Albert Einstein is thought to have said: “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Winston Churchill said: “All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”
Consider these common mistakes if you’re interested in improving your health and fitness. If you’re already making some of them, you can use them as learning experiences and opportunities for growth. Remember that making a mistake is not as bad as considering it a personal failure and allowing it to undermine your plans.
Mistake No. 1: Having no goals. It’s motivating to have something specific to work towards. If you set specific goals, put together a plan of action and document your progress, that process will help keep you on track.
Mistake No. 2: The next mistake is trying to do it all on your own, especially if you are not committed to exercise. Skipping a walk, a bike ride or a workout can easily spiral into a full-blown dropout period that can last for weeks, months or even years, and that can have detrimental effects on your health. A personal trainer or even an active buddy can help get you going in the right direction – even though, ultimately, the onus is on you.
Mistake No. 3: Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Even if you’re working out regularly, your body will adapt and hit a plateau. You’ll stop seeing improvements and that can lead to attrition. That’s why you need to switch up your workouts. Do what you like, but don’t be afraid to explore new activities. Challenge your body with different exercises.
Mistake No. 4: Focusing too much on numbers: calories consumed, steps walked, pounds/kilos on the scale or minutes spent on the treadmill are just some of the metrics that can become an obsession. Instead of walking on the treadmill for your usual 30 minutes, for example, forget about the time and do a few rounds of intervals to bring up your heart rate. Instead of dwelling on your weight, focus on improving your dietary habits.
Mistake No. 5: Training without exerting yourself (not even breaking a sweat) or exercising half-heartedly. Habits such as riding a stationary bike slowly for long periods of time while reading a magazine, leaning on the elliptical machine or treadmill with poor posture, using momentum (swinging) rather than lifting and lowering dumbbells, or chatting while working out, can limit the benefits of your workout. Push yourself outside your comfort zone to improve your strength, speed and endurance. Build up slowly and safely.
Mistake No. 6: Waiting for the perfect time to get started. The perfect time to start is now. Putting off getting started until after vacation, after holidays, or after a work project, will not improve anything except your procrastination skills.
Mistake No. 7: Choosing physical activities you don’t really enjoy. Perhaps you’re doing them because your friends do them. Maybe you go to classes with your friends, but you don’t find those classes fun. Find something you like. Some people have more fun outdoors, some feel great in a gym, and some like to be in a group setting, while others prefer working out alone. If it feels like drudgery, you’ll be less inclined to stay engaged long-term.
Mistake No. 8: Expecting unrealistic results, such as significant weight loss or big muscles, in a short amount of time. This is real life, not The Biggest Loser television show. Starving yourself and working out for hours each day is not a healthy solution. Dropping out of your exercise program because your short-term results aren’t spectacular is not going to help. And remember that many of the benefits of exercise are on the inside of your body, which you cannot see. Be realistic and remember that a healthy lifestyle is a lifelong endeavour.
Mistake No. 9: Not warming up and/or not cooling down. Warm up before your workout with five to 10 minutes of light cardio exercise or with dynamic stretches. Cool down after your workout with static stretches to help maintain your flexibility and range of motion. If you worked out intensely, you can walk or cycle slowly to bring your heart rate down to normal.
Mistake No. 10: Doing lots of cardio, such as aerobics classes or walking, and very little resistance training. Don’t be afraid to lift weights, whether you use machines, dumbbells or your own body weight.