How to Avoid the 4 Most Common Beginner Workout Mistakes

Mackenzie L. Havey
by Mackenzie L. Havey
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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.


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.


“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.


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.



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.

About the Author

Mackenzie L. Havey
Mackenzie L. Havey

Mackenzie is a freelance journalist and coach based in Minneapolis. She contributes to a variety of magazines and websites, including,,, Runner’s World and Triathlete Magazine. She holds a master’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Minnesota, and is a USA Track and Field certified coach. When she’s not writing, she’s out biking, running and cross-country skiing around the city lakes with her dog.


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