ATF Classic – The Top 10 Beginners Mistakes
Lately I’ve been getting a lot of letters from people who are just starting an exercise program and feel lost as to what they should do. They’re not sure where to start, what exercises to use or how many times to to workout per week. So I’m sharing my post from February of 2011 that I wrote it in an effort to help new trainees get started on an exercise program the right way.
Many times the way in which you approach a new fitness or diet regimine will determine whether or not you reach success. And truthfully these tips are great reminders even if you’re a fitness pro. Enjoy
The Top 10: Beginners Mistakes
It’s time for another Angry Trainer Top 10, and this time around I’m tackling the topic of common beginner’s mistakes.
Starting a new exercise program can seem daunting, and with so much contradictory information out there, it’s really hard to make the right choices and get with a solid program. So here are a few pointers on how to get started – the right way!
1. LISTENING TO FRIENDS – I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve seen teach someone poor form or give them horrible advice. Friends can’t teach you the right way if they don’t know it themselves. Be sure to put the same effort into learning about exercise and nutrition that you do when researching other areas of importance. Read and learn from various sources – magazines, books, websites, etc. After all, we’re talking about your life here. I’m not saying to never take your friends comments under advisement, but certainly don’t take it at face value.
2. TOO MUCH, TOO SOON – I’ve mentioned this before – a person gets so excited for their new program that they go to the gym every day. Most of the time, around the 2-3 week time frame they stop going completely. Why? It’s called burnout, and it’s because a person simply didn’t allow time to get used to a new program. Incorporating fitness into you life should be a slow, not speedy, process. Remember you can always add more intensity and weight at a later date.
3. WRONG EXERCISE SELECTION – Many people never reach their goals for one simple reason – they don’t use the right modes of exercise. Just because you’re in the gym doesn’t mean you’re doing the right things. You should primarily choose forms of exercise that provide the results you’re looking for. See my Why Your Workout Isn’t Working – Exercise Selection piece for more specifics.
4. USING MACHINES – I know many of you feel that starting at the “circuit” is the best way to begin a program. Well, the Angry Trainer disagrees! In my opinion, all new trainees should focus on learning how to control and use their body, not have a machine do it for them. For that reason I recommend body weight, balance or one legged, medicine and resistance band exercises and anything else that requires focus and concentration. Machines usually targets a large, prime moving muscle group, so unless you’re a bodybuilder looking to bulk up, I’d move on.
5. CARDIO OBSESSION – It’s a proven fact that most new members of a gym actually only use the cardio equipment. I’ve seen statistics that say as few as 10% of new members take classes, use circuits or lift weights. This is due to most people once again believing that cardiovascular exercise is the best way to get fit and lose weight. That’s completely untrue – all forms of exercise should be used as part of a complete fitness routine. Check out my Cardio Confusion post for more on this long standing myth.
6. EXCESS EATING – It seems like a no brainer, but some people think that because they’re exercising, they’ve earned the right to eat more food. The result – you obviously end up gaining weight! Certainly exercising regularly may make you hungrier since you’re burning more calories. But exercise is not an excuse to pig out, so make sure you watch your dietary intake and eat sensibly. If you feel hungry then by all means eat, but don’t go eating cheeseburgers regularly just because you joined the gym!
7. AVOIDING STRENGTH TRAINING – For years I’ve heard women saying they avoid training with weights as they don’t want big muscles. Unfortunately that means they also miss all of the benefits; improved or maintained bone density, higher metabolic rate, lower body fat, better posture, increased muscular endurance, and long term weight maintenance. Weights are needed in every body’s routine,no matter your gender.
8. LACK OF FOCUS – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people read the daily paper or a magazine while walking, riding a bike or using some other cardio equipment. First of all, I’ve already told you my thoughts on excessive cardio, and second, if you can read and exercise at the same time I guarantee your workout sucks! I’m sorry to be harsh but seriously, you’re in a gym and you’re going to read? Forget the literature and use the gym for what it is, not as a library.
