When we begin a new fitness program, we are energized to work out and optimistic about achieving our goals. As the weeks pass, our enthusiasm may fade. Workouts may become less frequent and eventually cease altogether before we reap the anticipated benefits.

Studies show that 50% of individuals who start a self-monitored fitness program will stop exercising within six months. The dropout rate is very high when a fitness program is begun at a very high intensity level and when self-motivation to exercise is low. (1)

Following sound principles and practices can reduce exercise missteps, produce better results, and encourage fitness program adherence. The following are 7 common fitness training mistakes and suggestions for correcting them.

1. Vague goals. Goal setting is a key motivator for exercise adherence. Well-defined goals guide decisions about the types of exercises and regimens that will produce the intended results. Set both short-term and long-term goals that are specific, realistic, challenging, and achievable. (2)

2. Beginning fitness levels not assessed. When individuals begin exercise programs, they seldom take inventory of their initial health and fitness status. Assessments offer baseline measures on which to show progress. Test yourself on items related to your goals so that you have clear training targets and can establish reasonable time lines to achieve them. Reaching each milestone demonstrates success and inspires greater self confidence to continue exercising.

3. Loosely focused training program. Without appropriate exercise regimens that specifically target goals, results can be haphazard. A well-designed fitness program can streamline the path toward your expected outcomes while preventing the frustration of slow progress or no progress at all. Unless you are familiar with exercise principles, you may need to rely on professional guidance to develop a well-planned program.

4. Program not individualized. No two individuals are alike, nor do they respond in exactly the same way to exercise. Fitness level, gender, posture, medical history, personal goals, and many other factors provide a basis for individualizing exercise programs. Personalizing your program to fit your needs and preferences will yield faster results.

5. Working too hard. The “more-is-better” philosophy of training is not as effective as you might expect. Training with variations in workout routines produce better results than training to failure or exhaustion. Adequate recovery periods are necessary to prevent dropping out of exercise activities due to overtraining.

6. Not working hard enough. If exercise is too easy, you will be frustrated by the lack of results. A general guideline is to work out within a target zone of 60-85% of maximum effort. As you adapt to specific exercise regimens and your performances improve, you must gradually and progressively increase your work load so that you continue to train within the 60-85% range. (3)

7. Insufficient stretching. As muscles become stronger and tone improves, it is important to stretch prior to and after workouts. Maintaining adequate flexibility is essential for preventing aggravating injuries that can contribute to quitting exercise programs.

Fitness training mistakes are avoidable. As you learn more about exercise and apply sound principles, you will encounter fewer disappointments and realize more consistent gains. If you continue to work wisely, diligently, and safely, you can ultimately achieve your fitness goals.

References

1. Sullivan, P. (1991). Exercise adherence. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED330676). Retrieved from ERIC database.

2. Schmidt, R.A. & Wrisberg, C.A. (2000). Motor learning and performance: A problem-based learning approach (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

3. McArdle, W.D., Katch, F.I., & Katch, V.L. (2000). Essentials of exercise physiology(2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins.

Learn why people stop exercising before they reap the benefits.

Learn how setting goals can help motivate you.

Learn how exercising too hard or too easy can compromise results.

Studies show that 50% of individuals who start a self-monitored fitness program will stop exercising within six months.