5 Rookie Fitness Mistakes That May Be Holding Your Fitness Back

Recently a client asked me about my day. Do I get up at 4 a.m. to workout? What do I eat? How long do I work out? She sees me as an example of where she wants to be and wanted to understand what it takes.

I gladly shared my meal plan and routine (I do not get up at 4 a.m. because I value my sleep!) but with a word of caution. I told her that everyone’s journey is different and mine has been in progress for over 13 years. What my life looked like when I started this journey was much different than it is today. In fact when I was where she is today, only a few months in, my routine was quite ugly.

In the beginning I was indeed clueless. I had 2 books, Weight Training For Dummies and Body for Life, and the example of my boyfriend (now husband) who was trying to gain mass. I had a lifetime of habits to overcome. Getting fit is like learning a foreign language and I was trying to do it with a dictionary and phrase book.

Want to hear about some of my early mistakes?

Lifting weights like a guy.

I had no idea how to train for fat loss vs. muscle gain. There is nothing wrong with a body part split (chest and triceps one day, back and biceps the next) like the one in Body for Life, it just isn’t the most effective for ladies trying to lose fat. It was much later that I figured out the beauty of full body workouts and multi-joint, multi body part movements.

Being the vegetarian who didn’t eat vegetables.

Body for Life emphasized eating a protein and carb at each meal. My version of that was a veggie dog and a bun. Somehow I missed the part of the book where you were supposed to eat vegetables. I lost weight managing my portions with this method, but my energy and health didn’t improve much. It took years for me to get vegetables like spinach, sweet potatoes, edamame, broccoli and pumpkin in heavy rotation in my diet. It was only then that I got to the body composition I maintain today and felt my energy improve.

Cardio meant sitting on the recumbent bike reading a magazine.

For years I was convinced I couldn’t do cardio without reading material.  I rode the recumbent bike (yes, I said recumbent) for what seemed like hours in my “fat burning” zone.  Cardio was a boring, painful but necessary part of the process. Then one day I read about this amazing thing called HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). I left my magazines at home and traded the recumbent bike for the stationary bike or elliptical.

A good workout had to happen at the gym.

After all they have all the machines, right? As I became more educated, I used fewer machines and more free weights. Since we had dumbbells and a bench at home, I figured out I could do a workout when I didn’t have time to drive to the gym and back. I learned that my own body was an effective tool as well, for both strength and cardio.  It gave me freedom and I let go of the excuses about time to workout.

I consistently sabotaged myself with the Free Day.

My husband and I had good laugh reminiscing about Sundays past and our Free Day rituals. On the Free Day, if you’ve followed the plan laid out in Body For Life, you can eat anything you want.  And eat we did. My husband would get up and drive to get donuts and chocolate milk, just for him. We would often eat lunch out and indulge in Quizno’s sandwiches with potato chips, big bowls of pasta or Indian food. If he had the day off we would shop or go to the movies, which meant either an Auntie Anne’s pretzel (at the mall while shopping) or a large popcorn (which I ate pretty much by myself watching the movie). Dinner was pizza delivered by whoever had the best coupon.  Feeling bloated and sluggish, Monday would bring us back to reality and our protein/carb combo. After awhile, I stopped seeing progress. I realized that I was undoing my work with Free Day gluttony. Gradually the Free Day was reined in, still giving myself a little treat but staying closer to my cleaner weekday eating.

I’m not perfect. I still eat too much on vacation and some days I don’t want to work out (but I still do). I still consider myself a work in progress. However, one of my goals as a personal trainer and health coach is to help you not make the early mistakes I made. If I can save you some of the frustration and make your process move a little faster than I say mission accomplished.

Got any rookie mistakes you want to share?

  • http://twitter.com/theshiramiller Shira Miller

    The way you are now, I can’t imagine you as the vegetarian who didn’t eat vegetables.:) I think it is especially important for role models like yourself to share these mistakes, because it humanizes the process and shows others how much they can ultimately learn and grow. Now I need to get better about those cheat day food quantities myself!

  • http://twitter.com/ThriveFit Pamela Hernandez

    It’s true!! Fruit sure but veggies were just an after thought. Thanks for calling me a role model but really I’m just on a journey like everyone else. :)

  • http://twitter.com/WorkoutNirvana Suzanne

    Wow, I have to agree with everything here. Gotta love “Free Day” ;). I personally like the 90/10 rule (or 80/20) instead of “cheating” for that very reason. And LOL about Weightlifting for Dummies! That’s the exact book I used years ago to learn in my living room!

  • http://twitter.com/ThriveFit Pamela Hernandez

    And I still have it!!! I tell people at seminars all the time to buy it to learn good form and basic moves without a “diet” agenda. I’m about 80/20 too. I’m not perfect, for sure.

  • http://primefitnessforwomen.com/ Mary C. Weaver, CSCS

    Well, I can see elements of my own past here. I’m in total agreement about how the “cheat day” concept messes people up. And I sure see a whole lot of people at the gym doing the same kind of cardio you (and I) used to do.

  • http://twitter.com/ThriveFit Pamela Hernandez

    At least I wasn’t sipping my tea at the same time. :)

  • http://www.cabbage-soup-dieting.com/ Lose Weight

    Sharing your mistakes will help inspire people. It only goes to show that you had your share of boo-boos before you finally hit the nail right on the head.

  • http://twitter.com/NuttyAboutHlth Karey

    I’ve done a lot of the same things, especially with the Free Day on BFL. The Free Days were killers for me & I ate like a ravenous beast, negating progress I’d made & making myself feel like total crap the next day. I’m still working on self-control & not going crazy with over-indulging whenever we end up going out or having an “off” day.

  • http://twitter.com/ThriveFit Pamela Hernandez

    Just keep working! I bet you are doing awesome!

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