew a lot, but turns out I had the wrong information from friends or the internet.
I will list down the 5 most common mistakes people make when they decide to finally start their fitness journey. I know I’m guilty of most of them, even after I got certified as a fitness professional!
1.Getting too excited
When people decide to finally start their fitness journey, they are more excited than kids going to a candy store, they believe that in the next month or first 10-12 sessions with their personal trainer that they will lose 10kgs and have the biggest transformation of their life, because if they can do it in “The Biggest Loser” TV show, then they can too, right? Big NO!
People don’t realize that the bad lifestyle they have acquired and are accustomed to for the past 3-5 or even 10 years cannot be reversed in just 1 month. You have to accept that this will be a lifestyle change for the better and it will hopefully teach you to live the rest of your life in a better and healthier YOU!
Part of being too excited is overstaying in the gym. Some beginners tend to stay 2 or even 3 hours in the gym and that is just too much to begin with. You will eventually burn-out and get sick of the gym. Keep your time in the gym short and intense and save it for the workout not for socializing, which can be very time-consuming. Get in, get your workout done, and leave, eat and recover, rinse and repeat.
2.Too heavy, too early
There are 2 ways that I know of that people tend to lean towards to when they start. It’s either they go too heavy and eventually get injured or the opposite, they don’t stimulate their body enough and they end up wasting the first 6 months looking like the same person when they first walked in.
I honestly don’t mind the latter of these 2 – like I said it is a lifestyle change and it’s a long process so I would prefer staying on the safe side even with slower results rather than pushing too much and getting injured.
3.Form? What form?
Connected to number 2, the reason people don’t get results or get injured is because they don’t focus on the form or technique. There are proper ways to perform all exercises. In general, the safest way is to start light and go slow (literally). Concentrate on the muscle you are working. This way you can lessen the risk of injuring yourself.
For example, if you are feeling your shoulders when you chest press, then you aren’t doing it right. You are probably pushing your shoulders and not keeping your shoulder blades retracted.
The saying “NO PAIN, NO GAIN” doesn’t apply to joints, but only to muscles. Usually the “pain” should be a slight burn due to lactic acid build-up during the workout or due to DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) 24-48hrs post-workout.
Even fitness professionals sometimes commit mistakes when performing certain exercises and it takes a lot of practice to know how to activate certain muscle groups to perform the exercise correctly. But there are ways to learn without hurting yourself – remember to keep the weights light and the movement slow and controlled.
4.Not having a Plan
Once you start your fitness journey and go to the gym almost everyday feeling excited, motivated and dedicated to change how you look and feel, you start doing things and pushing as hard as you can. And then you might hit a dead end and ask yourself “Where am I headed?”, and this is a good time and assess what your goal is and make a plan to reach it.
Lose 10kgs in 6 months, right before your 40th bday? Possible, but how will you reach it? By eating whole foods and doing 30-60mins of activity everyday. That is an example of a general plan. You can be more specific as well and maybe list down what those whole foods are and break them down into daily meals, or schedule your activities: is it running at the park, joining a group exercise class, or just lift some weights?
It also helps to have a notepad with you or on your phone to record your activities and diet. It can be hard to remember the exercises, weights, sets and reps after a while so keeping notes on this can help you a lot in measuring your progress.
You don’t want to be fluctuating with your performance. There are certain times during proper program scaling where you can drop the weights to a lower intensity but most of the time you either want the same weights you did last time or heavier.
This also applies for your food. Years of bad eating habits have made people very numb or forgetful. You can easily forget the donut or the muffin they had with their morning coffee for example and still ask why you are not losing weight. Write it down and you can be surprised of what goes in your mouth most of the time. This takes me to the last point – nutrition.
The most important part of your fitness journey is nutrition. The reason you are out of shape is because of the bad diet that you got used to through the years, and as much as I don’t want to say it (because telling people what not to do can make them very defensive), for the first 2 months I would really recommend not eating any junk or processed food.
Most probably you will starve at first and realize how dependent you are on processed food. But starving is never the end goal – replace your meals with fresh whole foods, lots of veggies, some protein, some fruits, and a little fat. That is usually my general rule in nutrition. Remember you can never out-train a bad diet, you can’t decide to just go 3hrs in the gym and keep on eating junk.
So there you go, the 5 most common mistakes beginners make. I hope this can help you or your family and friends who want to start a healthier stage in their life.