3 mistakes to avoid when working out

If you are trying to lose weight, control your blood sugar, or both, chances are that part of your plan is to be more active. Good for you! Unfortunately, many of us make some basic mistakes when we first start working out. As a result, we end up giving up a few weeks or months later, due to injury, lack of results, discouragement, or pure exhaustion.

To make sure YOU are not among those who can’t stick to their exercise goals, 4 fitness experts - 3 of them located in West Seattle - have kindly accepted to share with me what are the most common mistakes their clients make when they start a new workout program and how to avoid those mistakes.

Read on to find out what to do and NOT do, if you are starting a new exercise plan.

I have heard so many of my own health coaching clients explain to me that their Doctor recommended that they start working out. But with no further help, they don’t necessarily know where to begin! If you have no clue what type of exercise you could pick, check out my article What’s the best workout for you.

Now, if you know what to do and are ready to get started, let’s make sure you won't make the mistakes most “beginners” make when they start being active or when they give more importance to physical activity in their daily lives.

Mistake #1: too fast, too soon

According to Tim McConnell, Owner of West Seattle Runner in West Seattle, many people go too fast, too soon, and end up with injuries that force them to quit. Tim McConnell explains how many of us increase our running mileage or speed too quickly. We end up with shin splints or other injuries that force us to take breaks in our running program, until we give up all together, convinced that “we are not cut out for running”.

West Seattle Runner Group on Alki Beach, West Seattle

West Seattle Runner brings the community together, no matter the age and abilities

What to do instead?

If you are starting a new sport or activity, talk to a specialist, do some research and find out what a reasonable progression is. West Seattle Runner, for instance, offers free Couch to Half-Marathon programs that guide you along for about 5 months! Tim, Lori and their dedicated staff also provide a lot of tips and advice as to what you can expect when you start running. You can also go online, look into the 10-percent rule for running. Don’t push it too fast, and follow expert advice while paying attention to what feels comfortable to YOUR body.

Mistake #2: go all out right away

Michael Browder, Owner of Project 968 in West Seattle, witnesses a very similar mistake in his gym. Clients who don’t have a workout routine yet, want to go “all in” right away and commit to be at the gym 5 days per week. Consequences can be dramatic. Unfortunately, they expand way beyond our life outside the gym or studio. When we are exhausted physically and stretched thin because we have to fit so much more in our schedule all of a sudden, we become lethargic at work, stressed out with our family or depressed and withdrawn from our social life. In the end, even if we don’t injure ourselves physically - which, unfortunately, is quite frequent – we still end up giving up our workout, because it adds way too much stress into our busy life.

What to do instead?

If you don’t workout currently, start adding ONE workout-day to your schedule. Only one! When that feels right and you can fit it easily in your schedule, add another day. And keep building up like this until you reach your goal.

If you already have a workout routine but want to increase your level of physical activity, maybe you'll want to add another workout-day. Or maybe you'll want to make one of your sessions a bit harder or longer. If you are a runner, maybe you want to add some strength training. If you lift weights, maybe you want to add a little bit of cardio. But do it all one day at a time, one workout at a time. Don’t overload your schedule nor overwork your body!

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Mistake #3: not focused on what matters most

This is a mistake that Bryan Guzman, Personal Trainer and Calisthenics Coach, has to deal with regularly. Because clients want to progress fast in a specific discipline - whether it’s building muscles or increasing cardio fitness – they focus all their energy on the part of their workout that they believe will give them the fastest results. They skip warm-up and cool down. They don’t spend time doing functional training, they don’t work on their balance, and they rush through an exercise session without focusing on their form at all. All those shortcuts often lead to dramatic injuries. I mean, guys, weight lifting without paying attention to your form? Really? We KNOW it’s not right… but we want to squeeze in more and more in our day and end up literally breaking our body!

What to do instead:

We all know that we should warm up, cool down, stretch, eat properly before and after a workout. We all know that form is critical. So let’s make all those things ENTIRELY part of our workout! Every single time.

It is very helpful, at least at the beginning, to work with an expert who will make sure that you focus on what YOUR body needs to get best results. Different people will reach success differently. So when you establish a new exercise program, it can make a huge difference if you can spend a few sessions with someone who will tell you what muscles you need to stretch, what joint you need to be extra careful with, what exercises are going to give you the best results. Find out if your gym offers an “orientation consult” and go for it! Again, ask for expert advice. So many trainers will be happy to help you without seeing you in private regularly. 1 or 2 sessions can make all the difference. You can also find great resources online, but watch out for those who just want to power through everything in life, because that can cause a lot of damage.

Outdoor Calisthenics Workout with Bryan Guzman, Apeside7, NJ

Outdoor Calisthenics Workout with Bryan Guzman, Apeside7, NJ

What’s wrong with us?

If you look at it, those 3 common mistakes could be encapsulated into a single one. We put too much pressure on ourselves and try to do what we think we “should” do, instead of trying to work our way up to where we want to be.

Meghan Tavelli, Owner of FIT4MOM in West Seattle, sums it up beautifully. She explains that the biggest “mistake” so many of us make is not giving ourselves grace for our work and not acknowledging the fact that establishing a healthy lifestyle is hard when you have to incorporate work, kids, family, friends, hobbies, etc.

We actually do exactly the same when we jump onto a gluten-free, paleo, whole30 or any other restrictive diet. We see something that works for others (at least temporarily!), and we decide to dismiss everything we like, everything we are used to do, and everything we are, to try and follow that one-size-fits all program that seems straight-forward enough. Of course, we fail! It’s not sustainable! We end up exhausted, resentful, and feeling like failures because we see other people succeeding (at least apparently!).

Body Back Workout at FIT4MOM West Seattle

Body Back Workout at FIT4MOM West Seattle

How can YOU succeed for the long-term?

Whatever you do, make sure you take one step at a time as to not overwhelm yourself physically and emotionally. No baby went from laying down in their crib to running down the hallway. They roll over, they crawl, they stand, they walk, and they finally run (all over the place!).

Let’s keep applying that kind of common sense when we grow up. Let’s not rush through everything as fast as we can without enjoying the process. If we want to succeed in the long term, we need to pace ourselves and work toward our goals, SLOWLY but surely.

If you are not sure what “slowly but surely” looks like for you and for the new program you are trying to get on board with, let’s talk! We can spend 20 minutes on the phone and see what strategy you could put in place. If you are thinking about a lifestyle change, I will be happy to spend some time on the phone with you at no charge. Request a Discovery Session by clicking on the button below.

If you need help designing a workout plan that fits your preferences and your schedule, feel free to reach out to me. I don't do fitness, but I know amazing people who are experts and I can refer you to them, once I understand your needs better. Contact me, let's get you in the hands of professionals who really care!

Logo Project 968 West Seattle
West Seattle Runner Logo
Bryan Guzman Apside7
Logo FIT4MOM West Seattle


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None of my services or recommendations are intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any illness or disease. The information I provide should not take the place of advice from your medical professional, licensed dietitian or nutritionist. You are solely responsible for your health care and activity choices. I cannot guarantee the outcome of my services or suggestions. My comments are expressions of my personal opinion only. 

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