Being in practice for as long as I have been, I think I must have heard it all when it comes to exercise—everything from why people do to why people don’t. From this experience, I have noticed a pattern in the thoughts and behaviours of those who simply cannot stick to an effective workout regimen. Today, I have compiled 10 things I see people do that derails them from success in fitness, and solutions that can help. As you’re reading, try and see if any of these apply to you, and what solutions you can incorporate to change that!
Are You Making One of These 10 Common Exercise Mistakes?
- You Choose Something You Don’t Enjoy: It’s great to want to be active, and finding ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine is important, unfortunately, all too often people get caught up in the belief that there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to getting into shape. We are all different, and we all like different things and it is important to keep this in mind when choosing a form of exercise—if you cannot stand the atmosphere of a gym, then don’t join a gym. If you cannot find the motivation to workout alone from home, join a group fitness class. Exercising does not need to come in the form of a stern, unpleasant activity. SOLUTION – Go out and enjoy yourself! Explore what’s out there and what matches your exercise preferences. Ask yourself, what was your preferred method of exercise when you were younger? Dance if you like dancing, swim if you like swimming, and run if you like running. There exists a wide variety of options out there, you don’t have to feel like you’re forced into exercising like everyone else.
- You Push Yourself Too Hard, Too Soon: Once you’ve found an activity that you know you’ll enjoy doing, make sure that when you’re ready to start, you don’t overexert yourself. I see this happen time and time again with patients. The excitement of starting something new may make us want to go all in, however, it’s best to start off slowly and work our way up to the next level. I see patients come in with sore knees because they went and ran a 5K before taking the time to run the block first. All the best athletes start as beginners, and so should you. This will help your body adapt to the new routine and it will give you a better appreciation for your growth as well. Also, something else to keep in mind is that our bodies need more time to strengthen as we grow older. It’s harder to stay motivated if we get injured, so it’s best to take exercising one step at a time. SOLUTION – Pace yourself. Exercising is never worth causing yourself an injury. By exercising, you’re doing your body a favour—you shouldn’t be pushing yourself past your own limits to prove yourself otherwise. Harder is not necessarily better. Think of the long-term effects on your body.
- You Don’t Make Exercise a Habit: This particular mistake can be a big one. The beauty of having an established habit is that it takes away the decisive moment that stands in between you and your potential workout. By creating habits that are incorporated into your daily routines; you will be more likely to pursue your exercise regime without talking yourself out of it. And preparation is key. For example, prepare your gym bag ahead of time. Make sure that you have everything you need already set inside the bag so you don’t have to spend extra time talking yourself out of getting your exercise done. SOLUTION – Set yourself little reminders on your phone or manually in your calendars that help keep you encouraged and motivated. As with any behaviour, the more it’s repeated, the more it sticks. Sooner than later you will feel like it’s hard not to workout!
- You Don’t Yourself Wiggle Room: You’re not doing yourself any favours by being too hard on yourself if your schedule changes. Let’s say that you have every intention of going to the gym after work, but you forgot that the kids have practice or perhaps they need a little extra help with their homework—that is O.K. Don’t give up yourself just yet! I personally like to plan out four or five workouts during my week and leave myself room for two extra ones. This way, if ever my schedule changes, I know I have some wiggle room and will be able to make up for the change. SOLUTION – Plan out your weeks to incorporate the things you know you need to get done, but also, leave yourself some time for the impromptu events that life sometimes throws our way. You will have another chance to workout and just because you may have missed your planned out moment, doesn’t mean you can’t make it up later.
- The Hours Don’t Fit: Isn’t’ it so common for us to think that the length of time we invest in a workout leads to us having better results? We always hear about the professional athletes who trained for hours every morning to finally get their chance at the Olympic Gold Medal. But, in reality, spending half a day at the gym does not quite give you the benefits you may think it is. If you’re tight on time, it is completely alright to power through a quick 15-20 minute workout. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts are just as effective (if not more, in some cases) as regularly timed out workouts. It’s better to do something rather than nothing. I sometimes joke with patients who tell me they don’t have time to do a workout—I ask them: “Do you have a floor?” They laugh and answer yes. If this is the case for you too, then you really don’t have any excuse not to do even a 15-minute ab/core circuit…on your floor. SOLUTION – Find 15 minutes to yourself during your 24-hour day and do a quick little workout, wherever you are. These can include squats, pushups, burpees, and a plethora of bodyweight exercises.There are some great short workout videos on YouTube to help guide you if you need the extra reinforcement.
