If you’re like most people, you want to get fit or stay fit to have the best health possible. Maybe you want to shed a few pounds or tone your muscles. Exercising and eating right is the best way to do that, but here are common fitness mistakes that you might be making that can either slow your progress or stop it altogether.
While most people focus on what new habits they can pick up to correct or replace old ones, very few people look at the mistakes they’re making while they’re on a fitness plan – thinking simply pursuing one is good enough.
Below are the 6 biggest fitness mistakes you need to avoid.
Believing Abdominal Exercises Lose Belly Fat
One area of the body where so many people struggle in fitness is with the abdominal area. You might be one of the ones who has worked out hard, yet no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to get that toned look you’re going for.
Or maybe your six pack ab dreams look more like a two pack – and a soft one at that. You could be making a simple mistake, that once corrected, will give you that flat or ripped look you want to have.
You may have heard that abdominal muscle exercises will take off belly flat and any flabby or drooping areas will then tighten right up. That’s the mistake. Abdominal exercises, regardless of how many you do, aren’t going to help you get rid of the fat around your middle.
It doesn’t matter if you work that area daily every single week, you won’t get the flat or toned body you want in that area by using abdominal exercises. You might notice that your muscles feel stronger in that area, but you can’t see definition.
The reason for that is because your abdominal area has belly fat. Burning fat with cardio is the first step so that your abs can be showcased properly. This belly fat is why you’re not toning up the way you’ve always imagined you could.
It’s not that the ab exercises aren’t working – in fact, you might have a stellar six pack underneath the fat. But you can’t build muscles and tone flabby spots if these muscles are hiding under blubber.
Another way you can take off fat that’s covering your abdominals is through a healthy eating plan to pair with your fat burning exercises. There are certain foods that contribute to belly fat and those need to be limited or removed from your diet.
It doesn’t mean that you can never have your favorite junk foods. It means that while you’re working on the abdominal muscles, junk food or processed foods are not your friend.
Once you get rid of your body fat in that area, you’ll see a big difference in how much easier it is to tone up. That doesn’t mean you should give up on exercising your ab muscles until you take off the belly fat.
Exercising that area will still help give you flexibility as well as stability and strength. Plus, when the fat melts off, you won’t have to then pick up a new regimen to tone up the muscles – they’ll already be toned and you’ll be able to show them off quickly!
Not Challenging Yourself
The second biggest mistake that people make when it comes to fitness is they’re not making sure that their routine is challenging enough. If your routine is easy, then you’re making a mistake.
Fitness always has to level up in order to be effective. But what most people end up doing is when they reach the point where they’re pushing themselves and just about to level up, they pull away or get too comfortable.
One of the reasons is because it causes more strain and effort when you push your muscles to do more than what they’ve been doing. But by pulling back, you end up staying at the exact same fitness point you’re currently at.
You won’t see growth and you won’t achieve your full potential until you choose to challenge yourself. There are a couple of easy ways that you can challenge yourself more.
The first is that you can push yourself harder for a shorter amount of time. Even going harder for a minute or two will raise the intensity level. This is one of the reasons that high intensity training interval is so effective.
They take the body beyond the current fitness level. If you can’t push it for a couple of minutes, then just do thirty seconds of a burst of exercise going as hard and as fast as you can. Even that little amount will make a difference.
Second, you can challenge yourself by exercising longer. If you have your workouts down to twenty or thirty minutes a day, add an extra five minutes per workout.
You won’t really notice the difference in time you spend exercising, but you will notice the difference in your fitness level, your energy and the way that your clothes fit.
Lacking Variety in Your Fitness Routine
Everyone is a creature of habit, but doing what you’ve always done and what you feel comfortable doing with your fitness routine could be stonewalling your progress.
You might not even be aware that a lack of variety can keep you from reaching your fitness goals, but a good way to put it to the test is to check yourself. Are you still lifting the same weights you were a month ago?
Are you still running the same route for the same amount of time when you run? Then that’s a lack of variety. When you stick to what you’ve always done, all you’ll end up doing is maintaining your weight and fitness level as long as you’re not overeating.
Your body gets used to what you do. It won’t make an effort to lose weight or build muscle tone unless you do. In order for your muscles to improve and for your stamina and flexibility to increase, you have to have variety in your fitness plan.
You can’t do the same exercises at the same pace for the same time over and over and have a successful workout. Some people think that if they just add 5 more reps to the 20 they’re already doing, it’s enough variety.
What you’re doing, though is challenging yourself – but probably not to the point where it’s uncomfortable to get those extra reps done. You have to shake things up at least every three to four weeks.
Put aside the exercises you were doing and start a new set that’s more difficult. Stop running on an even flat surface and hit the hills or increase the incline to one that makes it difficult for you to be able to have a conversation while you’re doing it. This variation will push your body to do more to become better and stronger.
Not Lifting the Right Weights
Working out with weights is always a great idea. But a mistake you might be making is using ones that aren’t high enough or ones that are too high for your fitness level.
