You will have seen many people make these gym mistakes, or you may have made them yourself. If you are serious about getting effective results in a timely fashion, don’t fall victim to these common mistakes made in the gym and while training at home…
1. Set yourself GOALS to work towards
Your goals should be S.M.A.R.T – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
“I want to lose half a stone, over the next 6 weeks, ready for my wedding. This is important to me as I want to look amazing in my wedding dress!”
“I want to lose 1.5 stone over the next 12 weeks, as I am classed as overweight on the scales, and I’m not happy with my body. I want to feel more confident again and want my clothes to fit better.”
A goal that IS NOT S.M.A.R.T would be “I’ve booked a last-minute holiday in 2 weeks, and I want to lose 3 stone, and have a six pack ready for the beach” If your goals are unrealistic, you will have already set yourself up for failure, resulting in nothing but lack of motivation, poor results, and disappointment.
What are your S.M.A.R.T short (this month), medium (next 3 months), and longer (3-12 months) term goals? Why not share and discuss them with me, and I can advise you on a realistic motivating way forward.
2. Prepare your workout in advance
So many people go to the gym or work out without knowing exactly what they should be doing, or without any clear plan of what they will train that day. Many people often machine-crawl from one exercise to the next, or stay on the same cardio machine, bored, for their entire workout as they don’t know what else to do, or how to do anything else.
It’s important to have a clear structure to your routine so you don’t miss any muscle areas out, and so you are following the most effective methods for the results you want to achieve.
If you want to lose weight, should you be doing primarily cardio? Weight training? Both? What exercises should you start your workout with, and finish with? What weights will you be lifting? How many reps? What rest between sets? How many sets? Etc.
As your potential Personal Trainer, I will tailor your workouts specifically to you, your fitness level, ability, and goals. And of course, what equipment (if any) you have around you, as many people choose to train at home. There are hundreds of exercises you can do at home, just with your own body weight, yet most people can count on one what exercise options without equipment there are.
3. Choose your set training days & times, and STICK to them
It’s important to decide what days and times you are going to train each week and STICK TO THEM religiously, even if its chucking it down with rain (or have an indoor alternative workout you could do if you couldn’t make it to the gym, or if the weather is really bad outside.)
I would recommend you train a minimum of 3 days per week (4-5 days per week for fitter individuals). Decide what days you will train, ideally with a rest day in between. Mon, Wed & Fri would work well, for example. Keep your training times the same, unless you work different shifts each week. You will be much more likely to stick to those set days and times.
Those who tackle each week with a goal of training 3 times per week, but often come up with a reason not to train, with the intention of training the following day (which never usually happens) usually never stick to their 3 days per week, and end up frequently missing days. Mark on your calendar when you have a workout, maybe with a big GREEN highlighted tick, and perhaps a RED highlighter X when you don’t train. Lots of RED X’s will hopefully motivate your to do something about it, while lots of GREEN ticks should hopefully motivate you to keep up the hard work.
4. Stay motivated with music/podcasts
Be sure to have your favorite motivating music on your phone, for example, Spotify, Soundcloud, Apple Music or similar. If you’re in the gym, there can be nothing less motivating than the gym playing music you don’t like, or that plays the same 1-hour mix of songs on repeat each time you go to the gym (trust me I know), or listening to other gym members grunting and throwing weights about. Get into your perfect training zone with your own music (ideally with noise-canceling headphones).
I often listen to Audible podcasts, talking about a variety of fitness, nutrition, and health-related topics, which in your case would certainly educate you, and MOTIVATE you to your goals on a similar theme to your podcast. The more educated and knowledgeable you are on topics such as healthy nutrition, the more motivated you will be at sticking to your goals.
If you’re training at home you can listen to music, or podcasts, or you may be someone who prefers to not listen to anything at all. I would however discourage watching TV and getting distracted from your workout (like I see many people do in the gym). That said, I’d rather see you intermittently exercise while watching your favorite SOAP, than sitting down with your feet up doing nothing!
5. Get OFF your phone
Ok, there is the odd exception to phone use in the gym. For example, using your Trainerize app to view and update your workouts. Many people also use their phone for their music. However, don’t be one of these people who spend more time on Instagram or Facebook than actually working out.
Consider ‘Active Recovery’ such as training core/abs between your weight training sets, or even super-setting between two different muscle groups as you train. If your fitness level allows it, make your workout time more efficient so you burn more calories and gain more benefits, perhaps decreasing your rest time between sets.
If you are someone who can often be found on a cardio machine, with one hand on the machine, while the other hand holds your phone while you text-chat with your friends, or as you scroll through your social media, you are NOT working hard enough!
Your typically only going to be in the gym for 45min to an hour. Leave your phone alone for that time.
