Written by Imane Dodo
Image by @evvsofficial_
It’s a new year (and less than 100 days until summer), you have decided to conquer your fears and level up your fitness game. Committing is the first step, doing is equally as hard. Information overload makes it daunting to know the dos and don’ts when you are just getting started. There are some frequent mistakes that can halt your progress that I have made many years ago so you don’t have to – let’s get into it.
1) Doing too much too quickly
Doing the most when starting is a very common mistake in the hope to see results really quickly, but also due to the excitement of starting something new. When starting your journey, your body needs to adapt to the new pressure you put on it, and going crazy at the gym every single day from the get go can do more harm than good. Start with very basic workouts before ramping up to more advanced workouts. It may seem obvious but this is one of the most common mistakes I see gym babes make: work out every day, lift too heavy, too many reps and overall overdoing it when their bodies have not been accustomed to the change. We know summer is round the corner and you may just want to work towards that, but fitness is really a long term gig. Exercising patience and ramping up slowly (but consistently) rather than rushing into it will yield the results you are looking for.
2) Not fueling enough (and properly)
You need fuel to accommodate your new routine. As a rule of thumb, your diet contributes 80% to your goals (fitness being the remaining 20%). Going to the gym is not a substitute for having a healthy (or unhealthy) diet. Ladies, this is the biggest mistake you will make if you live by this assumption. Both exercising and a healthy diet will get you to the finish line. Fuel your body with complex carbohydrates (yes, good carbs are your bestie) such as brown rice, quinoa and sweet potato, eat loads of protein to optimize recovery, healthy fats (e.g. avocado, nuts) and limit your sugar intake. It may sound counterintuitive but a healthy diet with a consistent routine is the key to sustainable weight loss.
3) Not taking rest days
This point is closely related to doing the most. Recovery is arguably more important than the workout itself. Every time you workout (especially weight lifting), you create small tears in your muscles tissues. Rest days enable your muscles to rest and grow back stronger, which promotes healthy muscle growth. It is therefore critical to have at least 2 rest days in the week to encourage this process, and prevent injury. If you really cannot take a rest day because you are that determined, perform low impact routines on rest days such as yoga, pilates, long walks or stretches.
4) No game plan
You know the saying: fail to plan, plan to fail. Well, not having a game plan is your plan to fail. Start by defining why you are starting this journey. Your “why” will keep you going on days when you want to give up. Set realistic goals, and do your research to develop a robust game plan that is realistic for your body type and the time you can put in. Planning prevents you from having to think through exercises to perform every day, especially when life gets in the way. Set your workouts as a non-negotiable part of your day. Overall, have a timeline, but stay flexible and prepare for a long term change, because anything worth having takes time.
5) Not stretching consistently
Regularly stretching helps minimise soreness. When starting, muscle soreness can be really bad, and often discourages people from going to the gym. Stretching before and after will help minimize muscle soreness. It is important to continue going to the gym and working through that soreness. It gets better, and you owe it to yourself to continue showing up. Performing basic stretches every morning and before bed, and taking Epsom salt baths are also powerful solutions to soothe soreness and speed up recovery.
6) Sticking to a single activity
Most people only focus on one type of physical activity; research shows that each type of activity (endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility) plays an integral role in your fitness journey. Endurance exercises improve your breathing while strength based workouts strengthen your muscles (duh!); stretching and balance workouts will improve the quality of your strength workouts. Diversifying your workouts is the safest way to reach your goals, and live a healthy lifestyle in the meantime, while keeping it all from getting boring.
Once you feel like you’re conquering your new regime, read my other articles on sticking to your fitness goals once you’ve made them and the best hacks for a flat stomach.