Are These Rookie Mistakes Ruining Your Fitness Routine?

Four common errors — and how to avoid them

By: Christopher Travers, MS

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The road to fitness is paved with good intentions — but too many people look for the nearest exit once they hit a few bumps in that road.

Whether you’re an exercise newbie or a former athlete who has taken a break from fitness for too long, don’t let challenges steer you away from your new, healthy routine. Here are a few common mistakes people make — and how you can avoid them.

Check your ego at the door

The mistake: Being overly competitive about fitness.

The fix: Remind yourself it’s not a competition. If you were an athlete when you were younger, you might incorrectly assume you can jump into an exercise program and perform like a pro right away. Or, if you’re competitive by nature, you might get frustrated if you run into challenges in the gym, in the pool or on the track.

But the last thing you want is to be overeager and set yourself up for an injury. Ease into things. For example, if you’re training with resistance bands or weights, start with two sets of eight to 12 repetitions for each exercise at first, then increase the reps as you grow more comfortable. And don’t forget to take rest days. Rest days can be just as important as workout days as your body adjusts to increased activity.

Wear the right shoes and clothes

The mistake: Wearing clothes or shoes that don’t fit well or are designed for the wrong activity.

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The fix: Do your research, and be a smart shopper. For example, if you want to jog or go for brisk walks in winter, try layering your clothes. Start with a sweat-wicking layer next to your body, add insulating layers for warmth, and top them off with a waterproof shell in case the weather turns wet. On the flipside, if you’re running in hot weather, you don’t want to wear clothes that are too loose. Doing so can lead to discomfort and chafing.

Wearing the right shoes makes a big difference, too. For example, if you’re lifting weights, a minimalist running shoe won’t provide the support you need. You don’t necessarily have to spend big money on weight-lifting shoes; a pair of cross trainers will serve you well.

Avoid tunnel vision

The mistake: Focusing too much on one part of your body.

The fix: Alternate days to focus on different parts of your body and different types of exercise. All too often, people have a “problem area” they want to improve. Say your arms have gotten soft, and you want to tone them. That’s fine — but it doesn’t mean you should spend four straight days doing curls and bench presses. That’s a recipe for injuries.

The key is to balance your workout plan. If you spend a day working on your upper body, you should take at least one day off before doing the same routine again. Instead, focus on your lower body or core the next day. Better yet, make sure you develop a healthy mix of cardio and strength training, since a proper long-term exercise program truly depends on both.

Forget the “no pain, no gain” mentality

The mistake: Pushing through pain that goes beyond normal soreness.

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The fix: Listen to your body, and know when to take a break. A little muscle soreness and fatigue are normal — especially when you are first starting a workout program. But ongoing pain in your knees, ankles, hips and other areas may be a sign something is wrong.

If you have a nagging pain, try this: Take a few days off from the activity that is causing the pain. Then slowly work your way back into the activity. If the pain comes back, do not try to push through it. Get it checked out. You may have an injury. Aside from treating the injury, your doctor or exercise specialist can help you craft an exercise plan full of activities that do not aggravate it further.


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