- You Have Trouble Integrating Exercise In Your Day: If you don’t have time to make ‘time for yourself’, find time in between the moments you’ve invested with other tasks. If you know you have to bring your child to the hockey arena, bring your running shoes so you can do some lunges and weightless squats while you’re waiting. It’s not always easy to form a habit of exercising but, if you look at what you’ve got planned for the day and the evening, it will make it easier for you to squeeze in your workouts (see #5) without feeling like you’re missing out. SOLUTION – Wherever you are, look around for alternative methods of exercise. Take the stairs at work, park further and walk to your destination, have walking meetings, or even do some stretching breaks while you work. Every little bit counts!
- You Get Bored: I have personally never been one to be able to commit to being at the same gym for 5 years—I get bored, I need change! We are, however, creatures of habit and if you enjoy being at the same gym, kudos to you. The thing that’s important to be careful of here is growing comfortable with one set routine and not challenging ourselves anymore because we’ve gotten into the habit of where we’re at. If you’re a member of a gym that has a great variety of equipment, please, take a chance and try to switch up your routine! If you know there are local workout classes held near where you’re located, why not sign-up and try one? SOLUTION – Incorporate different sets into your workout routine. Try swimming at a local pool instead of running your normal track. Or, participate in a trial kickboxing class to train your muscles in a different way. There are options out there, you just have to keep your eyes out for them!
- You Don’t Train For Functionality: When training the body, it’s important to start off with strengthening your core and enhancing the functionality of the body before working your way towards physical aesthetic. People forget how important it is to be able to perform daily tasks without physical inference. When you’re exercising, make sure you’re integrating basic functional movements into your routines. This would include bending, upper body movement, core strengthening, squatting, and others. It’s also easier to become injured if we are taking the time to properly train our core—yes, this part of the body really does play that big of a role in our everyday well-being. SOLUTION – Know the fundamental movements and incorporate them into your workouts. The more you practice and perform them, the easier your everyday tasks will be.
- You Don’t Warm Up: Movement preps are incredibly important! They help set the tone for the next couple minutes or the hour that you will be performing physical activities. By doing a warm-up before your workout, you’re allowing your body the chance to literally, warm up. Your blood flow to the heart increases and you’ll be able to ease your way into your main activity with more enthusiasm. SOLUTION – Do not jump into a workout without performing some movements preps, to warm up your entire body and muscle groups and to help get yourself in the mentality of the workout ahead. It’ll help you minimize injuries and you’ll enjoy the workout even more!
- You Focus Too Much on Calories and Weight: People are stuck on numbers. Although there’s nothing wrong with making sure you’re eating for your body, and keeping yourself at a healthy weight if your sole focus is on the scale and the calories stacked up after your meals; you’re not doing yourself any favours. We have to keep in mind that oftentimes our weight may not change as quickly as we would have hoped, but our body composition does. Clothes fit nicer, we feel stronger, and we know that our efforts are making a difference. Obsessing over numbers can be detrimental to our success. We have to remember why we are working out; exercise is meant to give us a greater range of functionality in our lives—it’s meant to enhance our capabilities and give us some enjoyable activities during our days. SOLUTION – Calories and the numbers on the scale are not your enemy. These numbers are mathematical reflections of things and can help guide you; knowing that you’re getting enough nutrients and sustenance to help your body be its best self is what is most important. But keep your focus on how you look and feel, rather than what the number on the scale says.
In a final reflection, the most important thing about exercise is making the decision to do it. You have to choose to make decisions that will improve you and your overall health. Exercising is enjoyable if you guide yourself through it. I remember reading a quote once, that said something along the lines of: “if you want to know where a person’s priorities lie, check their agenda and their checkbook.” If it’s not in their schedule and if they’re not investing money in it, they probably aren’t investing much interest in it either. So invest in yourself and in your health, the return is worth it!