I was there, I messed up, I learned, and I grew. Clients: So can YOU.
At 16 when I began working out I had very little knowledge of the weight room, I really had no idea what foods contained which macronutrients, and there was no way in hell I knew anything about progressive overload or specificity. On top of that, I didn’t know the difference between flexibility and mobility, and thought bending over to try and touch my toes (I couldn’t even get there) was enough work for the day. Today, I look back and smile and realize just how far I’ve come and how much I have learned. Self-reflection like this helps me when working with clients that are new to working out, or new to a movement. I was there, I messed up, I learned, and I grew. Clients: So can YOU.
Let me cover these fitness mistakes in more detail.
1. Neglecting Mobility work.
Like I mentioned above, I couldn’t even touch my toes. As a kid I was never very flexible and because I wasn’t very good at it I never did it. Over time as I got stronger and began doing the big multi-joint exercises I noticed some nagging pain in the shoulders, hips, and knees. Before long I had a hard time getting through a squat session without pain in my knees, which prevented more from reaching proper depth and safely executing the lift. At the time I just used to skip squats (and leg day all together, most weeks), and justified it to myself by thinking, “girls don’t care about legs, lets do some curls.” (Stupid kid.) Another potential horrific experience was thinking I almost tore my pec sometime around my 21st birthday. I remember hoping to hit 315 for the first time, and during those workouts I kept getting a lot of tightness around my armpit into the front of my shoulder. After pushing through it for a few sessions, I ended up with a lot of pain and did not bench for around two months. There went my chance at smashing 3 plates on my birthday.
All of that pain was unnecessary and mostly due to a lack of proper form, bad movement patterns, muscle imbalances, and overall tightness and stiffness in my muscles and joints.
Since those early days, I have made mobility a priority in my training.
Just about everyday I put in work to open up my hips and shoulders as well as doing soft tissue work on a foam roller or lacrosse ball. Before my squat, bench, and deadlift sessions, I go through a thorough warm up which includes activation and mobility drills to make sure my body is warmed up and ready to handle the weights prescribed for that session. These days my body feels so much better, but I still deal with some nagging issues from my lack of mobility work for all of those years. My hips are still very tight which causes me to take extra time to make sure I not only hit depth in my squat, but get there comfortably. Who would have thought years of squatting with no real warm up or cool down would have resulted in this? *sarcasm*
Don’t let this happen to you, there are tons of good information on mobility out there; do some research. Or better yet, find a coach to help you find which areas you need to focus on and make sure you are doing things correctly.
2. Not tracking workouts.
Flash back to the old me, and I did not track or write down a single thing about my workouts. I got in the weight room, probably did some bench pressing, shoulder press, rows, and finished up with some bicep curls. The next time in the gym, I did pretty much the same thing, but maybe added in some squats or dips. Over time did I get stronger? Yes. However, looking back I think I would have progressed faster and gotten better results if I had been logging these sessions, and made sure that I was consistently doing more and progressing. This comes down to the concept of progressive overload (doing more work over time). Simply knowing that I bench pressed 185 for 3 sets of 8 one week and then going to 190 or doing more reps the next week would have helped make more progress over what I was doing, which was pretty much taking 185 to failure each week. I was doing a lot of the same things over and over and not reaching the potential I could have.
Today’s version of me tracks every single workout I do.
I currently have a log with my powerlifting style workouts that date back 2+ years. I also have all of my clients track their own workouts as well. Tracking is a fundamental aspect in my opinion, because how else are you going to know you’re consistently making progress in the gym and getting stronger? Taking the time to write down weights used will allow you to track volume and intensity over time to make sure you are making optimal progress. It is not very time consuming, all you need is a notebook or your phone.
3. Disregarding nutrition.
Growing up, I was a bit of a chubby kid. I liked my pop-tarts (still do), would fill up on snacks and meals with very little nutrients, but my mom did always make me eat my veggies. None of those things really changed when I first got into weightlifting. My knowledge of nutrition was very poor and I didn’t really know that I needed to be eating to fuel my body to help recover, build muscle, and get stronger. The first year or so, I still made good progress but that was due to the physiological changes as my body adapted to exercise both neurologically and muscularly. After that things started to slow down. My lifts weren’t increasing as much, and I noticed my bodyweight and body fat were pretty stagnant as well.
That’s when I started to do some research on nutrition and realized that my carbohydrate intake was too high and my protein intake was WAY to low. This is true for most new clients, I have learned. Overall, my caloric intake was not too bad but I just did not have a base of quality nutrient dense foods to give my body what it needed (again, common for a lot of clients). After implementing a few of these changes I began to get back on track and see consistent progress again. Give your body what it needs, crazy concept huh?
What helped me the most was to consistently track my food for a few months using MyFitnessPal.
Years after these changes I still play around with my diet time to time, and see what I respond well to, and what I don’t. What helped me the most was to consistently track my food for a few months using MyFitnessPal. This allowed me to see how many calories I needed to maintain my weight and how my body recovered and reacted to different amounts of protein, fats, and carbohydrates.