6. Incorporate weight training
Most people who exercise regularly want to get stronger and lose weight. However, most people spend endless hours doing nothing but cardio. Yes, this will improve your fitness, and help you lose weight, but over time you will likely lose body fat AND muscle.
If all you do is cardio, which also results in muscle loss over time, you may find you YO-YO and put the body fat weight back on when you go a period of time without exercising. This is very common, and most people put it back on even faster than it originally took them to put it on in the first place. This is because you have less muscle-burning calories for you, even while you sleep.
I highly recommend you incorporate regular weight training alongside your cardo, to help build quality lean fat-burning muscle tissue. This will help you improve your strength as well as look and feel better. Unless you already have a great muscular physique, this often isn’t achieved through endless repetitive cardio.
Weight training doesn’t have to be limited to just the gym. You can perform resistance training even with your own body weight at home. You may even consider purchasing some low-cost equipment to assist your progress, such as resistance bands.
Of course, you don’t need to become a bodybuilder, but muscle helps you keep the body fat off once you’ve lost it, and makes you look athletic, developing shape and tone.
7. Up your cardio intensity
I see so many people on the cardio machines, and they hardly ever break a sweat. If cardio is your thing, and something that you enjoy or find is a key component of your workout, then at least make it effective.
For example, if you are holding on to the support bar at the front of the treadmill for most of your workout (often while watching TV), you’re NOT working out hard enough. Have you ever walked on a treadmill at 15% incline for 30 minutes and been happy that you’ve burnt off 400-600 calories? You haven’t! The case might be different if you had powerwalked the whole time without holding on to the front of the treadmill. Try lowering the gradient and speed, and try power walking instead, swinging your arms and driving yourself forward.
Do you read a book, use your phone, watch a film/tv on your iPad or watch the gym TV’s? You’re NOT working hard enough. Are you not sweating? Are your workouts a challenge? And, most important, ARE YOU GETTING THE RESULTS YOU WANT?
Ask me about Circuits, Interval Training, Functional Training, HIIT Training, Hill Training, Pad Work, and more, and ways to become more motivated in your workouts so you enjoy them more.
8. Rest less between sets
This can be rest between weight training sets/exercises or rests between cardio exercises. Your rest time depends on the intensity in which you work, and how fit you are (a fitter person will recover quicker).
Weight training typically requires a rest period of 60-90 seconds. Some of the larger compound moves such as deadlifts, barbell squats, vertical leg presses, etc may require as much as 5-6 minutes.
Don’t lose track of time by playing on your phone, watching TV, people-watching, or chatting with your mates. Or if you’re at home, don’t get caught up with home-related tasks and chores. Have a set time assigned for EXERCISE ONLY, with a set rest time between sets, and STICK TO IT.
When I create Personalised Fitness Programmes, I will assign a rest period for each individual exercise for you to follow, based on your current fitness level.
9. Train with a friend
Apart from having a Personal Trainer there in person encouraging you to train at your best ability, the next best thing is having a friend with similar goals to you, to train with. You simply find you don’t push yourself as hard as you do with someone else there, even if all they are doing is watching you.
Whether you’re training at the gym or at home, do you have a friend or family member who also wants to get fit? You’ll often find YOU are the motivational answer even they have been looking for, for motivation to get into regular fitness training themselves – you’ll find you both don’t want to let each other down by not turning up to a training session and can push and encourage each other.
Equipment is a bonus, as I offer a variety of HOME and OUTDOOR-based workout routines needing nothing other than yourself, no equipment. You can even go for a brisk walk or steady jog with someone around your nearest park.
10. Track your progress
Start your fitness journey with a STARTER PHOTO, or if you’ve already started but not taken one, take one now. Ideal photos should include one from the front, side, and back ideally so you can see your physique changes over time. You don’t need to show anyone. You shouldn’t focus entirely on what the scales tell you, due to daily fluctuations in weight from food and water weight. Even your waist measurement will fluctuate day by day based on bloating and the amount of food in your gut.
It should be more about how you look and feel in the mirror and in your clothes. You look at yourself in the mirror EVERY DAY so you won’t see those day-by-day changes, but compare a photo every 2-3 months, you WILL see the changes and be proud of yourself (providing you are training and eating right). However that said, be sure to track things like your weight, waist measurement (belly button round), and any other body composition readings you are able. They are motivating to observe over time, and ideally should be taken first thing in the morning, after having been to the loo, and before any intake of foods or liquids.
You can use Trainerize to track your progress and see graphs of your strength increases over time, and changes in your body composition. This is such a great motivator and allows you to see where you’ve been and where you potentially can be in the future.
Those who never track their progress often forget what weights they have lifted, how many repetitions they previously performed (so they don’t know what to aim to beat), their cardio times, speeds, distances, and calories. You should always look for ways to progress your workouts and exercises. Unless you have a super good memory, you should keep a record of your training progress.