9. TIME OF DAY TRAINING - It may be more entertaining socially to hit the gym on a Monday or Tuesday night when it’s packed, but it’s also a surefire way to be distracted and slowed down. As I’ve said before, fitness centers are like bars and clubs on some nights, so if you’re serious about your workout I recommend going when it’s less busy. I promise you’ll get a better workout without gazing around at who’s hot, and who’s not. Then show off your new body at a real club!
10. LACK OF VARIATION - It’s quite common for trainees to get stuck in a rut and stick with only one mode of exercise. Some people take the same class over and over, only lifts weights, only take Yoga, run on the treadmill etc. If you’re looking to get the most from your exercise routine, you must include varitions in your workouts. The saying ‘If it doesn’t challenge you it won’t change you‘ is 100% true. Try new exercises, classes and constantly keep your body guessing as to what’s coming next. Variation is KEY to fitness and health success.
Bonus - RACKING WEIGHTS – This is the gym manager in me coming out – I can’t stand when people use various bars, dumbbells, medicine balls or whatever else and just leave them on the gym floor. Then when YOU need a piece of equipment, you can’t find it until you trip over it. This is more of an etiquette issue, but I see a lot of new trainees make a mess of the gym. I’ve always put things away, and one of my mottos is ‘if you can lift it – you can put it back’. I just told two twenty-somethings the other day to clean up after themselves, and I don’t even work at the gym!
So that’s my Top 10: Beginner’s Mistakes, based on what I’ve seen throughout my 20 years fitness career. But what about you? Do you have a beginner’s mistake to share? What bad habits do you see that frustrate you… Let’s hear them…
All information contained within this site, Angry Trainer Fitness.com, is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any health problem – nor is it intended to replace the advice of a physician. No action should be taken solely on the contents of this website. Always consult your physician or qualified health professional on any matters regarding your health or on any opinions expressed within this website. Please see your physician before changing your diet, starting an exercise program, or taking any supplements of any kind.
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about 7 months ago - 4 comments
Hi Alfonso! I’ve been a reader of your site for a while and love the logical and common sense answers you give! Unlike most women, I’m not scared of heavy weights and love lifting! My only problem is that after some health problems, I’m working my way back and find that I can’t lift…
about 11 months ago - No comments
Today I’m introducing a new strand here at Angry Trainer Fitness called ATF Classic! Since we launched the ATF site in October 2010 I’ve written hundred of posts on every aspect of health and fitness – many of which have really resonated with all of you out there. We now have thousands of people following…
about 1 year ago - No comments
Hi Alfonso, I’m about 80 lbs overweight, male, 5′ 10″, nearing 50 years old and have decided to take action on getting in better shape. My diet is pretty good now (mostly Paleo) and I’ve lost almost 30 lbs. this year. I’m walking a mile to and from work each day but I still haven’t…
about 1 year ago - 2 comments
You know it happens to all of us – setbacks, they’re just a part of life. Just when it seems like you’re finally making progress in your fitness program – WHAM, an injury, illness or even work sidelines you. You all know I’ve have my fair share of knocks over the years. But somehow…
about 1 year ago - 4 comments
Hi Alfonso. I have been going to the gym for a little over 2 years now. However, after two years, I decided to look for a different workout concept rather than just continuing going to the gym and creating my own workouts. In my search I ran into a local Crossfit facility. I went…
about 2 years ago - 10 comments
I usually tune in to Saturday Night live for a good laugh, but over the years I’ve realized nothing is as funny (or ridiculous) as the fitness products advertised in all those late night infomercials.
Those “skits” are hysterical – complete with actors, scripts and wobbly sets. My face muscles definitely get a workout from these products as do my abdominals, from all the cramping caused by my laughter! But then I get angry. Why do people buy this garbage?
I asked myself the same question when I saw this recent segment on the Today show with Hoda Kotb and Kathy Lee Gifford. The two hostesses were chatting with fitness “expert” and author Jennifer Cohen, as she took them through some of the current products on the market. Given Cohen’s credentials I was really hoping she’d take the opportunity to start telling some home truths about what, in my opinion, are money wasting gadgets – but boy, was I wrong! Take a look at this: