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 many 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

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and Body for Life
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, and had a lifetime of bad 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 efficient way for ladies new to weight training to 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, kale and pumpkin in heavy rotation in my diet. It was only then that I got to the body composition I desired 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. Then it disappeared all together, saving splurges mostly for travel or my birthday.

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?

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