If you’ve been struggling to see results from your fitness program, it could be a consequence of a series of common mistakes that many beginners make when participating in an exercise program. Here are six ways you might be unknowingly sabotaging your workouts:
- Not getting enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep is one of the biggest contributors to poor workout performance. Even mild sleep deprivation can cause premature fatigue, muscle exhaustion, and increased perception of difficulty.1,2 The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
- Not eating a post-workout meal. If you find that you’re too busy after your workouts to eat a good, post-workout meal—or after a late night workout you’re just too tired and go right to bed—then you could be holding yourself back. Immediately following a workout, particularly one with weights, your body is extra-sensitive to vital nutrients like carbohydrates and protein to help the recovery and muscle-building process.3,4 If you rob your body of these nutrients, then you’re also robbing yourself of these potential improvements.
- Poor form. The purpose of weight training is to create controlled, overreaching stress on specifically targeted muscles with the intent to improve their strength and/or composition. The body operates on the principle of least effort, which means the body will naturally always take the path of least resistance.5 This may mean that the body, in an effort to reduce the difficulty of an exercise, will adjust any number of factors to “cheat” by recruiting unintended muscles, altering leverages of the body, etc. This means it is important to stay vigilant and really focus on where you should be feeling each exercise.
- Not challenging yourself. Sometimes it is easy to see how we might take it easy on ourselves, particularly if we don’t enjoy exercise. Remember that the body only adapts when it is forced to adapt, so by doing weights or performing exercises at an intensity that feels “comfortable,” you will not be getting as much benefit. This concept of progressive overload,6,7 or gradually increasing the difficulty of exercise over time, is one of the most fundamental concepts in exercise. Your workouts should never be easy, and they should always be getting harder.
- Not having a clear goal.8,9 Not having a specific goal to work toward can easily derail a fitness program. Imagine trying to build a new building without any blueprints; you might get there by accident, but you’re mostly going to be spinning your wheels. Having a goal gives your workouts a purpose, and can help determine what type of training plan is best suited for you.
- Trying to be perfect. If you fall into this perfectionist, “all-or-nothing” mindset you can easily find yourself too discouraged to exercise. Some days it will feel harder than normal, or you won’t perform as well as you had hoped, and if you let this get into your head than it can be very demotivating. Additionally, imagine you only have time to do half of your normal workout. A perfectionist might say screw it altogether because they can’t finish the whole thing. Even half a workout is better than no workout, and can lead to better progress in the long run. Imperfect action beats perfect inaction every time.
By acknowledging and eliminating any of these self-sabotaging behaviors you can ensure you reap the maximum benefit from your workouts, leading to better, more consistent progress and results.