Trainers Reveal the 5 Worst Fitness Habits

Elizabeth Millard
by Elizabeth Millard
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Trainers Reveal the 5 Worst Fitness Habits

Numerous experts advise that if you want to turn healthy eating and fitness into a lifestyle instead of a short-term resolution, you should create habits that stick. But what if those strategies aren’t so winning?

Here, personal trainers reveal a handful of common habits that tend to do more harm than good:


Maybe you’ve got a packed schedule and you’re just able to swerve into the parking lot 2 minutes before your personal training appointment or group class. You rush in, throw your bag in the corner and declare yourself ready to work out.

While that’s fine on occasion, it’s much better to arrive with time to shift. Not only does it give you time to warm up, but it also allows you to mentally focus — a factor that’s just as important as other elements of your workout.


You sign up for next month’s Tough Mudder or a Spartan race, even though you haven’t been to the gym in a few years. But that’s just part of getting motivated, right? Not exactly.

While it’s great to set ambitious goals, it’s also crucial to create timeframes that work and allow you to see progress along the way, says James Tyler Dodge, certified strength and conditioning specialist and performance coach at Professional Physical Therapy in New York. He suggests articulating a big goal and working backward to see how you’re going to get there. That allows you to develop mini-goals — such as being able to run a mile, or do a pullup — that feel meaningful.

One study found that only about 44% of people who set resolutions make it past six months. Only 9% feel successful in achieving their resolution. Dodge says being realistic, making slow-but-steady progress and focusing on realistic goals can put you in the successful group.


Although it may sound counterintuitive, sometimes taking a day off can make your next workout more effective. According to a study from the University of New Mexico, recovery can improve performance and also help you boost intensity.

Taking a recovery day — which can involve either rest or doing easy activities — may even help you recover faster from intense workouts, according to Dodge. He suggests putting recovery days in your schedule in advance, so you’re sure to take them. Those might be the days you do a restorative yoga class, go for a leisurely bike ride or weed the garden.



Even if you’re training for a specific event like a marathon or powerlifting competition, it’s best to mix up your workouts so you’re not overtaxing the same muscle groups, says Aaron Leventhal, NSCA-CPT, owner of Fit Studios in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“If that happens, the supporting muscles won’t get the attention they need, and that could lead to weakness,” he notes. When that occurs, imbalances can crop up in the body, and that’s often a recipe for injury.

Also, you may stop seeing results if you’re doing nothing but hitting the treadmill for an hour every day. Your body becomes accustomed to certain exercises quickly, so changing it up can keep you on track to build muscle and endurance.


The old adage goes that muscles are made in the gym, but weight loss happens in the kitchen. But other goals are tied to healthy eating as well: gaining more energy, increasing athletic performance, boosting your immune system, decreasing inflammation and more.

If you ramp way up on fitness but still depend on heavily processed foods, you’ll have a tougher time getting where you want to go, says registered dietician and certified personal trainer Kim Hoban. She suggests focusing on nutrient-dense, whole foods — think healthy fats, lean protein, plenty of vegetables — and being aware of how and when you’re eating. For example, if it makes you feel queasy to eat a big lunch, break the meal down into two smaller portions eaten a few hours apart.

Most of all, increase healthy eating habits gradually, Hoban advises. It’s tempting to do a dramatic sweep-out of all the “bad” foods from your fridge, but research shows that small, easy changes done over time create more consistency and long-term results.

Whether you’re tweaking your meals, getting to the gym early or having a more meaningful discussion with your trainer about goals, it’s worth the effort to break bad habits. Once those are gone, you can put good habits in their place.


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About the Author

Elizabeth Millard
Elizabeth Millard

Elizabeth is a freelance journalist specializing in health and fitness, as well as an ACE certified personal trainer and Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher. Her work has appeared in SELF, Runner’s World, Women’s Health and CNN.

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12 responses to “Trainers Reveal the 5 Worst Fitness Habits”

  1. Avatar Salad? says:

    This is probably the most autistic article I have read… “Skipping out on nutrition” is a bad habit? Really????? Literally wrote an article about common sense, well done.

    • Avatar Vinnie says:

      It’s really in poor form to use “autistic” as an adjective – even more so as a synonym for a negative.

    • Avatar Daniella Castelucci de Medeiro says:

      So many constructive ways to provide feedback… maybe we should get more positive here? 🙂

    • Avatar Gamewriter says:

      Regarding nutrition it said, “…small, easy changes done over time create more consistency and long-term results.” It provided a link to a ScienceDaily article supporting the claim. So yes, literally well done. Good luck!

  2. Avatar Susan Gibler says:

    Two months into my new healthy eating life and I’m starting to dream about food. I wake up and realize I was eating blueberry pie with ice cream in my dream.

    • Avatar Jo says:

      Hi I’m 4 months in and still crave chocolate every single day. Tried eating 2 dates in place of a block of chocolate but it just doesn’t cut it. So I feel your pain. Best of Luck.

      • Avatar Susan G says:

        Thanks, and good luck to you too! I tried the Swiss Miss no sugar hot chocolate to stem the chocolate fit (and add calcium), but the mix doesn’t dissolve well, and it ruins the whole effect to drink it with lumps. Unless of course the lumps were marshmallows…

        • Avatar Daniella Castelucci de Medeiro says:

          Have you tried to read a book called “Women, Food and God”? I have a friend who could get rid of those cravings by allowing a daily small square of chocolate a day, and she owed it this book, she says…

  3. Avatar Lloyd McCown says:

    It has taken me almost two years to lose almost 100 pounds and I still have 100 more to go. I still eat those things I like to eat but I eat small portions while I work at finding healthier foods I like. I use to eat a whole large pizza, now I eat a half of a medium pizza. I used to eat two double whoppers and large onion rings now I eat one double whopper with small onion rings. I cut out french fries all together and eat more at Chick-Fil-A or a grilled chicken sandwich and small frosty at Wendy’s than I do at other Fast Food places. I have been to McDonald’s once or twice in the past two years. MyFitnessPal has me on a 1700 calorie intake (Notice I did not use the “D” word), and most days I do go over by a couple hundred calories but I do attempt to stick to my calorie intake plan. I am at 298 pounds now and shooting for 190. So while there are ways that I could lose weight more quickly, I found a way that works for me. One that allows me to see results and one that does not make me feel guilty when I reach for that second piece of cake.

    • Avatar Will S. says:

      Exactly what I do!

      I use to eat well over 3000 calories a year ago, but now my goal is 2300 – I mostly stick around that number, with some days going well above it. Even though I try to eat healthy foods – every week I eat cookies, muffins, chocolate, pizza, fries, baguettes, etc. but in generally smaller portions.

      I have lost 50 pounds over the past year to the shock of my colleagues who always see me eating!

      Sure keeping track of macros is important and of course I could have lost weight faster doing one of the many D’s out there – and I did try a few times in the past – but it’s just too much to think about and you’ll be off them after a few months anyway! Focusing on calories and portions is really easy and simple to do – and you never get that feeling your missing out.

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