A good way to tell if you’re working out with weights that aren’t tough enough for you is to check your muscle growth. If you don’t notice a difference when you look in the mirror, then nothing is happening to spur that muscle growth.
Another way to tell is if your workout that involves weights doesn’t seem to tax you at all. Those are signs indicating that it’s time for you to make some changes in the amount of weights you use.
If it’s been several weeks and you’re still working out with the same weights you were from the start, then it’s time to level that up. You can tell if you’re working out with the right weight limit for yourself by how difficult or easy it is to work out with them.
While you’re working out, if your muscles feel tired and you’re not lifting the weights as quickly, then that means you’re challenging yourself. If you can carry on a conversation without panting while lifting weights, you might not be using weights that will challenge you.
Getting through a weight workout with ease and zipping through it without hesitation means you’re using weights that aren’t heavy enough for you. When you realize that, then you want to use heavier weights – but how you add that does make a difference.
You don’t want to go from a 50 pound weight to a hundred pounds. Your muscles have to be conditioned through a gradual increase in reps and weight sizes. While some weight training advocates say you should stick to 5 pound increases, if you can handle a 10 pound increase at a time, then you can certainly do that.
How often you increase the weights you use depends on your workout. The minute you get comfortable and can do the weight exercises easily, then you need to move up again.
Remember that you can always back off if you level up and find the amount of weights too hard. You won’t lose any momentum by backing off – but if you stay with the same weights when it’s time to move up, you gain nothing.
If you find that you’re unable to get through a simple set of weight lifting because the weights are too heavy, don’t simply stop at a lower set of reps. Instead, lower the amount of weight so that you can complete your reps until your muscles are able to handle the increase.
Not Paying Attention to Progress
Surprisingly, one of the mistakes people make when it comes to fitness is not paying attention to the progress that they’re making. This is one of the biggest keys to fitness success.
You need a personal logbook that allows you to see what’s working and what might not be working for you. You need a fitness journal or a notebook where you write down how long each workout lasted.
You should make notes about the different exercises you did. Include the style, the reps and the duration. You also need to make a note of whether or not you were tired, if your muscles felt achy and anything else that affected you after the workout.
The reason you want to do this is because it allows you to see what’s going on with your body over the course of time. It will be the first way that you can see increases in your stamina and strength.
By looking at your journal and seeing that you started out only being able to run two miles before you had to stop but now you’re up to ten miles, it lets you see your milestone achievements.
What it also lets you see is if you’re not making any progress at all. You’ll be able to see how long you’ve been doing a certain exercise, so it will be easier for you to know when it’s time to shake things up.
You’ll also be able to keep an eye on your muscle growth if you keep track of your inches. You can write down the inches you’ve lost or your weight if that’s one of your fitness goals.
Keeping a journal can show you at a glance what needs to be improved. By tweaking your fitness routine using the data you glean from your journal, you can stay on top of your workout.
Not only will it let you see at a glance how you’re doing, but it will also work to pick you up when you feel discouraged about your fitness routine. There may be certain times when you’ll feel like you’re not making any progress at all.
But being able to see it written down is proof that changes were happening – whether you could tell right away or not. A fitness journal acts as an accountability tool where you can look at your habits and patterns to see where you might have gotten off track.
It can help with goal setting, too. What some people enjoy about a fitness journal is that it can be a healthy place to write down what you’re feeling or thinking about your body, your workout, or your eating habits.
Sabotaging Your Fitness After the Workout
Do you know how to refuel after a workout?
There’s a lot of advice that circulates about refueling after a workout. The way the advice makes it sound is if you don’t refuel, you’re going to end up with a glucose deficit – you’ll get shaky and you’ll undo the good work you did during your workout.
While refueling after you workout is something you’ll want to think about, you’ll want to make sure that you know the truth about it. The truth is that not everyone needs to refuel after a workout.
Some people argue that you should eat half an hour after a workout to hit that metabolic window in preparation for the next time that you exercise. You don’t always put in enough effort for it to make a difference in what your body needs.
It all depends on your workout routine. If you’re someone who works out hard and heavy to build muscle, then your after fitness routine is going to be much different from someone who works out for the purpose of losing weight.
Many people will do a light workout and then guzzle down a thirst quenching drink that’s loaded with sugar. Some sports drinks are so loaded with sugar and calories that you’ll put the calories you burned working out right back on.
Whether your goal is to get fit and lose weight or to build muscle, you don’t want to work out and then undermine that progress by what you consume after that. If you eat a high energy bar and slam a large sports drink, you can unknowingly take in 250-400 calories and sometimes more depending on the type and brand you buy.
Don’t believe the hype that you definitely have to eat immediately after a workout. The truth is that most people don’t need a recovery refuel. Once you get done working out, if you feel the need for fuel and your glucose is down, then eat something that’s low in carbs along with some protein and skip the sugar-laden sports drink.
Remember that making the decision to begin a fitness program is fantastic. But don’t get so comfortable with that decision that you fail to spot warning signs about your progress along the way.
Stay vigilant and work on transforming your fitness regime into one that continually grows, rather than one that maintains a steady course of stagnancy over the coming weeks, months and years.