1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

8 Common Exercise Mistakes

Avoid these common exercise mistakes and start getting some real fitness results


Updated May 16, 2014

Man taking weights from rack
Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Did you know that the average health club exerciser quits after just six months for one of the following reasons?
  • Not Enough Time
  • Not Seeing Results
Sadly, most people become frustrated and quit exercising before they see any real results. But it's not too surprising, given the common mistakes many people make with their training programs. Are you making these workout mistakes?

Common Reasons Your Workouts Don't Work

  1. All Quantity, No Quality
    Take a look around the gym (if you haven't quit going yet) and see how many people are really getting a quality workout. I'm always amazed by how many people are wandering aimlessly, walking leisurely on a treadmill while reading a book, lifting weights so light that not one hair moves out of place, or simply look bored. A lot of exercisers head to the gym out of habit, and as if on automatic pilot, put in some time and head back to work or home. If you are one of these people, ask yourself, "What do I want to get out of this?" If you want serious results, you need to do serious exercise. That doesn't mean you can't enjoy it and have fun. But it does means you need to focus on what you're doing and increase the quality of every movement. Once you start exercising with a real purpose, and pushing both your aerobic capacity and your strength, you will find your workouts take half the time and yield better results.

    Also See:
    How to Get Fit Fast!
    Efficient Strength Training
    How to use the Perceived Exertion Scale

  2. Overestimating Your Exercise
    Most exercisers are far too generous with estimates of exercise intensity and time, amount of weight lifted, and the frequency of their workouts. To avoid overestimating, it's helpful to keep an exercise log and track these items. Additionally, many people mistakingly believe that if they exercise at a moderate pace for 30 minutes, they've burned lots and lots of calories and fat. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. While exercise does burn calories over time, and consistent exercise is one of the best ways to lose weight and keep it off, it's hard to lose body fat through exercise alone. Which brings us to the next mistake. . .

    Also See:
    Why Short, High-Intensity Exercise Burns More Calories
    How Much Exercise Does It Take?

  3. Underestimating Your Eating
    Many people are in denial about the foods they eat, and particularly, the quantity consumed. If you really want to lose weight, you need to be honest with yourself about what you put into your mouth and how that helps or hinders your weight-loss goals. To get real with yourself, write it down. Tracking what you eat in a food diary will help you break the cycle of food denial. (Besides, you are the only one who needs to know.)
    Also See:
    Calorie Counter - Learn the number of calories in your favorite foods
    Nutrition for Optimal Performance

  4. Doing the Wrong Type of Workout
    Where did you learn your current exercise routine? By watching others at the gym (who may be exercising incorrectly)? From your friends, coworkers, the web, TV, the newspaper, the latest research findings, or perhaps your 5th grade gym teacher? What you're doing for exercise directly determines the results you will get. To learn what you should do, there's no better place to start than by writing down your goals and then working with a professional trainer to design the right workout to meet those goals. Haphazard exercise will provide haphazard results.
    Also See:
    The Exercise Prescription
    How to Design Your Own Exercise Program

  5. Never Changing Your Workout
    When you do the same thing day after day, you get very good at it. In exercise, this is called the principle of adaptation. It basically means that we become very efficient by doing the same exercise over and over. This is great for sports performance, but not that great for weight loss, increasing strength, or physical fitness progression. If you always do the same workout for the same amount of time, you will eventually hit a plateau where you fail to see any additional change. One way of overcoming this plateau is to modify your workouts every few weeks or months. You can change the type of exercise you do, the length, the amount of weight lifted, or the number or reps. This is why professional athletes change their programs during the off-season.
    Also See:
    The Principles of Conditioning
    Breaking Through Exercise Plateaus
    Crosstraining Principles

  6. Using Incorrect Form or Technique
    Learning the right way to exercise is essential to getting results. Form does matter, especially when doing any strength training exercise. Incorrect form or technique also sets you up for potential injuries, pain and soreness. To learn proper technique, there's no better place to start than with a personal trainer or coach.
    Also See:
    Do You Need a Personal Trainer?

  7. Setting Unrealistic Goals
    So, what are your goals? Are they realistic for you? If your goal is to be the next Lance Armstrong, and you only have 30 minutes a day to train, or you want to lose 25 pounds in a month . . . well, how realistic is that? Again, it comes back to being honest with yourself about your abilities, your level of commitment, and your lifestyle. You need to set appropriate goals that start from where you are and progress at a reasonable rate, or you're sure to get frustrated and quit.
    Also See:
    Goal Setting for Exercise
    Getting Started and Sticking with Exercise

  8. Measuring the Wrong Results
    Many people think their workout isn't working because they don't measure the right things. Looking for proof in a scale is often a set-up for disappointment, because some new exercisers build muscle and lose fat, but the scale doesn't provide information about body composition. Better ways to measure your fitness progress include tracking your heart rate at a given pace, measuring the distance you can cover in a certain amount of time, tracking the amount of weight you can lift, or even writing down how you feel -- physically -- at the end of each day. Many of the benefits from exercise are subtle and not visible by looking into the mirror, but things such as cholesterol level, blood pressure, and the ease with which you can do daily chores are every bit as motivating -- if you monitor them.
    Also See:

Article sources

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Sports Medicine
  4. Exercises / Workouts
  5. Tips and Tricks
  6. Avoid These Common Exercise Mistakes

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.