You kicked off your fitness goals like most: You bought a gym membership and even snagged a pair of cute, new leggings to get you inspired – and for that first sweaty selfie.
But there are other important pieces to your fitness game plan that are often forgotten, mistakes that can jeopardize your progress, chip away at your enthusiasm to work out and ultimately result in you giving up on your goals.
“As a trainer, my job consists of helping clients assess where they are and where they want to be. Giving them a clear pathway helps avoid mistakes that often cause people to quit too soon and forfeit their goals,” says Vince Sant, the co-founder and lead trainer of V Shred, a popular online training platform.
Here’s where Sant says many go wrong:
Not Assessing Your Body
“Trainers and gym staff see this all the time. People who are new to working out and get a few workouts from a friend and head into the gym without analyzing their bodies with a trainer.” This becomes harmful because these people are not trained to pinpoint their body’s imbalances, where their weaknesses lie and how their body is compensating subconsciously. “They go to the gym pay for the membership and spend months doing exercises incorrectly, damaging their joints and their back.”
Failing to Set Realistic Goals
Nowadays a lot of people scroll through social media and try and mimic the amount of weight being lifted or want a six pack in two weeks. Contrary to popular belief, fitness models and trainers don’t start off deadlifting 200 lbs. They train for months, maybe years, perfecting their form. When you set major goals with an unrealistic time frame you set yourself up for disappointment. “A lot of what a trainer does is manage your goals and give you honest timelines to get you there. We cheerlead you through the rough times and the plateaus,” Sant says.
Not Being Consistent
The excitement of starting a new workout program can fade fast. Then missed workouts and excuses creep in. Push yourself through the first few months of working out and eating nutritiously. Make a habit out of working out. Consistency will become easier once you start seeing those desired results
Delaying Your Workouts Into The Night
We get it. People want to sleep as much as possible. But…”If you want consistency to be an easier hurdle to overcome, plan to workout in the morning. In life, things come up and schedules change. The morning will always be more available than your night. We also tend to make more excuses at night and let things override our plans to work out,” Sant says.
Giving Up When You Hit A Plateau
If you hit a plateau, it means you have consistently been doing the same routine for an extended period of time. Kudos for the consistency, but that is just one part of getting the results you want. “You need to learn or get guidance on how to effectively change your workouts to continue challenging your muscles and prevent your body from falling into a comfort zone with your regular routine.”
Overdoing the Cardio
Let’s be clear: Cardio is an important part of any fitness journey, especially one that is centered around weight loss. But new gym goers can overdo it. Trainers see it all the time, people who spend 2 hours on the elliptical. You’d be better served to do a 30-minute cardio session followed by light weights and circuit training. Remember you want to strengthen the muscle as well.
When you are working on weight training you have to educate yourself on what exercises belong together, and how much is wise to lift when shooting for a certain amount of repetitions. “Gym goers often lift too heavy, making it difficult to complete a set or too light, failing to challenge the muscle,” Sant says. It is important that you don’t lift too heavy out of vanity and that you don’t lift too light out of laziness.
Recording Your Progress
Failing to record the amount of weights and repetitions per set that you can lift per movement will get you to a plateau fast. If you don’t record what you are doing, then you won’t know when you’re getting stronger. “Working out without a clear goal for each movement can become boring. You lose interest and consciousness about what you are doing. Record what you are doing, perform it consistently and then increase intensity to avoid plateaus.
Forgetting to Stretch
Stretching is vital, but often ignored. Working out without stretching can lead to poor form and muscle strain. Stretching helps your range of motion, helps reduce post-workout soreness and aids in preparing you mentally and physically for the workout ahead.
Failing to Rest
Many people go all out the first few weeks of their fitness training, looking for quick results. Not wise. Taking a rest day allows your muscles to heal. An active rest day is a day where instead of training at full power, you incorporate some sort of low-intensity cardio or HIIT training. This way you keep your body active and don’t let any soreness settle in while still resting from your much more comprehensive workouts.
In sum, be excited to get in shape this year. But prepare, do your homework and try not to make any of the mistakes above.
Joslyn Murphy is a freelance writer, based in Brooklyn, N.Y. KMR Communications contributed to this feature.