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Monday
Sep302013

Fitness Chronicles: 8 Mistakes Beginners Make

The motivation people bring when beginning a fitness program can be remarkable and inspiring. They’ve committed to a critical change for their lives and health. They’re excited. They’re ready to show up and do the work. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm too often burns itself out with the frustration that comes when results feel remote, efforts wasted. Usually, it’s not about how much beginners apply themselves. It’s about simply how. The fact is, some approaches are effective and some aren’t, some choices productive and some not. I think it’s always better to learn from other people’s mistakes as often as we can--to save ourselves the grief and frustration of getting mired in those same mistakes ourselves. Check out these eight common mistakes fitness beginners make and see whether you can forge a better fitness path. 

They focus on too many goals. 

When beginning exercise programs, it’s common for people to want to do everything at once. For example a person may want to do a marathon, lose thirty pounds, participate in the Alpha Challenge, complete the LTF Triathlon and win the 90-Day Challenge all in the same year or less. While I appreciate their enthusiasm (and used to be like this when I started), it’s much easier and more effective to pick a single goal that is the most important and focus on only achieving that. Once you’ve met that goal, then think of the next goal you’d like to take on. 

They fail to take advantage of the tools available to them.

Once you’ve picked a goal to focus on, look at the resources and programming that can help you reach your goal. For example, if you want to lose that thirty pounds, signing up for TEAM Weight Loss and investing in metabolic coaching would be great resources to try. If you want to run a marathon, you could consider joining the Running Club. If you’re working within a certain budget, seek professional perspectives as you prioritize the programming and devices (e.g. heart rate monitor) that could help your endeavors. Whatever the goal, make sure to do your homework and try to find what can make achieving your goal easier.

They limit themselves to the shiny, state-of-the-art equipment.

We’re all pretty visually oriented, and this can get us in trouble--especially with fitness. Oftentimes, the craziest looking exercise equipment or most extreme sounding fitness programs are perceived to be the best. In my experience, however, the most boring equipment and programs are often the most effective. For example, when it comes to resistance training, the simple barbell and the programs that use it can get very good results.

They flit from one program to another.

It’s easy to get distracted by the promise of something new when you’ve barely begun what you’re already working on. It’s the lure of bigger, better, more novel, more exciting. This approach, however, will sabotage a beginner’s (or anyone’s) progress. It’s important to pick one program to follow that is proven to meet your goal. In addition to picking just one program, make sure you follow it the way it was designed (no alterations), and use it for at least twenty-eight days before you switch to a different program. Four weeks can feel like an eternity when you’re impatient and wanting to grab at whatever seems like it will give you the boldest and quickest results. Consider, however, that if you follow the 28-day rule, you will use twelve different programs in one year. Six months will usually tell you which programs work the best for you. You can then use that information to help you speed up future progress.

They choose a program that isn’t progressive.

New exercise enthusiasts often think if they just show up to work out it will be enough to get results. While this may be accurate for the first month or two, progress will stall after that. If you’re using a resistance training program, make sure to either increase the reps, resistance or both. If you’re following a program to improve cardiovascular fitness, make sure the intensity is gradually increasing. (Metabolic coaching takes the guesswork out of this.) By constantly finding ways to progress your program, your fitness levels improve and you get results sooner.

They don’t bother to keep track of their progress.

This point is VITAL. I have said it in past articles, and I will say it again: “If everyone used a workout journal (or app) and tracked their progress without fail, they would see much better results.” A journal will always show you exactly what intensity or resistance you should be using at any given time or how many reps need to be done in current and future workouts. Your ongoing records will also make clear exactly which programs have worked the best for you. 

They don’t take into account how important social support is.

As much as I dislike social media because it feels like you are “on” all the time, it works really well for helping people’s fitness journeys. Too often, people don’t meet their goals or drop their fitness program altogether because family members, friends or co-workers do not share the same goals. However, if you can surround yourself with like-minded people who have similar goals either at the gym or on a social media site like Facebook, it can make progress much easier and more enjoyable.

They see no point in hiring a professional.

Fitness is the only field I know of where a person thinks he can read a magazine article or book and immediately think he can easily design total success on his own. Unfortunately, this person doesn’t realize that the human body is extremely complex and doesn’t consider the impact of previous injuries, conditioning levels and training environment within different exercise programs. Looking for the proper fitness professional to help mentor you can save a surprising amount of time, headaches and money. (Ask any triathlete who tried to do it on her own how much extra money she spent purchasing wrong or faulty equipment.) The fact is, using the services of a fitness professional can help you get results much more efficiently.

What mistakes have you made in your fitness journey? What choices do you feel weren’t in your best interest as you began an exercise program? On the other hand, what decisions and resources have been the most beneficial to you? Thanks for reading, everyone.

Written by Corey Grenz, Personal Trainer

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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