8 Common Fitness Mistakes You Need To Avoid
The gym can be a very intimidating space. There is no doubt about it, especially if you’re new to the game. Huge muscles pumping and bucket-loads of sweat dripping everywhere, we’ve all had to face that feeling of being overwhelmed as a gym fresher.
So you’ve managed to get your butt out of the comfort of your home and into the gym. Now what? Maybe you’ll just look at what the others are up to and pick up whatever workouts that look the best? Perhaps you’re still quite intimidated by the space and just want to quietly do what you can and get out, while you can!
Maybe you’ve seen enough movies of macho men swinging the dumbells around to feel confident about your plan of action here? Well at least you got a plan, not necessarily an effective one, but let me give you a few points for having a plan.
With over a decade of experience in strength and conditioning, I’ve been witness to numerous such “gym newbie” scenarios. From my experience, when it comes to the inexperienced, gym blunders are all too common and the very reason why progress often falls short of expectations.
But worry not. If you’ve found the courage to give the gym another shot or even if it’s one of your first time, here are 8 common but not so obvious fitness mistakes that keep you from getting that chiselled body, you so desire.
1st Mistake: Not following a program or sticking to one.
This is the part that gets most newbies and sometimes even the experienced gymmer, restless. The preferred idea at the start is often to go wild with weights or to just go all out on whatever machine is free.
For the newbies seeking such an adventure, the routine of a workout program might soon seem boring. And thinking they are capable of handling much more, they move on to a more enticing program. But all routines, no matter how exciting at the start, loses its spark after a while, and so the cycle continues, jumping from one program to another, wondering why none of them works.
The workout is not a race. It is about focus and patience. Training programs are scientifically calculated to reach certain performance targets. So stick to your program till you reach your goals, and only then move on.
2nd Mistake: Not tracking your progress.
Sure, you’ve joined the gym to turn into the Hulk, and Hulk doesn’t move around the gym taking notes. But, if your real goal is not just to be a fictional character, then you better get a little bit of your nerdy side out and note down the specifics of the workout you just did.
With the adrenaline rushing every time you’re in the gym, it is quite easy to miss a few lapses in performance. But, numbers don’t lie. At the end of the week, that log you kept will tell you exactly how much you’ve progressed. If they are up, you can level up your program. If it’s down or if there’s a plateau, then re-work your program. Either way, you need to track your progress.
3rd Mistake: Not stretching at all, to stretching wrong.
Right from school, we’ve all been taught the importance of stretching and warming up before starting any physically intensive activity. Yet, as serious grown-ups in the gym, one tends to skip on such kiddish details and get directly to the real work. This is the start of a slippery slope that will undoubtedly lead you to injury and out of the gym.
For the sensible ones who are not in such a hurry, when it comes to stretching, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. We’ve mostly learnt the wrong way i.e. static stretching. Contrary to earlier belief, static stretching causes neuro-muscular inhibitory making the muscles less responsive. Imagine that before a workout!
On the other hand, dynamic stretching is what your body needs. Dynamic stretching helps to stretch your body through movement, thereby increasing the joint mobility. Dynamic stretching also increases the muscle temperature which improves its flexibility while also strengthening the muscles, thus preparing the body for a solid workout.
4th Mistake: Not making any changes at all.
This might seem a bit contrary to the above-mentioned point. However, both of these points are valid as extremes, i.e. to change too quickly or not changing at all. Endlessly repeating the same old routine, with the same weights and the same number of reps will not only result in a performance plateau but also affects you mentally, bringing down the level of enthusiasm and motivation.
Once you reach your target, you must introduce a new factor such as added weight or more reps. Changes of such nature challenge the body to improve itself to match the new demand, thereby increasing muscle gains and endurance levels.
5th Mistake: Not getting the form right.
Now that you’re up and about in the gym, sure, you want to get right to lifting twice your weight and get those muscles bulging right away. But, you know the saying, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day‘, right? I’m pretty sure the human body is much more complicated.
Newbies, rocking and jerking their body as they lift weights, sprinting through reps – these are all common signs that inevitably, always leads to injury. If you’re lucky, someone will spot you at an early stage and correct you. On the other hand, one too many pounds on the barbell and a wrong swing could land you in the hospital.
Free weights are, no doubt, crucial to shaping your body and building muscles. However, it also increases the risk of you getting injured. The wrong form while exercising is the culprit to be blamed here. So focus on the form first. Once you have that down perfectly, then and only then should you consider increasing weights.
7th Mistake: Not getting enough rest.
So you think spending 4 hours at the gym, every single day of the week, is hard work? If you ask any qualified fitness trainer, professional bodybuilder or athlete, they’ll probably tell you spending too much time in the gym is more of stupid work than hard.
What is really hard when it comes to building high fitness levels, is the discipline to stick to the chosen program, perseverance, patience and focus to see through the program. You also need to realise that it is indeed a body and not a machine. Well, even a machine will break down if overused, and our body even more so.
Contrary to what you might expect, overdoing it will drastically reduce performance levels. And even more dangerous is the damage it causes to the central nervous system. Still, think this is just another pansy excuse? Read these articles I wrote on, Is Overtraining Real and The Stress Bucket? Hopefully, that will convince you to cool down a bit.
8th Mistake: Not following a proper diet.
All the hard work that you’re putting in the gym is actually breaking down the muscle fibres and burning calories. From this stage the body repairs and rebuilds itself to come back stronger and fitter. Naturally, the body doesn’t build itself up from thin air. All your efforts in the gym, it comes down to your diet. The body depends on the nourishment it will get from the food you eat. Not following a proper diet that complements your workout will not only impede progress but may, in fact, harm the body more and increase the chances of injury.
Big blunders in the gym do happen. But, it is these subtle and not so obvious mistakes that cause the most harm when least expected. Knowledge helps in avoiding such blunders. So, if you’ve had your own share of experience, then please do use the comment section below to enlighten and warn the others.
“You don’t have to be great to start. But you have to start to be great.”
– Zig ZiglarI
That quote wraps up my feelings perfectly. And it also brings us back to the 1st point I made – For the gym to be useful, you’ve first got to get into a gym! It’s always wise to be informed before testing your body’s limits, and now you know the common mistakes to avoid. Still feeling unsure? If you’re in Phuket, drop me a line or give me a call and I’ll be happy to sort things out and get you started.