With all the fitness myths out there, sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re training successfully. While you may be seeing progress, that doesn’t mean you are training properly. Below are my top 10 fitness mistakes you may be making and how to fix them!
1) Taking advice from those without credentials
There’s an endless supply of fitness content out there these days. From instagram, youtube, tiktok to tv, we are constantly exposed to health and wellness information. The hardest part is that it’s often confusing, conflicting and misleading information. When I began my own fitness a few years back, I looked at the options with the most views and the people with the most followers. We all assume that if someone has a ton of followers and a ton of views, it must be quality content. This is not typically the case. Most of the time those instagram influencers with millions of followers have no education in fitness, they just happened to lose weight or get in shape, and people liked their personality and content.
A good take on influencers is to use them as inspiration not educators. They have bubbly personalities and viewing their content may inspire you to work on your health. They are like performers, and need to appeal to a wide variety of people in a way that those presenting only facts often can’t. But you must remember that just because someone has a following and may be in shape, does not mean they know enough to properly educate you. Their content should be taken with a grain of sand. It worked for them, but oftentimes I’ll see influencers with millions of followers still talking about how they have to work on their form because they aren’t engaging the right muscles. Or they are practicing extremely strict diets.
Make sure you are taking advice from someone with a certification, who you know has been properly educated by a certified trainer or someone with a degree in exercise science. There are a few popular influencers who have taken the time to work with coaches, but most have not. Make sure to find someone who can really set you up for success and reduce your risk of injury and likelihood of quitting. It’s also really important to start your journey off correctly. Some people spend years training before they realize they have muscular issues from improper training and it takes a really long time to learn how to train properly. You end up having to re-educate the brain on how to perform exercises and the correct muscles you should be engaging.
Rest and recovery are key! Overtraining is a common issue for those who have been training for a long time and for those who are new to fitness. Whether it’s general overtraining of your entire body or overtraining of specific muscles, both can lead to injury and/or general exhaustion. Some key points to consider are:
Make sure you are rotating your training and not exercising the same muscles back to back
Keep sessions 60 minutes and under. After 60 minutes your body has depleted most of its glycogen stores (energy!) and training will be less effective.
Pay attention to your body. Know when certain muscles are still fatigued and need more rest.
Be flexible. Be ready to change your workout plan if something doesn’t feel right. The last thing you want to do is ignore your body and end up injured.
3) Not sleeping
In a world where we all tend to brag over who had the longest work day and who can get by on the least amount of sleep, we forget that we do actually need a certain amount of sleep to thrive. The recommended amount is 7-9 hours. This is especially important for those training because sleep is the best time for your body to heal and recover from your session, reducing muscle soreness in the coming days.
Undereating is one of the most common mistakes people make because their goal is often weight loss. The mindset becomes, “the less I eat the more weight I will lose.” This is not quite how weight loss works. While yes it’s recommended to go into a small calories deficit, you still have to make sure you eat enough calories to support your body's metabolic processes. The average person needs somewhere between 1800-3000 calories depending on age, sex and activity level. It’s important to find out how many calories you burn in a day (also known as your TDEE and I did an entire blog on this!) Know how many calories you are currently eating and reduce the number by 100-300 calories only. Don’t cut your diet in half.
If you are already eating well below your targeted intake and eating a very low calorie diet, you may need to talk to a professional about a process called reverse dieting. Remember when we don’t eat/eat enough our bodies think we are starving and will slow down how the body processes food to conserve as much as possible to survive. This is how some people still gain weight on 1200 calorie diets. The body needs to relearn how to properly digest and use food and get back to a healthy intake.
5) Not training intense enough
Know when to challenge yourself and set goals! If you’ve been training using the same exercises with the same weight for months and it's become easy to get through a session, it’s most likely time to up that weight or try new exercises. This doesn’t mean go crazy and add a ton of weight, but gradually add more weight and challenge yourself. You should end each set of exercises almost at fatigue. If you feel you could do 100 more, you probably need to revise your plan.
6) Lack of consistency
Consistency is key not only for progress but for long-term success. When we consistently do something it becomes a habit instead of just a random task. Once something becomes a day-to-day habit for you, you’ll become less likely to skip a session and make excuses.
If you only make something a priority every once in a while, that isn’t the level of commitment needed to see great change. We can’t learn a new language if we only practice a few times a month.
Consistency also leads to faster progress and more inspiration to keep working!
7) Not taking rest days
While we discussed making sure you have enough sleep daily, you always need to remember that training every day is not a good idea. Unless you are a professional athlete and have a team to assist in post exercise recovery, you should be taking 1-2 days off of exercise. You could still do some low impact movement like a light walk or gentle yoga, but you need to avoid heavy training daily. While the body has time during sleep to recover from an individual workout, there’s still fatigue that occurs from daily training. Sleep is often not enough time to rest those tired muscles and reduce the chance of overall fatigue. Exercise takes a lot of energy! We must make sure we don’t train on exhausted muscles and low energy levels, to reduce the chance of injury and strength loss.
8) Lack of balance
Balance is key! Balance in fitness means training in a variety of ways and also exercising all muscle groups. Some people only lift weights and do nothing else, they may hit a plateau because their bodies have adjusted to this style of training and they may stop noticing progress. Alternating between styles of training, whether some days are cardio, weights, yoga, swimming, etc.
The other half of the balance equation is that you must equally train the entire body. Training can be quite the hyper focused activity. We see a lot about women wanting to grow their peach and men wanting bigger arms, etc. This can lead to a general focus in only training the muscles they want bigger. This is not a healthy approach, though. Training should be balanced and focus on activating all muscles throughout the week. Remember that your muscles work together! No muscle works solo. There are muscles that support each movement, muscles that drive the movement and muscles that resist movement. All of those muscles must be in good shape to have proper mobility and engagement. Without proper muscle engagement you will never be able to grow to the max potential!
9) Not understanding muscle engagement
This one is huge! People sometimes train for years thinking that one exercise works a specific muscle and it turns out to be incorrect, but they have been using bad form for years! Know your exercises before trying them. Each exercise engages different muscles, so know exactly which muscle you should be feeling before trying it out. If you then perform the exercise and don’t feel the muscle engagement you should, that's a clear indicator of an issue. You may need to work on mobility or correct your form before that exercise will feel “right.”
Remember water is life! Women need 2.5-3 liters a day and men typically need 3.5-4 liters a day. Not hydrating properly can lead to overall fatigue and lessen your ability to optimize a workout and to recover from one. This is especially important for outdoor training and high intensity activities with lots of sweating. Make sure to rehydrate properly!
It’s so much easier to progress through your health and wellness lifestyle if you have the proper tools for success. Having to relearn how to train after weeks, months or years, because you have just learned you have been using bad form, is incredibly difficult. So take the extra time to research the content you are following. Know what is a safe program to follow, know your food and water needs, know the muscles you are working! Taking that extra time up front to be fully educated, will lead to faster growth, less chance of injury and reduce stress later. There’s nothing more defeating than learning months later you’ve been going about something all wrong. This may cause you to want to quit pursuing health altogether. Hope these tips can make your journey a little easier!
Until next time… and remember knowledge is for all!