The start of a new year is a time where many people decide to join the gym and set themselves fitness-related goals. It is also a time when you will see a lot of people making mistakes at the gym, and not only will this see them not achieve their goals, but it could also lead to a serious injury. Everyone is a beginner at some point, but it is important to ensure that you know what you are doing when you enter the gym so that you can maximize your results and workout safely.

11. Not Timing Rest Periods

Throughout your workout, your rest periods are just as important as training. If you rest too little between exercises or sets, you will burn out and not be able to perform to a high standard. However, if you wait too long then you will lose your intensity and also struggle to perform. It is important to time your rest periods, and many people make the mistake of engaging in conversation which can stop you from having a consistent workout. Generally, a rest of about a minute is recommended and a good guide for a beginner. However, it will depend on your particular fitness goals and to find your optimal rest time it is worth doing some research online. Once you find this “sweet spot,” try and stick to it throughout your workout, which can be done either by keeping an eye on the clock or using a stopwatch.

10. Not Planning a Routine

Have you ever been food shopping without a list before? Going to the gym without a routine is very similar and often you will see people aimlessly wandering around and trying out random pieces of equipment with no purpose. Before stepping foot in the gym, you should know what you are going to do and how long you are going to be performing in each area (you should also have an alternative in place in case the gym is busy). When you have a routine in mind, it will give you focus and ensure that you are performing at a high standard throughout with minimal time spent not working out. The best way to develop a routine which will help you to achieve your goals is to take an induction session, which most gyms offer, speak to a personal trainer or find a routine online that is suited towards your goals.

9. Not Altering Workout Routine

Leading on from not planning a routine, it is also important to alter your workout from time to time. If you carried on doing exactly the same workout each and every time, your body would soon get used to the challenges and you will not see any progress or development. For the best results, you should switch your workout every 4-6 weeks. This could include performing your regime in a different order, introducing new exercises, changing sets and reps with weight training, or altering resistance or distance with your cardiovascular exercise. This will re-stimulate and challenge your muscles and force them to change and improve. On top of this, it is also important to alter your workout so that you do not become bored. People often stop working out or do not perform with intensity as they get bored performing the same workout week in and week out.

8. Training on an Empty Stomach

For those looking to drop a few pounds and tone up, there may be a temptation to workout on an empty stomach. This is absolutely not the way to lose weight and can also be incredibly dangerous. If you are working on empty, you will not perform properly (which could lead to injury) and you will have low energy levels. You would never go out on a road trip on an empty tank, and the same applies here. This could lead to your body breaking down muscle for energy. Instead, a much more effective way to lose weight and tone up is to incorporate fruit, vegetables and proteins into your diet. This should provide you with adequate fuel going into a workout so that you can then perform at a high standard from start to finish, which will deliver better results than training on empty.

7. Neglecting Rest Days

You may be fired up about joining the gym, but it is crucial that you do not overdo it. Rest days are just as important as workouts, and without them you won’t last a week as you will either be completely exhausted and burn out, or you will pick up a nasty injury from overtraining. Rest days prevent injury, they allow your muscles to recover from the session and grow, and they also ensure that you get a good night’s sleep as overtraining often leads to restlessness. Rest days also prevent mental fatigue and keep you prepared for the next workout. For those serious about weight training, you can stagger the muscle groups you workout on different days so that you can rest some muscles whilst working out others (back and biceps one day, chest and triceps the next, etc).

6. Eating the Wrong Food After

After a big session you may feel like you can reward yourself and eat anything, but this is absolutely not true and you will simply be undoing all of your hard work. You will have a big appetite after a gym session, but you need to provide your body with right nutrition. If you provide your body with the right fuel immediately after your workout, you can stimulate muscle growth. Protein is best for this, and a very fast and easy way to add more protein into your diet is to have a protein shake (these are not just for bodybuilders). This will refuel your muscles and help you to achieve your goals. That greasy fast food place next to the gym may be frightfully tempting after a big session, but your body will thank you once you provide it with the correct nutrients after a workout.

5. “Running Before You Can Walk”

One of the most common mistakes that beginners make is to try too much too soon, or “run before they can walk.” This applies to cardiovascular exercise and lifting weights, and it is a very quick way to injure yourself and set you back a long time. Of course, the temptation is to go in and straight away run 10 miles or perform 10 curls with a heavy weight, but this is something that you must work up to. When you try too much too soon, it will make you incredibly sore the next day and cause you to use poor technique, as you do not yet have the strength to perform to this level. It may stroke your ego, but it could result in long-term damage. Start off small and learn good form, and then gradually increase.

4. Not Learning Proper Technique

Following on from “running before you can walk,” it is crucial that you use the proper technique regardless of what weight or piece of equipment you are on. You may get an induction session when you join the gym where you will be taught the proper technique and how to use the machines, but if not then it is worth asking for guidance from a personal trainer. Alternatively, there are countless resources online where you can read about proper technique and even watch videos. You should then practice on minimal resistance so that you can perform the technique, and once you have this mastered you can then (slowly) progress. Improper technique will not only hinder your results, but it can also lead to injury which could leave you sidelined for a lengthy spell. Many people in the gym have poor technique, so always follow advice from a professional.

3. Not Warming Up Beforehand and Stretching After

It may not be the most exciting aspect of a workout, but not warming up is a classic pitfall which can lead to muscle soreness or injury. A warm up (usually comprised of light cardiovascular exercise and stretching) will gradually increase heart rate and circulation, which will increase blood flow to the muscles and loosen your joints. This will prepare your body for exercise and a range of different movements, and also by warming and stretching your muscles it will reduce the chance of sustaining an injury. Additionally, warming up is a great way to mentally prepare yourself for a workout. It is also important to note that you should stretch after working out, as this will help to reset your body to a natural position. After performing so many contractions, your muscles are left in a shortened state which is what the tightness you feel after a workout is.

2. Lack of Intensity

Just going to the gym does not mean that you are going to achieve your goals; you are going to have to put the work in too. Often you will see people performing with a lack of intensity (even reading or watching television on the exercise bike), and these will be the people that question why they haven’t seen any improvements after months of “exercise.” Once your workout begins, you need to switch mental gears so that you perform at a high intensity throughout and challenge yourself. This can be hard, but there are a few great ways to ensure that you leave the gym feeling satisfied. Having an overall goal is important, but you can also up your intensity by trying to meet daily targets or improve on your previous time/weight/distance. Listening to music is also a great way to improve intensity, particularly upbeat playlists that you have made.

1. Setting Unrealistic Goals

On January 1st, millions of people set themselves targets which are simply unrealistic. This is why many people give up after January, as they are not seeing the results that they want. The fact is that for results to show, it will take a lot of time and hard work (plus proper nutrition), as you’re not going to achieve a six pack after four weeks. Instead of setting unrealistic goals, it is best to set smaller goals which are achievable. You should not beat yourself up if you do not achieve these goals, and as long as you are working out regularly and at a high intensity whenever you are in the gym, then you will see positive change over time. When you see change, this should inspire you to carry on working hard. For many people, they then enjoy going to the gym and pushing themselves each time.