How to Avoid the 4 Most Common Beginner Workout Mistakes

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How to Avoid the 4 Most Common Beginner Workout Mistakes

Starting a new workout plan is an exercise in patience. Weight loss and increased fitness aren’t achieved overnight after all. Many times in our haste to get fit, we end up getting injured or suffering from excessive muscle soreness (that makes you not want to move at all!). Not only are these ailments painful, but they can also sideline you from workouts for days and weeks on end, defeating the purpose of starting the exercise plan in the first place.

Injuries people most often encounter at the outset of new workout routines range from pulled muscles to knee pain to tendonitis and beyond. Fortunately, if you educate yourself prior to starting an exercise routine, you can avoid many of the most common mistakes people make.

Check out the top four blunders fitness newbies make to stay off the bench and keep moving forward with your workout and weight-loss goals.

Doing Too Much Too Soon

You’ve had a great week of workouts, so you think to yourself, “Why not up the ante and try for more next week?” While a slow build from one week to the next is an important principle of any training plan, getting overzealous about adding mileage, reps, or weight can be a recipe for disaster.

“Soft tissue adaptation takes time and you can’t make your body adhere to your schedule,” explains Laura Bergman, a personal trainer at Fast Track Therapy in Merrifield, Virginia. “Starting your training with plenty of time before your goal event gives you room to progress slowly, and allows time for a safe rate of adaptation.”

So whether you’re looking to shed a few pounds before your sister’s wedding or be able to run 3 miles without stopping, patience and a slow build are key to the success of any workout plan. This means not only embracing a moderate progression, but also taking rest days to allow your body important recovery time.

Not Listening to Your Body

“People often think pain is a normal part of training and that they should push through or ‘suck it up,’” says Bergman. “Tweaks or pinches or achey-ness are messages your body is sending you that something is wrong.”

While some soreness and discomfort will accompany any new training plan, actual pain should not. If you back off as soon as you begin to experience any intense aches, you often won’t require more than a day or two of down time before hopping right back on the bandwagon.

On the other hand, if you ignore those bodily signals, you’re more likely to end up with a full-blown injury. This is the type of scenario that can derail you from pursuing your fitness goals for weeks on end.

Poor Form

Everything from an inefficient running gait to incorrect form in the weight room can cause issues for both fitness veterans and rookies. “If the body is not in a properly aligned position, stress and torque will be placed on joints in a way in which [the body] was not designed,” explains Bergman.

For instance, if you’re starting a new running program, landing excessively on your heels has been shown to cause knee problems, while landing on your toes can lead to Achilles injuries. Similarly, poor form in swimming can cause rotator cuff injuries. With strength training, improper technique when using certain machines and weights can also lead to a whole host of ailments.

“Little muscles get overworked and angry, and joints get uneven wear when they are torqued,” adds Berman. “This is often felt as tightness or a tweak, and progress to a serious issue.”

This again highlights the importance of listening to your body. If a movement or exercise feels awkward or painful, you should seek help from a trainer to coach you on the proper approach.

Bad Shoes

While a piece of equipment won’t generally solve all of your injury issues, it can definitely help prevent them. Getting the right kind of footwear and being sure to replace them regularly will go a long way in keep you up and moving.

“My advice is to find a shoe that allows your foot to function as a foot, rather than inhibit it,” advises Bergman.

This will mean different footwear for different people, depending on biomechanics and types of workouts. If you will be executing more lateral movements, for instance in a studio class, you may want a shoe that provides a bit of ankle support. On the other hand, if you’ll be running, a traditional running shoe is your best bet.

To select the right shoes for your feet, be sure to go to a reputable running or sporting goods store where experts can assist you. Research has shown that comfort is perhaps the most important guiding factor when it comes to shoe selection and injury prevention, so follow your instincts and always go with what your gut—or your foot—is telling you.

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  • Chas

    Great points by Mackenzie. Particularly #1. Like what is taught in racing, one needs to slow down to go fast. I think I’ll go get new sneakers too. I didn’t pay much attention to the last point about good shoes…I will now.

