I’ve made all of these blunders, and chances are you’ve made a few of them yourself (who hasn’t delayed their workout until after dinner, only to get sucked in to Netflix after the kids are in bed… and skip the workout entirely? So. Very. Guilty.) But together these little gaffes can derail your fitness goals. Be aware and take steps to avoid them.
- Not setting realistic goals
It’s one thing to say, “I want to lose 20 pounds in a month;” it’s another thing to actually achieve this lofty goal. Indeed, the road to the gym is littered with unrealistic fitness intentions, from a non-runner trying to train for a marathon that’s two weeks away, to a busy mom pledging to work out five days a week and lose all 30 pounds of the baby weight in six weeks—no wonder so many people give up!
Experts advise you use the SMART method when planning fitness goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. For example, a specific goal could be: Lose 10 pounds by spring break. It’s measurable—all you have to do is stand on a scale and track your weight loss. It’s attainable if you’re starting in, say, January, when you have three months to achieve it. It’s relevant if you’re going to Mexico and want to look good in a swimsuit. Finally, it’s timely if spring break is a few months away—that lends the goal more urgency so you’ll be motivated to move and eat more sensibly. Need help with goal planning? Book a Get Started Consultation with a NVRC personal trainer.
- Overdoing the cardio
Getting your heart rate up is important, and running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike for 30 minutes burns more calories than lifting weights. But don’t go overboard on cardio at the expense of resistance training.
Building and maintaining muscle mass is just as important, especially as we age, to maintain strength, mobility and balance, and to help prevent injuries and falls. What’s more, building muscle through regular resistance training can actually increase your resting metabolism, because muscle tissue burns more calories than fat. In fact, research shows that you burn more calories in the hours after a weight training session than you do after a cardio workout.
- Poor form
Having bad posture or using the wrong technique when lifting weights, doing burpees or using resistance machines can strain muscles and joints, and lead to soreness or even injury. Consider working with a personal trainer to make sure your form is good and you’re not trying to lift (or do) too much, too soon.
- Forgetting to stretch
It’s tempting to skip this important mat time, especially if you’re running short on time. Don’t. Stretching before a workout helps to warm up the muscles you’ll be working on, and prevent injury. Stretching after a workout is equally (if not more) important because it will get muscles back to their original length after multiple contractions, and it can help prevent post-workout soreness.
- Not recording your progress
If you don’t record your starting point, how will you know when you reach the finish line? With a simple goal such as weight loss, all you need is scale to determine your progress. Other goals, such as the desire to be stronger (specifically, “I want to be able to bench press 100 lbs.,” for example), or training for a 5k race, require more detailed tracking. Read our Track Your Exercise blog post.
A personal trainer can set you up with a tracking card where you log each exercise, how much weight was used, and the number of sets and repetitions. Over time you’ll see how you’ve advanced from bench-pressing 50 lbs. to 80 lbs. and your goal will be in sight. For race training, you can log each run and watch as your distance increases while your time decreases.
- Inconsistency in workouts
Everyone signs up for a gym membership in January after making a New Year’s resolution to exercise more, but that resolve often crumbles as the excitement wears off. All too often, we start skipping workouts or making excuses (“I don’t have enough time!”). Exercising only when we feel like it won’t get the results we’re after.
You just need to push through until your new exercise routine becomes a habit, say experts. Common wisdom says it takes anywhere from 21 to 30 days to make a new behaviour part of your routine. To make physical activity a habit—and reach your fitness goals—you need to make time to exercise, expend the energy, and stick with it. It’s easier said than done, but chances are if you make it through the first month it will feel more like brushing your teeth than skydiving!
- Delaying workouts
Procrastination is a fact of life, but unlike a term paper that you will stay up until 3 a.m. to complete, if it’s 9 p.m. and you’re watching TV in your pyjamas, you will not be going to the gym (or even for a walk). Instead, schedule workouts for the morning when you have more energy and before a last-minute work assignment (or a call home from the school about a sick child) can derail your evening Cardio Kickbox plans.
Even better, a morning workout can jumpstart your day and set you up for making better snack and lunch choices, too. Research shows that early birds don’t just catch the worm—they actually choose healthier “worms” (a.k.a. meals) all day long.
- Giving up when you hit plateau
Plateaus are like the La-Z-Boys of the gym—they happen because our bodies get too comfortable with our regular workout so it’s not as effective as it used to be. And, just like the comfy reclining chairs, a plateau indicates it’s time to get up and shake things up. (Whatever you do, don’t recline further and risk losing your gains!)
Getting help with your workouts
Did you know? Our fitness staff are happy to answer any of your workout questions and to give you feedback and advice on your form and your exercises. Feel free to talk to any of the fitness staff in our fitness centres. They are available for a chat when you have questions.
If you are new to fitness and/or want a little more help planning your workout, the NVRC offers a Get Started Consultation with a one of our fitness professionals for just $10.50 for members, or $31.35 for non-members. It could be as simple as increasing your resistance or weight, or trying other cardio machines or a fitness class to move in new ways and work different muscle groups.
If you want some ongoing coaching and one on one support, consider working with a personal trainer.
Now that you know the most common exercise mistakes, you can make sure they don’t derail your path to fitness.
Lisa is a B.C.-based journalist who writes about health, parenting, travel, outdoor adventure and cocktails. Formerly a lifestyle reporter at the Calgary Herald, she is now a freelance scribe for a variety of publications including WestJet Magazine, Best Health, BCAA Magazine, Today’s Parent and Just for Canadian Doctors/Dentists, as well as Postmedia newspapers.