Are you new to fitness and exercise? If so, it can feel EXTREMELY overwhelming to know where to start, right? Believe me, I know.
We all have to start somewhere. Even those rock hard gym rats who look like they’re training for the Avengers started out as total newbs.
Let’s normalise it and not feel intimidated and let’s be okay to start out as a beginner.
You might make some mistakes in the beginning – in fact, you likely will. And that’s okay!
Mistakes are our teachers! They put us on the right track and make us fitter and stronger in the long run.
But if I could give myself 5 pieces of advice to my younger self, just starting out on her first health and fitness journey all those years ago, I’d tell her to avoid these 5 beginner exercise mistakes, so I didn’t have to learn the hard way.
#1: You don’t have to do ALL THE THINGS at once
The worst thing you can do when you’re just starting out is to bog yourself down in information overload.
Listen, nutrition and fitness are whole industries and professions. Don’t feel like you have to learn everything, do it perfectly, or heavily restrict your eating.
It’s the fastest way to overwhelm, burn out, and giving up on your fitness goals.
Instead, just focus on making the healthiest choices you can.
Gradually build good habits of nutrition, 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise, drinking more water and sleeping well.
You can always build on your knowledge and your habits later. Just starting with these basics will give you visible results – and a lot of confidence.
#2: You probably don’t need all those supplements
Babe, supplements like vitamins, minerals, aminos, pre-workout, whey protein, et cetera are expensive as heck, hard to maintain and really, if you’re just starting out, you don’t need them.
Unless a doctor/naturopath prescribes you vitamins, you need prenatal supplements, or you take simple supplements like a daily multivitamin for general health, don’t bother. You’re better to build a base of good nutrition than you are lashing out on an expensive gym stack.
Supplements can be good for fitness professionals, athletes, or those looking to get that extra 20% from their workouts and results. But if you’re a beginner, they’re an unnecessary expense and chore.
#3: Don’t rush into your workout without a proper warm up
This is a common rookie mistake I was guilty of back in the day! When I had limited time to work out, I would often skip the warmup. I was so anxious to get to the calorie burning main workout.
Exercising without a proper warm up can be dangerous and lead to injury. And a solid injury can put you out of the game completely while you recover.
It’s better to lose 5-10 minutes at the start of every workout warming up than to lose 5-10 days (or even weeks) healing from an injury.
Don’t think about hitting that weights room or treadmill without a good warmup (at least 5 minutes). This should include light low intensity cardio and dynamic stretches to get the blood pumping and your muscles warm. You’ll notice such a huge change in your workout performance too.
#4: You really need a good sports bra. Really. And good shoes.
Not all sports bras have been made alike. There are sports bras for running and sports bras that are better for yoga.
Exercising without the proper sports bra can cause permanent breast tissue damage and premature sagging. Before hitting the pavement, make sure to go and get fitted for a high quality bra that minimises bounce as much as possible.
(For all my fellow large chested women, a word to the wise: you may even need two high impact sports bras for things like running, lest you get punched in the jaw by an errant mammary midway through your C25K jogging interval.)
You also need a specifically designed pair of shoes to support your foot in your chosen sport.
Just like sports bras, not all sneakers were made equal. Some have a lot of cushioning – which is great for running, but dreadful if you want to do deadlifts and squats.
Flat sneakers like Converse better suit lifting weights, because your feet feel firm on the ground. But if you wore them on a run, you might experience foot pain, blisters, and place dangerous impact on your joints.
Make sure to do your research before you buy a pair of sneakers so that they suit your workout. You may even need to buy a couple of pairs for different types of activity.
#5: Focus on exercise form rather than the weight you use
I used to obsess how many reps I did and how heavy I lifted that I forgot one crucial element to my training: form.
This meant that when I was starting out I got a lot of injuries: sore ankles, sore knees, shin splints, and back pain.
The most important part of your exercise program is that you are doing every exercise with exactly the right form. Doing an exercise improperly can put you at risk of injury, and it also may not target the right muscle group.
When you’re learning a new exercise, go with the lightest possible weight and really focus on form and mind-muscle connection. It might even be worthwhile working with a personal trainer for a few sessions so you can understand how a move should look and feel in your body.
If that’s out of your budget, it pays to spend some time researching that move on YouTube, paying attention to the cues. You can even film yourself and watch it back to see whether you’re doing it with proper form. This is where working out in front of a mirror is helpful.
Once you’ve got the form down, you can start adding weight to make it more challenging. But if your form begins to slip, don’t compromise quality for quantity. Move down to a smaller weight that feels challenging but doable with good form.
Mistakes are human and they’re how we learn. Don’t be afraid to be a beginner and enjoy the ride!
However, there are a few beginner exercise mistakes I made as a newb to working out which, if avoided, could have made my workouts a lot more safe, effective and enjoyable.
Starting simple, warming up, having the proper active gear, and focusing on form are simple principles that will help you go after your fitness goals with confidence – no matter how new to the game you are.