So you want to be fit, huh? Are you working hard in the gym, starving yourself to lose weight, and staying focused on your fitness goals, but not having much success? I believe fitness is for everyone. I believe that everyone can be lean, fit, healthy, and active. With that being said, I understand fitness is not easy. It takes work, determination, and a little bit of skill. You are determined and you put in the work everytime you make a healthy choice. The skills to be fit can be learned. But if you feel you are not progressing in your fitness lifestyle perhaps it is because of these mistakes. Check out these uncommon mistakes that you may not have known you were doing.
1. Lack of support
The people in your life and in your environment are very important for reaching, maintaining, and surpassing fitness goals. Social support helps you feel understood, valued, loved, and appreciated. We need support to feel good about ourselves. Research also suggests that we need support for fitness success. Specifically researchers found that college students, both males and females, had improved physical health when they reported a feeling of belonging (Hale, Hannum, & Espelage, 2005). Furthermore there are countless studies that suggest people that have social support are more likely to start and maintain exercise and healthy eating. What was interesting about a study I read was that friends and family were important for starting exercise. So if you are just getting started try a group fitness class. This is a great way to meet people. Attending the same class every week will build comradre with others in the class. In the classes I teach when a member is missing the rest of the class notices. Talk about accountability.
If you have been working out for a while but feel stuck in your fitness routine it may be time to look at different support. Research suggests that people that have been engaged in exercise for longer periods of time need more support from personal trainers and friends (Gibbison & Johnson, 2012). It may be time to bring a friend to the gym with you or to seek a personal trainer. Both of these will help motivate and push you further with your fitness goals.
2. What you eat can hurt your workout.
So many people will spend hours in the gym and work to burn hundreds of calories. However that is almost useless if the diet is not sufficient to properly fuel the body. Literally you are what you eat. The food you eat will be used to break down muscle and rebuild muscle. According to Precision Nutrition, not having the right amount of food can keep the body from burning fat and can cause the body to gain fat.
Lots of people may be taking diet extremes. This will not support health and wellness. In short the body needs calories to function and restricting calories will cause the body to stop burning. You want your body to be a lean mean fat burning machine. You can teach your body to burn more calories even while resting by eating properly.
3. Physical activity that includes only cardio.
I am not going to get into the whole strength training vs cardio debate here (that post is coming). But what I will say here is that physical activity needs both cardio and strength training. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, from the Department of Health and Human Services, muscle-strengthening activities should be included in exercise routines at least 3 days a week. Americans are recommended to get aerobic activity at least 3 days a week. You do not have to run, cycle, or step for hours a day. Combining strength and aerobic physical activity will move the body in different ways and challenge various body systems.
4. Working out too much
Moderation goes for both eating and exercise. As a continuation from above, it is possible to workout too much. Overtraining happens and can cause your body to struggle with recovering from exercise. Overtraining will slow the body’s metabolism process too. Think of it like this: exercise burns fat, and although we want this to happen, fat is necessary for the body to function. When too much is burned the body will hold onto excess fat in attempt to avoid too much fat loss. The body will keep the fat in reserve and will store it in unwanted areas.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggests 1 hour of physical activity a day.
5. Lack of focus
Being distracted while at the gym can cause you to lose focus. Focus is necessary for working out. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware and present in the moment. Thinking about work, stressors, and others while working out keeps you from paying attention to your body and how your body is moving. Research suggests that people that pay more attention and practice mindfulness have decreased health and improved physical health (Roberts & Danoff-Burg, 2010). The mind and the body are connected. The mind controls how your body moves. BodyBuilding.com describes this as the mind body connection. The mind muscle connection can improve your fitness routine by allowing you to focus on your body and the muscles of your body.
6. Poor form
Lack of focus and distraction in the gym can cause poor form. Lifting too heavy can cause poor form. Confusion about exercises and machines can create poor form. Not asking questions can lead to poor form.
Poor form looks silly. Not isolating the muscles correctly is not helpful. If you want to see progress you need to complete the workout through the full movement. But most importantly poor form can lead to injury. Think about what muscles the particular exercise is engaging. Think about how that body part moves and stay with movements that align with the direction the joint is made to move. And if you do not know how an exercise works a muscle or joint, ask someone!
7. Lack of confidence
Lacking confidence during physical activity will lead to poor form and distraction. Lacking confidence will keep you from challenging yourself while working out. Lacking confidence will prevent you from progressing because you will doubt your ability to improve. If you lack confidence in the gym try to fake it to make it. Check out bodybuilder.com for videos on how do to exercises. This site gives great workout plans too. Try an exercise with a lighter weight and if you can complete 12 reps with the weight and think you could do a couple more, go up a set of weights. Lifting stronger will help you feel confident. Or try a different group fitness class. When you can complete a new workout you will feel accomplished and your confidence will soar.
8. Staying focused on the number on the scale
I remember a time I weighed myself every single day. There were some days I weighed myself numerous times a day. I became obsessed with the number on the scale. My weight determined my success. The thing about weight is it is not a constant. It changes day to day, with food and water, with workouts, and with hormones. You may attain your “goal weight” today but in 2 days it could be different. And that change may have nothing to do with your hard work, your dedication, and your progress. Focus on your energy level, focus on how you feel, focus on how your clothes fit differently, and focus on the changes you see in your body, your workouts, and your health.
9. Expecting immediate gratification
Burning 500 calories in the gym today will not cause you to lose weight or drop a pants size today. Your body is one whole flowing system and in this large system there are smaller working systems. Blood, energy, food, and oxygen need time to break down, be processed, transported through the body, and then used to keep the body working properly. Although the body works quickly and efficiently it takes time for the body to change. It takes 18 years for us to grow to adulthood so patience while engaging in any physical fitness routine goes a long way. The fit people you see in the gym did not wake up that way. It took me 8 years to get to the fitness level I am at today. Ask another fitness expert and they will tell you they have been perfecting their craft for years.
Yes exercise can decrease stress. But stress can also harm your activity level at the same time. When we get stressed we want to do whatever we can to make the stressed out feeling go away in the fastest and quickest way possible. There is lots of research on this issue. In fact during times of increased stress people engaged in more unhealthy behaviors (Krueger & Chang, 2008). Even people with intentions to engage in healthy behavior of physical activity were less physically active during times of stress. You can over come the sabotage of stress by making a plan. Plan to workout and plan to eat well. People that were stressed but had a plan for physical activity and healthy eating were still successful when they kept to their plan.
These are easy mistakes to overcome. It takes awareness, planning, support, and knowledge, and awareness, planning, support, and knowledge will improve your fitness activities and push you toward progress.