10 common exercise mistakes to avoid when you first start working out

You’ve decided to start working out and you want to get off to the best start possible. This could be the best decision you’ve ever made, or will ever make for your health and happiness, so why not do it right? Well, you’re in the right place! Read on for 10 common exercise mistakes to avoid when you start exercising.

One of the most common exercise mistakes: going too hard too fast

You’ve made an exciting decision and you’re raring to go. Maybe you’ve bought a gym membership, a block of classes or joined a running group and you want to squeeze every penny of value out of it. This is completely understandable, these days more than ever, we need to be watching our spending. However, going too hard too fast can result in burn out, injury and can also suck a lot of the fun out of it too, if you’re ‘making’ yourself go too often. Lifestyle changes can be stressful, whether it’s moving house, job, or changing your routine in another way – we are naturally resistant to it. Which is why lifestyle changes like introducing exercise or changing our diet, needs to be gradual in order to be sustainable.

Not warming up properly

You need to make sure you are warming up and preparing your body properly for the specific exercise you’re planning to do. A warm up for strength training, for example, would be different to a warm up before going running. Depending on what muscle groups you will be working, you need to mobilise particular joints and get the correct muscles warm and ready to go. For running, you’ll need to focus more on your ankles, knees and hips as well as including a pulse raiser. Preparing your body correctly can prevent injury, but also improve performance, so a warm up that’s appropriate for your session ahead should be included before undertaking any form of exercise.

Not cooling down

I know, I know, big yawn! Once you’ve reached the end of your session you’re more often than not going to be tired and all you want to do is get straight home for a shower and some food! But, cooling down properly is essential for recovery and therefore injury prevention and performance during your next session. By properly returning your body to a rested state, by lowering your hate rate gradually and performing appropriate stretches, you increase circulation and removal of waste products generated during exercise. This helps your muscles recover faster. It’s also an ideal time to work on your flexibility, particularly if you have any areas that are pretty tight. Warmer muscles are more relaxed and able to be stretched further.

Not planning in enough rest

Whether your goals are building muscle, strength, speed or stamina, rest in between sessions is almost as important as the training itself. Without letting your muscles recover properly, you actually inhibit their development and adaptation to the stress you’ve put them under during your sessions. And so, at the very least, you stunt your performance, but it could also mean that you damage your progress and actually regress instead! You should take a minimum of one full rest day per week (walking is fine though) and make sure that you get good quality, full nights of sleep as well. Sleep is when our body does most of our healing and that is the process that’s needed between sessions.

Taking too much rest 

On the other hand, taking too much rest is also not ideal. To make progress towards your goals, no matter what they are, you’re going to need to be consistent. For this, I would suggest being realistic with yourself, to not over-commit and do too much, which can make you fall out of love with the process. If you go straight from zero to five sessions per week, this is a massive jump. By week four you may find that you’ve only done one session, because you’ve overdone it in previous weeks, and now you really don’t feel like doing anything. I’d suggest two sessions per week is a good amount to get started and then after the first month, you could up it to three.

Being unprepared 

Once you’ve decided to embark on an exercise routine, you probably want to jump straight in. You’ve built up all this motivation, so you need to get going, now! However, you should still take a moment to consider whether you‘ve fully prepared for your chosen activity. This isn’t just in terms of equipment, footwear or clothing, but whether there are any safety considerations or even structural aspects. Have you got a structure? If you are lifting weights, have you been taught the correct form? Performing exercises correctly, not only ensures that you get the most out of them, but can also prevent some pretty nasty injuries!

Not having a plan

I spoke briefly above about structure, and while making sure you follow a plan sounds a bit boring and leaves little to spontaneity, it can make a huge difference to your goals. The reason you haven’t begun or stuck to an exercise routine before, might be that you’ve found it hard to get motivated, or you haven’t felt like you’re seeing much progress for the effort you’ve put in. A well-thought out, solid plan, means that you know that if you stick to it, you will see results. This, in turn, helps keep you motivated. Not a guaranteed solution by any means, I am talking quite generally here, but it could well make a lot of difference.

Going it alone 

Perhaps the reason you haven’t stuck to an exercise routine before is that you haven’t really enjoyed it, or you don’t feel able to motivate yourself. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed or that exercise isn’t for you, it simply means that you need to figure out what might be an ideal format for your exercise. For some people, classes are the answer, as they can be social and having other people around can make you want to work harder. For others, classes may be a bit too much – they’re too loud, or there’s too many people.

So maybe training with a friend, relative or partner could be a great middle ground. You still have someone there to motivate and encourage you and to make sessions more enjoyable, but you don’t have to deal with a loud, busy room full of strangers. If this sounds like it could work for you, have a think about who you might want to train with. I offer partner training sessions myself, at my studio and find that my clients really enjoy doing an activity that’s different from anything they would usually do together.

Forgetting to fuel your body correctly

One of the most common exercise mistakes that people make is forgetting to fuel their body correctly.You wouldn’t expect your car to run very well if you put the wrong fuel in it, and the body is no different. While there is no ‘right’ way to eat, we all need the same nutrients. We need an optimal amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat as well as the whole range of vitamins and minerals too. How well you fuel your body will affect your performance and therefore results. For a good start on how to get this right, take a look at my Nutrition Guide for Exercise Enthusiasts.

Forgetting to enjoy yourself

This blog about common exercise mistakes has seemed a little on the serious side – all about structure and planning and considering all other aspects surrounding fitness. I’d like to leave you with the key thing to avoid, and that’s forgetting to have fun throughout the process. Movement is a gift. Being able to run, jump, dance and lift (if you are blessed with such mobility), is something we can often take for granted. The feeling of being able to trust your body, to feel power in your muscles and to enjoy the mental health benefits via the neural effects of exercise, are all things that can bring us so much joy, if we set aside some ‘me-time’, in the form of exercise.

Avoid common exercise mistakes with a female personal trainer in Manchester

If you’re looking for more support as you begin your fitness journey, you can fill out an interest form and we can have a chat to see if we’re a good fit. My last point about enjoying yourself during exercise is something I fully prioritise and so there’s no pressure to work together after our initial meeting. If you’re ready to start your new routine independently, remember there will always be trial and error initially, to see what works for you, but stick with it and make sure it’s something you enjoy and you’re on your way:)

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Picture of Ray Hickford

Ray Hickford

Hi, I’m Ray, a health and wellbeing professional in Manchester working with clients through training and nutrition programmes to help them feel more confident, strong and happy both in and outside of the gym.
As a Qualified Personal Trainer and Level 4 RSPH Nutrition Advisor, I am constantly learning myself - from my clients, from other industry experts and sometimes myself! And sometimes I write some of this down for ya.

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