It’s time for another Angry Trainer Top 10, and this time around I’m tackling the topic of common beginner’s mistakes.
Starting a new exercise program can seem daunting, and with so much contradictory information out there, it’s really hard to make the right choices and get with a solid program. So here are a few pointers on how to get started – the right way!
1. LISTENING TO FRIENDS – I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve seen teach someone poor form or give them horrible advice. Friends can’t teach you the right way if they don’t know it themselves. Be sure to put the same effort into learning about exercise and nutrition that you do when researching other areas of importance. Read and learn from various sources – magazines, books, websites, etc. After all, we’re talking about your life here. I’m not saying to never take your friends comments under advisement, but certainly don’t take it at face value.
2. TOO MUCH, TOO SOON – I’ve mentioned this before – a person gets so excited for their new program that they go to the gym every day. Most of the time, around the 2-3 week time frame they stop going completely. Why? It’s called burnout, and it’s because a person simply didn’t allow time to get used to a new program. Incorporating fitness into you life should be a slow, not speedy, process. Remember you can always add more intensity and weight at a later date.
3. WRONG EXERCISE SELECTION – Many people never reach their goals for one simple reason – they don’t use the right modes of exercise. Just because you’re in the gym doesn’t mean you’re doing the right things. You should primarily choose forms of exercise that you like and also provide the results you’re looking for. See my Why Your Workout Isn’t Working – Exercise Selection piece for more specifics.
4. USING MACHINES – I know many of you feel that starting at the “circuit” is the best way to begin a program. Well, the Angry Trainer disagrees! In my opinion, all new trainees should focus on learning how to control and use their body, not have a machine do it for them. For that reason I recommend body weight, balance or one legged, medicine and resistance band exercises and anything else that requires focus and concentration. Machines usually targets a large, prime moving muscle group, so unless you’re a bodybuilder looking to bulk up, I’d move on.
5. CARDIO OBSESSION – It’s a proven fact that most new members of a gym actually only use the cardio equipment. I’ve seen statistics that say as few as 10% of new members take classes, use circuits or lift weights. This is due to most people once again believing that cardiovascular exercise is the best way to get fit and lose weight. That’s completely untrue – all forms of exercise should be used as part of a complete fitness routine. Check out my Cardio Confusion post for more on this long standing myth.
6. EXCESS EATING – It seems like a no brainer, but some people think that because they’re exercising, they’ve earned the right to eat more food. The result – you obviously end up gaining weight! Certainly exercising regularly may make you hungrier since you’re burning more calories. But exercise is not an excuse to pig out, so make sure you watch your dietary intake and eat sensibly. If you feel hungry then by all means eat, but don’t go eating cheeseburgers regularly just because you joined the gym!
7. AVOIDING STRENGTH TRAINING – For years I’ve heard women saying they avoid training with weights as they don’t want big muscles. Unfortunately that means they also miss all of the benefits; improved or maintained bone density, higher metabolic rate, lower body fat, better posture, increased muscular endurance, and long term weight maintenance. Weights are needed in everybody’s routine, no matter your gender.
8. LACK OF FOCUS – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people read the daily paper or a magazine while walking, riding a bike or using some other cardio equipment. First of all, I’ve already told you my thoughts on excessive cardio, and second, if you can read and exercise at the same time I guarantee your workout sucks! I’m sorry to be harsh but seriously, you’re in a gym and you’re going to read? Forget the literature and use the gym for what it is, not as a library.
9. TIME OF DAY TRAINING - It may be more entertaining socially to hit the gym on a Monday or Tuesday night when it’s packed, but it’s also a surefire way to be distracted and slowed down. As I’ve said before, fitness centers are like bars and clubs on some nights, so if you’re serious about your workout I recommend going when it’s less busy. I promise you’ll get a better workout without gazing around at who’s hot, and who’s not. Then show off your new body at a real club!
10. RACKING WEIGHTS – This is the gym manager in me coming out – I can’t stand when people use various bars, dumbbells, medicine balls or whatever else and just leave them on the gym floor. Then when YOU need a piece of equipment, you can’t find it until you trip over it. This is more of an etiquette issue, but I see a lot of new trainees make a mess of the gym. I’ve always put things away, and one of my mottos is ‘if you can lift it – you can put it back’. I just told two twenty-somethings the other day to clean up after themselves, and I don’t even work at the gym!