    • Yeah, the shoes can be important, depending on the training you’re doing. I actually change out my shoes about every 6 months. Also, she makes a good point about choosing the shoe that is right for your feet. For instance, I have to buy shoes that are wide, or my feet will swell and hurt for most of the day after working out. Just something to think about.

  • Aroop Kundu

    @Mackenzie… nice article but please clear up some things for me…

    #1.. how much is too much???
    there are people with 20% deficit facing issues and people with 40% doing fine.. e take as an example someone with 2100 calorie maintainence who maintains a 1000 calorie deficit by HIIT on three days and 400 on rest of days by weight training.. but his calorie intake is 2100… deficit created is 50% of maintenance for 3 days and around 25 % for the rest of the days.. Is this too much??

    2. A beginner doing 5×5 will always experience from degree of DOMS which is normal. How does he know for sure if that’s normal or doing ” too much “????

    • Hey Aroop. From what I see here, and I hope I understand your question correctly, he is only burning about a quarter of a pound a week. This is not too much as far as I see it. It is recommended by personal trainers to lose up to 2 pounds per week, which is considered safe when trying to lose weight. He is burning around 2600 calories for the week, which is a quarter of a pound. If he wants to lose a full pound, then he needs to burn 3500 calories for the week. So he would need to burn 900 more throughout the week if he kept this same caloric intake and exercise routine.

      I think the ‘too much’ is dependent on the individual. I have done many intensive workouts that left me aching to just lay on the couch and do nothing. But, this is where the recovery comes in. I would say that the routine you explained above is not too much, and I think it is actually not that bad, and safe. However, if the person wanted to lose more weight then the intensity would have to increase.

      Making sure to stretch before and after the workouts is vital. Also, if the DOMS is that bad, then perhaps eating some type of high quality protein would be beneficial. Sometimes I will drink a small protein shake write after weight lifting so that the protein hits the muscle cells faster (and this is just a high protein supplement with low carbs). But I will only chug around 5 to 10 g of protein because I am usually making a meal right after that includes the other macronutrients that I need. All this also just depends on what the goals are for this person.

      I hope this info helps.

      • Aroop Kundu

        thanks for answering…. i think you skipped the deficit created by weight training days .. total deficit per week would be 4500.. or 500 grams( half a kg not pound)

        • Ok, I see, you were saying 1000 deficit each day for three days. I thought you meant total for the three days, which is around 333 each day, I misunderstood your post.

          That’s pretty good. Losing slightly over a pound (1.1 lbs = 500 g) per week is really good, and standard. I would keep up this regimen as long as the pain was not that bad on the HIIT training days. This must be pretty intense to burn 1000 calories a day (this might be too much for beginners or different body types, depending). But if the person is not feeling it that bad, then there’s no problem. If the training was too much, then a program could be implemented that would create a deficit of 500 calories per day for the whole week, which may put less stress on the body and give more time between workouts to heal and regenerate cells.

          • Aroop Kundu

            I’m that person lol..1 hour swimming and 40 min walk… lost 10 kgs already

  • Hi Mackenzie Lobby, very knowledgeable article, this is
    fantastic points about Common Workout Mistakes; I think many people often do
    these mistakes during workout and we should take care about this.

  • Lorena

    Can I do the 28 day challenge if I’m pregnant? I am currently 23 weeks pregnant and I walk on the elliptical 5 to 6 days a week. I lift weights and do 50 squats a day 3 days a week one day on one day off. I want to change things up a bit and wondered if its safe.

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    • Amanda Miller

      Always check with your OB before changing activity. Some risk factors and/or complications prohibit different activity levels. However, generally speaking, whatever activity level your body is used to is safe until delivery.
      Fyi, I am a practicing disability nurse with a background in OB.

  • Liz

    I was a victim to all of these things! I started a Couch to 5K program and experienced some hip issues. I kept pushing myself and ignored the pain. Finally went to see a doctor and it turns out my gait and shoes both contributed to the injury!

  • Wow! Very nice post you have shared with us. Thanks for sharing such a helpful and informative information.