It’s 2019 and that time of the year where countless people embark on the journey of fitness, health and wellbeing. Whether you are preparing for a sporting event, wanting to pack on some muscle or reduce your body fat, getting in shape is not an easy task and can be quite daunting for a lot of folks out there. Most gyms only have 10-20% of their actual members show up regularly to train while the rest of them rarely make use of their membership. Before taking the plunge and committing to a proper exercise program, there might be a few things you want to consider doing/not doing. We’ve come up with the following mistakes beginners usually make:
Skipping a proper warm up
Far too many people skip warming up before training. Just like any sport, resistance training requires a thorough warm up to help you avoid injuries as well as physically and mentally prepare you for the session ahead. This is especially vital if you are about to start lifting heavy weights or do any sort of high impact exercise.
Ways to warm up might include hopping onto a cardio machine, marching on the spot, brisk walking, arm circles, squats or doing a few warm up sets with very light weight. Anything that creates a light sweat and raises your body temperature by 1-2 degrees Celsius will do the trick.
Not getting enough sleep
Sleep is one of the key ingredients for muscle growth along with effective training and nutrition. People often wonder why they are not getting the desired results with only 3-4 hours sleep. This is because our muscles recover and grow while we are asleep and resting. Proper sleep is not just essential for our muscles but for optimal brain function and general health.
A few tips moving forward: aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night, avoid caffeine and other stimulants in the evening, limit your night time technology and dim the lights around your house an hour before bed.
Overworking smaller muscles
Exhausting smaller muscles eliminates your true potential when performing the compound movements which target the larger muscles as well. For example, doing 10 sets of forearm or triceps exercises one day will probably negatively impact your bench press the next day. Remember that doing compound lifts also targets the smaller muscles. For example, a bench press works your pectoral muscles, but also involves your shoulders and triceps.
Focus on training the main muscle groups first and then train the smaller muscles towards the end of the workout for a few sets.
Training without a plan
Going to the gym and hitting every exercise in the machine section or copying some of the more experienced lifters is still considered a workout, but it is counterproductive. A big mistake most beginners make is having no purpose or structure to their workouts. In order to progress, you must have a plan to continually improve. Otherwise, you’ll end up looking the same every year and wondering why you aren’t achieving the results you want. Aim to get stronger, bigger or faster (sometimes all three) and track your results regularly to ensure you’re on the right path.
Avoiding strength training
The gym environment can be an uncomfortable experience for some. Most people also feel like they need to do traditional long slow duration cardiovascular training for weight loss before they can start hitting the weights. Just in case you didn’t know, strength training helps boost your metabolism, increases muscle strength and elasticity and strengthens connective tissues, tendons and ligaments. For those that find it intimidating working out in front of others, there are various ways you can reap the benefits of resistance training without training at a traditional gym. Working out with a partner can help you feel more comfortable, training at the park or beach is another popular option and buying your own weights or using resistance bands at home or outdoors also works well.
Sometimes people push themselves a little too hard because they assume the more you do, or the more often you do it, the faster you’ll see results. However, overdoing it at the start can cause people to get injured or eventually burnt out. Many newbies use heavier weights than they are capable of lifting, such as deadlifting with an arched lower back or squatting only a couple of inches with massive weights on the bar. Continuing this dangerous pattern of training is a recipe for disaster. As your strength and endurance improves, modifying certain variables is paramount for optimal results. Progressive overload is key for continual development and recovery is also an extremely important yet neglected component of training. Remember, your muscles repair and grow when they are resting, not during training. Be sure to train hard and smart.
Not improving flexibility
Being able to move around freely and use full range of motion in most exercises is something everyone dreams of. If you are one of those people that has neglected their flexibility over the years, you might want to reconsider. Not including any flexibility training can lead to stiffer joints and an increased risk of injury over time. Therefore, including it in your routine can help keep your muscles relaxed and your tendons and ligaments more elastic. Prior to working out, ensure you warm up using dynamic stretches, which are found to be beneficial for overall performance by improving power, speed, endurance, agility, flexibility and strength. Static stretching, where you hold a stretch in a position for 15-60 seconds, can be performed at the end of the workout as part of the cool down process.
Thinking that running is the only form of cardio
There’s nothing wrong with long distance running or aerobic training, however is it the most effective or efficient form of training for everyone? According to the latest research in exercise science, short bursts of high intensity training have proven to be safer and more effective for your heart, weight loss and overall health and fitness. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Tabata and other forms of high intensity training have become very popular in recent years. If training for long distances and extended periods of time is your bread and butter, or if you’re training for an event, which requires a lot of muscular endurance and a specific training regiment, then by all means continue long slow duration aerobic training. However, if you want to try something new that can produce great results, try some sort of high intensity training and see how that goes for you.
Ignoring healthy eating
Training well is great, but if your eating patterns are not healthy or organized to a certain degree, the results will not come to fruition and all that hard work in the gym will seem like big a waste of time. Beginners tend to forget the importance of healthy nutrition and only focus on the training side of things. Treat your nutrition plan as serious as your workout plan. Whether your main goal is to lose weight or build muscle, start tracking your carbohydrate, protein and fat intake and make sure it is aligned with your goal. Personal trainers are equipped to help advise you on healthy eating habits, however if you need more specific guidance, seeing a nutritionist or a dietician can be extremely beneficial.
Feeling like you’re too old to start training
Age happens to be one of the leading reasons for people not wanting to start exercising. If you know someone that thinks they are too old to train, tell them to think again. Exercise is beneficial for everyone’s health, but it is even more important as you age. Studies have shown that men could still burn fat and add muscle between the ages of 40 and 80. Women are also at a greater risk of osteoporosis as they age, especially post menopause. Therefore, regularly physical activity and resistance training ensures your bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons remain strong and healthy as you get older. So, the important thing to take away here is, get up, get started and begin an exercise program because it’s never too late to start.