Here is the second in a three-part series on the 5 most critical
mistakes people typically make when starting a fitness or weight
loss program – AND how to avoid them so you stay on the fast track
to radiant health and fitness.
MISTAKE #2: WORKOUTS THAT LAST TOO LONG
This mistake could also be described as, “Doing too much too soon”.
When beginning a new fitness program, most people have a lot of
enthusiasm. So much enthusiasm, in fact, that they are prepared
to take drastic action to get their body into shape.
They typically begin with a high volume and intensity of activity,
such as long sessions of walking, running, lifting weights, doing
aerobics, or whatever their chosen activity is.
This approach is guaranteed to lead to undue post-workout muscle
soreness, excessive tightness in the muscles, joint pain, and
possibly even injury.
Also, long exercise or training sessions involving high volumes
and/or intensities usually mean sacrificing quality for quantity.
This leads to a focus on fatigue as the determiner of a “good”
workout, versus assessing how you feel as a result of a sequence
These long, fatigue producing sessions lead to a rapid decrease
in motivation. Pretty soon, that initial enthusiasm wanes and
excuses for not being able to work out start cropping up.
A better (and healthier) approach is to focus on the quality of
Focus on fewer exercises or modalities of training. Make a more
intense and focused effort at each of them. Until you have built
a solid base, keep your workouts short, say 30 minutes to one
hour maximum. The reality is, you can achieve excellent results
with only 30 minutes a day of training.
You need to give your body the chance to adapt to any new level
or type of activity. So begin rationally. Don’t do too much
too soon. Plan on doing less than you think you can handle.
Build up consistently.
In order to experience a training effect, your body only needs
to experience stress that is slightly greater than what it
normally encounters. There’s no need to kill yourself with mega
When scheduling your workouts, plan on exercising for an amount
of time you know you can fit into your schedule. Exercising for
an hour or two per day may seem impossible. What about 15
minutes? Is that doable?
Yes, “Only 15 Minutes Per Day” has become a cliché. But it’s a
good place to start if you haven’t been doing anything. Once you
get going and begin to experience the benefits of even 15 minutes
of focused activity, you will naturally want to do more.
You’ll make more time in your schedule for exercising because you
want to, not because you think you have to or ought to.
MISTAKE #3: FOLLOWING A ONE-DIMENSIONAL FITNESS PROGRAM
When beginning an exercise program, people often take up one
particular type of exercise and become immersed in it. They focus
all or nearly all of their time and energy on this one activity.
They don’t complement it with supplementary modalities that
balance and enhance the core activity.
Here are a couple of examples:
-The runner or cyclist with puny, underdeveloped torso and arms,
because he or she doesn’t do any strength training;
-The body builder with the impressive physique who can’t walk up
a flight of stairs without getting winded, because he or she
never does any aerobic activity.
Imbalances in training lead to imbalances in the body’s
development, muscle and joint problems, and overuse injuries
caused by repetitive motion.
Insufficient diversity can also lead to boredom and stagnation.
It deprives your body and mind of the variety that’s conducive
to growth and development.
To get the most from your fitness program, strive for a balance
between the following activities:
-Deep breathing and visualization for mental rehearsal, stress
management, and health;
-Strength training for development of strong muscles and bones,
good posture, and improved capacity to handle the activities of
-Stretching for flexibility, avoidance of injury, and relaxation;
-Aerobic activities (or “cardio”) to improve aerobic capacity
and heart health, enhance recovery from strength training
workouts, and get yourself moving.
As you plan your fitness program, seek to integrate each of these
elements. You can include all of them (or some subset) within
each workout. Or you can include them over the course of a
series of workouts performed over a week or so.
You can also structure cycles in your program. Within each cycle,
emphasize one of these areas as your priority. Do enough in
the other areas to maintain. This is great way of keeping
yourself fresh and keeping your body guessing.
Many people think they should select aerobic activities as their
primary focus. Aerobic capacity is important, and regular doses
of steady state activities, such as running, cycling, swimming
and walking are beneficial. However, too much of this type of
activity can cause your body to lose muscle.
A better way is to incorporate intervals or “pulsing” into
your program. (I’ve written about this before in past blog posts).
Resistance training should be the foundation of your fitness
program. Building strength helps you function better in daily
life. It promotes better posture and is very effective at reducing
the risk (and even reversing the effects) of osteoporosis.
Studies have shown that strength training has a more dramatic
effect on body composition changes – that is, putting on lean
body weight and losing fat – than aerobic activity.
Stretching should also be a priority, especially when you are
first starting out. Properly done, stretching helps you learn
about and establish control over your body. It promotes
flexibility which enables you to move more fluidly and freely.
It also helps avoid injuries and relieves nagging aches and pains.
We’ll conclude this series with Mistakes #4 and 5 – and how to
avoid them – in the next post.
You Can Do It!
“Best Breathing Exercises: Transform Body Mind and Spirit with
Dynamic Energy Exercise!”
Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2013