Congratulations on deciding to take action towards improving your fitness and your health! It’s great that you’re feeling super motivated and inspired that you’ve decided to do something about it today.
I was in your shoes more than 15 years ago when I first walked into my college gym.
I started lifting because I wanted to look better and envisioned a strong, toned body with curves to fill out my jeans. At the time it was the complete opposite of where I was at with my lean, gangly body.
When I first stepped foot into the gym I was intimidated by the loud noises of weights clanging together but totally envious of the beautiful bodies lifting weights at the same time.
My first experience with lifting took me down a path of trial and error for many years. At the end of it I made no progress and got no results. There was no before and after photos because I looked the same!
In this article, you’ll learn the most common mistakes I see people make who are new to lifting so you can save yourself years of frustration. This article will help you maximize growth and change that can happen rapidly as a brand new lifter so you can start seeing results sooner.
Here are three biggest mistakes people make when starting their fitness journey,
Mistake #1 – Going after multiple goals at the same time
Our goals are initially appearance driven and we get our ideas of how we want to look from social media. We want our body parts to look just like in the pictures and wonder how we can lose 10lbs, get rid of the wobbly bits while at the same time gain muscles so we can look toned.
In Facebook groups and fitness forums the typical responses to burning fat and building muscles are,
“Good luck! Eat clean, do intermittent fasting and consume protein at night. Lift heavy!”
“Lift 5-6 times a week and do a body part split workout.”
Someone who is new to body re-composition and lifting must know that the goal to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time are opposite metabolic processes.
Losing fat requires you to be burning more calories than you consume while gaining muscle requires you to eat excess calories to build. You cannot reach both goals at the same time. Pursuing fat loss and muscle gain at the same time will result in mediocre results.
When I see individuals pursue multiple goals it usually ends in frustration because they start seeing some results, gain momentum then in a few months hit a plateau, become stuck and now don’t know what to do.
What commonly happens next is that people drastically change their diet by cutting out calories or going on an extreme food restriction. Their exercise routine will go extreme because they think they just need to work harder and more intense in the gym to break the plateau. Shortly afterwards they stop going because of exhaustion and give up.
This is typically what happens to the average but extremely newly motivated new gym goer.
When you’re deciding between multiple goals pick one to start with.
I found from experience that if you choose one goal and make the goal the #1 goal you get there much faster. You’re devoting all of your energy and resources to reaching the finish line for that one goal as oppose to making a little progress on many goals and never completing one.
Once you’ve achieved your #1 goal then it’s time to set another one.
If you decide to lose 10lbs stick to it until you reach it. Everything you do that does not help you reach that goal is off the table.
Keeping your eye on the goal will make it happen much faster!
Mistake #2 – Incorporating too many new habits
For most of us change is hard. We are stuck in our routines and habits that got to us to where we are today and undoing some of those habits is going to take some mindfulness and hard work.
As much as we would love to automatically switch to healthier habits, changing too many habits at once is only setting ourselves up for disappointment. When we cannot stick to all the habits we wanted to implement we feel like we failed on a large scale because we were unable to stick to our habits long enough to see changes.
Changing too much at the same time is one of the most common mistakes people make when getting back on the health track.
Instead introduce one new habit a week or one new habit a month. Track and see how consistent you are with following your new habit.
If you’re struggling with consistency, be observant and aware of why it’s hard for you to do the habit everyday. Be curious and ask questions to help you understand yourself and your behavior so that you will be more successful with future habits.
I find that using the Five Whys interrogation method helps people discover the root of the problem of why they didn’t stick to their habits.
For example, let’s say you’re struggling with creating the desirable habit of exercising in the morning. You were able to stick to the habit most of the week but Mondays always seem to be a struggle.
Begin by asking why:
Why? – I’m too tired to wake up at 6 AM. (First why)
Why? – I didn’t sleep until 1 PM. (Second why)
Why? – I was catching up on my favorite Netflix series. (Third why)
Why? – I was working weekends to catch up. (Fourth why)
Why? – My work projects are taking longer than expected. (Fifth why)
Asking yourself why will help you get the reason on why you’re behaving the way you are. Once you know the core of the problem then fixing it will have a ripple effect on other parts of your life.
Instead of mustering up more willpower, trying harder, and being more committed now you understand yourself better and know why you’re doing the things you do.
A habit is part of your daily routine that leads to being consistent and being consistent is what’s going to help you achieve your goals. If you struggle with consistently it pays to ask why.
Mistake #3 – You’re not tracking your workouts
This was the biggest mistake I made when I first started weight training at my college gym.
Every time I walked into the gym I was intimidated, a little nervous with my appearance and went straight to the weight machines.
I played around with the settings and tested the weight stack before putting in a set. I figured I would keep doing reps until I felt a slight burn and when I felt satisfied I hopped on another machine and did the same thing until I tired out.
This happened at every workout I did!
It was random, I was not tracking anything, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I didn’t ask for help. What a surprise when a few years later I looked the same. No toning, no definition, and still looking thin.
Those were sad times!
Luckily I hired a coach soon after, got my act together and started seeing results within a few months.
The biggest lesson I learned that will save you years is to follow a program and track your results.
Random exercises will never give you results because you’re not stressing each muscle group often enough to make any visible changes in its development and growth.
At the same time tracking your progress keeps you motivated because you can see that you are improving. Tony Robbins says that the fundamental key to happiness is to make progress.
If you don’t know what you did last time in your workout then you’re not going to know how to make progress and improvement in your next workout.
Who knows if you’re getting closer to your results or not?
Whether you’re not sure or don’t see any progress it’s more likely to make you quit exercising and put you back at the starting line.
By keeping a record it will show you how far you’ve come and to keep you motivated to keep you going.
Even though this article is about the three biggest mistakes new gym goers make it also forms the three fundamental guidelines to follow if you want to see results. Get clear on what you want, create habits to get you there, and track your results. No matter where you are on your health and fitness journey these three guidelines will get you there.