We all make mistakes - even in our fitness habits. These mistakes can keep us from seeing the progress we were hoping for, or may even lead us to become discouraged with our routines, so it’s important to correct them! Here are some of the most common missteps I’ve seen as a trainer (and some I’m guilty of doing myself!).
1. Doing too much cardio.
I’m guilty of this one myself because I love cardio! I love the endorphins, I love to sweat from my eyeballs, and I feel like it gives me such a sense of accomplishment. But you can absolutely have too much of a good thing -- too much cardio can cause the body to cannibalize its lean muscle tissues.
How much cardio do you really need?
General recommendations suggest 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio each week. That’s 30 minutes of moderate intensity, 5 days per week. Of course, if you’re doing more intense training like HIIT or Tabata, this number can be less. Focus on quality instead of quantity. It’s more beneficial to challenge yourself for 20-30 minutes max than to putter along for an hour. (Unless you’re training for a race or endurance event.)
2. Doing too little strength training.
Everyone needs strength training, and it’s especially important for women as we age to preserve lean muscle tissue and protect our bones. Lean muscle tissue is hungrier than fat, so it will burn more calories at rest. Increasing the amount of lean tissue on our body will increase our metabolism.
You should aim to strength train 2- 5 times per week. My general rule of thumb is to fully fatigue each muscle group twice per week. This can be by endurance activities, heavy weights, or through compound exercises which gave you more bang for your buck by recruiting multiple muscle groups at once.
3. Not following a plan.
If you’re simply working out for health benefits, it’s totally fine to go with the flow and focus on moving each day in some way. However, if you have specific fitness, weight loss, or training goals, it’s important to have a strategic plan in place.
I have a handy PDF here you can check out where I detail how I set up workout plans and the different components you’ll need.
4. Not fueling properly.
This is a huge one, and something I didn’t really understand until I personally switched up my nutrition. Once I did, I was finally hitting my goals on my Peloton bike, lifting heavier, and running faster. You want to make sure you have enough nutrients in your body to fuel your activities, and also encourage tissue repair and recovery. I’m not a registered dietitian, but my personal rule of thumb for strength training is protein first, then more protein and carbs afterwards. For cardio, I’ll either do a simple carb first (like half a banana) or do cardio on an empty stomach, and then eat carbs, protein and a little fat afterwards. If you need help determining how to best fuel yourself for your activities, reach out to a registered dietitian near you.
5. Not increasing demands/switching things up.
To have a really effective fitness routine, you need to consider the SAID principle: specific adaptation to imposed demands. In a nutshell, your body is an intelligent machine and will kick into cruise control whenever possible. Try to add in stressors whenever possible, whether it’s increasing weight or resistance, adding speed, changing up the classes you take, or changing the time of day that you work out. One of my favorite ways to switch things up is to change the equipment I’m using. For example, if I usually do biceps curls with dumbbells, I’ll do it on the cable machine or grab a barbell instead. Use kettlebells, dumbbells, cable machines, TRX, resistance bands to change things up, and your body will respond. Anything you can do to keep the body guessing is a good thing.
6. Doing an exercise or workout class even though you hate it.
I’ve had SO many clients tell me that they had been running, even though they hated it. The worst part is that they’d sometimes suffer knee injuries from doing those dreaded runs. If you hate something, don’t do it! There are so many different types of workouts and classes out there; you’re bound to find something you love. Try different classes, instructors, apps - keep searching because I promise it’s out there. There’s no reason to adopt a fitness routine you don’t enjoy because chances are that you won’t stick with it for the long haul anyway. When you love your activities, you’re going to feel excited about working out, you’ll work harder, and be able to stay consistent.