Common Mistakes When Training

Knee ExerciseFocused and disciplined training pays off.

Mistake #1: Not having a clear goal and not monitoring your progress
Think carefully about where you want to be in six months, a year, five years, bearing in mind that most people overestimate what they can achieve in the short term and underestimate what they can achieve long term. Talk about your goals and how you think you want to go about achieving those with someone knowledgeable, especially if you haven’t exercised for a long time or you have a specific health or medical problem. Speaking to a biokineticist will be a good start for anyone. Monitoring your training progress will also help you determine if you’re doing the right thing, and if you are doing it right. If you don’t see progress toward your goals in six to 12 months, reconsider your program, but better still, seek advice.

Mistake #2: Following the advice of every Tom, Dick and Harry on training and nutrition
If you have a medical problem, you will go to a medically trained person for advice, right? So why not go to the experts in exercise science, the sport scientists and biokineticists, who will gladly share their knowledge which they have accumulated over at least 3 years of study? Beware of personal trainers who completed a crash course in fitness and exercise at a not so well known training academy. In some cases they may do more harm than good. Remember, we only have one body, look after it by making an effort to ask the real experts’ advice. Call the Sport Science department at the University closest to you and ask who they can recommend for advice on your questions.

Mistake #3: Following in your fit friend’s footsteps
It is not a bad idea to train with a friend, if you have the same training goals and you are on the same level.  If your friend has been training for a few months already, you cannot just blindly follow his or her workout. Better then to train on your own, or find someone in a similar position as yourself.

Mistake #4: Training in your old high school shoes or favourite pair of gardening crocs
Going for a run in a pair of takkies that you bought 10 years ago, or those that doubles up as gardening shoes is not a good idea. You will stop before you actually begin. You don’t have to buy the most expensive, state-of-the-art, recently launched pair of shoes. However, it is worthwhile to visit a reputable sport shoe outlet and get advice on the most suitable shoe for your specific foot shape and size and for what you want to do.

Mistake #5: Making rookie strength training mistakes (and sticking to them)
Using the right weight lifting techniques are not easy and doesn’t come naturally. Even Olympic athletes sometimes get it woefully wrong and can pay dearly for it. The wrong technique may not cause injury while working with light weights, but it will come back to bite you once you reach a more advanced level. By then it will be too late, and very difficult to “unlearn” this bad habit. Before engaging in a strength training programme, find someone who can teach you every move from scratch and who can watch you until you get it right. Again, the guy with the biggest muscles in the gym is not necessarily the right person to ask. Find someone who is suitably qualified and rather spend a few extra bucks now to get it right. Later it may cost you an arm and a leg.

Mistake #6: No pain, no gain
You should definitely not be feeling pain during exercise. Discomfort? Yes. Fatigue? Yes. But not pain. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that it’s the beginning of the end. You will either end up with an injury that will interrupt your training programme, or worse still, you may incur a debilitating injury or become so ill because of a depressed immune system that it will put an end to your training altogether. Furthermore, if you wake up the next morning after you exercised and can barely drag your aching body out of bed because everything hurts, you are going to be less motivated to exercise at all. Constant pain is a sure way to kill your enthusiasm for exercise.  Some muscle soreness is to be expected when just starting a training programme or when changing to a new program. This soreness afterwards indicates that your muscles have indeed been challenged and are going into repair mode to build them stronger. So listen to your body and know the difference between true pain and good old-fashioned muscle fatigue and tiredness.

Mistake #7: Letting your ego pick the weight
Trying to impress your fellow gym buddies by lifting weights that are far too heavy? Not a good idea at all.  All you will accomplish is to compromise form, in other words, not performing the exercise with the correct technique. Consistently doing exercises with the wrong technique will lead to bad habits and ultimately an injury. You may not hurt yourself today, or even tomorrow, but the day will come when you unexpectedly tear a muscle or ligament, or struggle to get out of bed due to a bad back. Working out shouldn’t be a competition, or an attempt to impress anyone.  You should engage in exercise because it is good for you.

Mistake # 8: Harder, better, faster, stronger
In an effort to get stronger, faster or to lose weight more rapidly, most people default by adding more volume to their training. This is often at the expense (or neglect) of added recovery. In order for your body to adapt, it needs sufficient recovery time. While brief planned periods of volume increases can be beneficial in increasing your exercise capacity, continually adding volume will eventually have deleterious effects on your performance.  The truth is, stress is necessary to stimulate improvement, but recovery is necessary to realise proper training adaptations. Furthermore, research is increasingly pointing to training quality, rather than quantity. In other words, you may actually gain more by increasing the intensity of your workouts, rather than increasing the frequency or duration of your workouts.

Mistake #9: The routine gym routine
Are you still doing the same exercises and in the same order than six months ago? Your exercise routine needs to be changed every 4-6 weeks to minimise the risk of hitting a plateau, both physically and mentally. When you do the same routine day in and day out, the muscles will stop responding. Walking or running the same distance at the same pace every day will have the same effect on your muscles and your heart and lungs. This is because your brain keeps sending the same signals to the same places, and so even your brain will stagnate. So, mix it up and keep the routines interesting to keep your brain and the rest of your body “paying attention”.

Mistake #10: Expecting instant gratification
Whether your aim is to lose weight, to build muscle or just to improve your overall fitness, it will all take time. The best you can do is to train regularly and consistently. Remember that for every week you skip in training, it will take at least two weeks to catch up on where you were previously. One step forward and two steps back. Also, do not to focus too much on the expected end result. It takes 6 – 8 weeks of consistent training (at least 3 times a week) before you will see changes in your physique. This does not mean that nothing is happening! Your body is making important physiological adaptations that all contribute to better health and fitness and which lays the foundation for the harder workouts ahead.  So be patient and enjoy the rush of feel-good hormones after each training session.