The most common fitness mistakes and how to avoid them

The most common fitness mistakes and how to avoid them


If you’ve recently started a new fitness journey or workout routine, you naturally want to see results as soon as possible. However, if you’re in a rush to reach your goal weight, it can be easy to skip important milestones or even injure yourself. If you avoid these common beginner mistakes, you’ll reach your fitness goals safely and without muscle strain.

Skip warm-ups and stretches

Do you remember the warm-up and cool-down in physical education class? Well, your teacher knew exactly how important it was to do them before and after any type of exercise. Warm-ups prepare your body for activity by raising its temperature (hence the term), improving blood circulation, lubricating the joints and releasing any stiffness to prevent injury.

Depending on the type of workout you do, warm-ups can focus on your upper or lower body, or both. The goal is to prepare you for the specific workout you’re about to do, so be sure to choose exercises that will prepare the right muscles and joints.

In contrast, stretching and cooling down after a workout helps your muscles and joints recover. It can improve flexibility, increase your range of motion, and speed up the breakdown of lactic acid buildup, which occurs when you strengthen and tone your muscles.

Ignore these two very important parts of your workout is never a good idea. However, this is even more true if you are just getting started. Not only will this make you more susceptible to injury and take you longer to recover, but it will also make it harder to work through your routine later on.

So always allow 5-10 minutes before and after your workout to focus on proper warm-up and cool-down.

Bad technique

An instructor correcting a student's form.


Whether it’s running, swimming, boxing, yoga or cross-fit, any time you start a new exercise routine, it’s essential that you know how to perform each movement or activity correctly. While you may be more familiar with the activities, like running, swimming, or biking, that doesn’t mean your technique is on point.

Although you may get away with poor technique at the very beginning, you will soon start noticing aches and pains. Once you’ve trained your muscles the wrong way to do something, it can be hard to fix it because your body is so adaptable.

When you perform an exercise or activity incorrectly, your body will compensate for this by overworking other muscles. This will put more pressure on the wrong joints and create an overall structural imbalance.

That’s why, before starting a new fitness routine, it’s so important to make sure you know exactly how to do each move or exercise. If you’re not sure if you’re doing something right, ask a trainer at the local gym or your spinning class instructor to assess you.

Avoid relying on YouTube videos and just copy the person on screen. Even if they explain or demonstrate the correct way to perform an exercise, everyone is different. You could do more harm by struggling to strike a certain pose, performing out-of-order movements, or pushing yourself too far before you’re ready.

pushing yourself too hard, too fast

A man adds weights to an exercise machine.


While seeing other people in your gym stacking 45-pound plates on the rack can be intimidating at first, it won’t take long for you to think you should be lifting that much too. If your body isn’t ready for it, however, it will cause you to struggle, strain, hold your breath, and/or use improper form.

One useful thing to do before entering the gym is to leave your ego at the door. You do this for yourself, so it doesn’t matter what other people do. Also, the only way to get better or stronger is to listen to your body and always respect the level it is at.

Most of the people you see in advanced classes or lifting the heaviest weights have been doing it for years. They’ve also all been exactly where you’ve been before, so find the weight, accessory or machine that challenges you, while keeping your breathing and exercise technique in focus.

Be a Cardio Bunny

One of the main reasons most people start a fitness journey is to lose weight. This usually means you’ll be spending a lot of time doing cardio. While there’s no denying that treadmills, ellipticals, rowers, and bikes are all great ways to warm up, do interval training, and maintain good cardiovascular health, overdoing it is much more common than you might think.

Muscle fatigue and lactic acid buildup can be constant and prevent you from seeing progress on the strength and tone front. Also, depending on your build and diet, chances are your body is breaking down your muscles and using them for fuel, if it hasn’t fully adjusted to your routine yet.

Monitor how much and how often you do cardio. A few days a week, or a maximum of 20 to 30 minutes a day is ideal when you’re just starting out.

Not taking enough rest days

A woman relaxing on the sofa with an orange tabby cat.

Alena Ozerova/

In the very beginning, recovery time is even more important than training as your body learns how and when to use certain muscle groups. He also needs time to balance and figure out where to get fuel from, as well as where to build and where to dump.

Sometimes your body will remind you that it’s time to take a day off, but other times it might not be so obvious. That’s why you need to make sure your fitness routine includes rest days. Depending on the type of exercise you do, you may need 2-4 days off.

Speak to a professional trainer or your doctor to determine what would be best for you. It may seem counterintuitive, but rest days will actually help you get the most out of your workouts, so you can reach your fitness goals much sooner.

Starting a new fitness routine can be challenging, exciting, and daunting all at the same time. However, avoiding these common fitness mistakes will not only speed up your progress, but also prevent you from injury.