6 Fitness Mistakes I've Made that Set Me Back
Updated: May 27, 2020
I've heard so many people talk about their fitness journeys, and at first I thought that was a ridiculous term similar to how the Bachelor/Bachelorette contestants always talk about their journey to find love.
But, it's true. My relationship with fitness is a journey and it will last my entire lifetime. Wouldn't it be easy if we worked out until we got in shape and then just maintained that body forever without putting in more work?
It would be nice, but it's not real and I've grown to really enjoy working out and treating my body right instead of only enjoying results and hating workout out. It's the climb, as the old Miley would say.
I've been working out for about five years now, and I have made a TON of mistakes over that time. Mistakes are inevitable, especially if you don't have professional support to help you avoid and correct mistakes. I have a much better understanding of what works for me, because I made so many mistakes. I'm going to share with you some of my most obvious fitness and nutrition mistakes, so hopefully you can learn from them!
1. Doing too much, too fast
While I've been working out consistently for five years now, I had been trying for years before that to start living healthier. Each spring, I would be so determined to get in shape, and force myself to run miles and miles. It made me hate running and working out in general. While getting in shape isn't always the most fun (especially at first), it doesn't have to make you miserable. When I finally starting working out consistently, the first workout I ever did was a half mile run and a half mile walk. That was it. Starting off slow was the best decision I made.
2. Believing that running was the only way to get in shape
I love running, but for a long time I believed it was the ONLY way to get in shape. So at first, I ran a lot. While running is amazing for your cardiovascular health and can help you burn lots of calories, it's not the only way to get in shape. If you hate running, don't do it. Even if you love running, you should still add in strength or resistance training. Not only can help you run longer and faster, but strength training is vital in maintaining muscle as we age.
3. Not eating enough
I can't tell you how many people - especially women - I know who have done this mistake. To lose weight, you need to be in a caloric deficit, meaning you are taking in less calories than you are expending. You can create a deficit by increasing your activity or decreasing your food intake. It sounds simple, but it's SO hard to find the right balance. When I first started working out, I was so restrictive with both my calorie intake and the foods I ate, which were limited to unseasoned grilled chicken, salads, smoothies, and juices. That's not enough! You need to fuel your body, and creating too large of a deficit can actually force your body to hold onto weight. Not eating a diverse enough diet is also detrimental to your physical and mental health, as you're not taking in the nutrients you need.
4. Not eating salt
I love sharing this, because it's so funny to me that I believed I couldn't eat salt. I had heard that Americans in particular ate too much sodium, and so many of my family members were on low-sodium diets. I interpreted that as you can't add salt to ANYTHING - no eggs, no meat, nothing. Not only does that make your food boring, but it's super unhealthy. Many people take in too much sodium from processed foods. Table salt hardly affects your sodium intake. And salt is an essential electrolyte that your body needs. Not eating salt can cause serious side effects, especially in endurance athletes.
5. Not progressive overloading
Progressive overloading is a simple way to build strength. We often do it without thinking about it. For example, once you can do 5 push ups, you might try for 10 the next time. When we work out, our muscles grow and things get easier. It's important to keep challenging our muscles, whether it's adding more weight, more reps, or decreasing rest time. The first year I was working out consistently, I remember squatting with 12 pound dumbbells for the whole year and thinking that I couldn't do more than that. One of the trainers at my gym told me that I had to start squatting heavier weights, but I thought I couldn't squat heavier than that. When I actually tried squatting with a barbell it wasn't that hard, and ever since then, I've always tried to lift more weight and get stronger. My body really started to change once I adopted progressive overloading and kept challenging my muscles.
6. Not warming up or cooling down properly
I'm the type of person that likes to jump right into a workout. If a squat rack is open, I'll grab it and start squatting without properly warming up. Same thing with after my workout; sometimes I'm so exhausted and ready to leave the gym I skip my cool down or tell myself I'll stretch at home and never do. Warming up is SO important. Slowly warming up and doing dynamic stretches loosens your muscles, gets your blood flowing, and increases your oxygen intake. It prepares you to optimize your workout and decreases your risk of injury. Cooling down and stretching is also important in bringing your body back down to a normal state. Stretching is the best way to maintain your flexibility, which naturally decreases with age. If you don't stretch, your muscles will shorten and be tight, and won't work as optimally.