5 beginner exercise mistakes that are holding you back – and how to avoid them

Not seeing any gains from your workouts? Try to fix these five issues

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With many people have now returned to their busy social lives, maintaining fitness goals and staying motivated can be challenging, especially for beginners. People who recently started to exercise out might hit a progress plateau after a few months, which can be detrimental to motivation levels. With the below five tips, you can overcome any workout ruts.

Frequent exercise can help boost metabolism, build muscle, and improve cardiovascular health and mood, so it's important not to give up on it too soon. Low to moderate intensity resistance training has even been shown to improve anxiety levels and mood. In essence, workouts are too beneficial not to be performed.

Thankfully, it's not impossible to power through the situation and avoid some of the most common exercise pitfalls beginners face. So, for those who require some extra motivation and a greater understanding of why you might have plateaued, Dean Zweck, Product Development Manager at Total Fitness, shares his insights on common obstacles to fitness and how to overcome them.

1. Not sticking with a workout routine for long enough

No matter your goals, maintaining a routine is vital to keep you in check and is an ideal way to monitor your success. Make sure your workouts are convenient and fit in around your daily routine; you only need 150 minutes of physical activity a week to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which is just 20 minutes a day (as long as you work out every day).

"The best way to form a routine is to understand what time of the day you're most motivated to move - maybe it's straight after your alarm goes off or an evening trip to the gym", Dean explains, "The most important thing is to ensure it's a time that suits you. Setting alarms is a fantastic way to hold yourself accountable and a sure-fire way to turn your workout into a habit."

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2. Trying to lift too much, too soon

Joining the gym is an ideal way to be surrounded by innovative equipment and inspiring individuals. However, that can become overwhelming if you're not sure what you want from your workouts.

"It can be fun trying out all the new and exciting equipment, but burning out at the first hurdle won't help you to reach your fitness goals", Dean says, "Your body needs time to adapt to all the new movements, which is why it's best to slowly build up your stamina and incorporate different forms of exercise into your routine. It's important to pair weightlifting with cardio to give your muscles time to recover."

For best results, he recommends creating a timetable that includes what areas of the body you want to target over the course of a week to ensure your entire body is receiving a workout and you're not overdoing it. This will make your goals much more achievable to reach.

3. Using the wrong workout for your fitness goals

Exercise can come in many different forms, so one reason you might be lacking in motivation could be that you haven't found a workout that excites you. Exercising shouldn't be a chore; it should be incorporated into your daily life because you find it fun and motivating.

"If you can't get to grips with free weights or find the elliptical trainer repetitive, why not opt for a boot camp or spin class? Both are fun and entertaining ways to keep fit", Dean suggests, "You will also be surrounded by like-minded individuals, making it a great place to socialise and help keep you motivated."

If you can't fit in a weekly class or a trip to the gym, simply getting outdoors and moving your body is still a great way to keep fit. Walking your dog every evening or taking a leisurely walk on your lunch break are easy ways to incorporate fitness into your lifestyle.

"By combining different activities, you'll constantly have something new to look forward to within your workouts and leave you wanting to challenge yourself more", he adds.

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4. Fuelling your body wrong

"Getting the nutrients your body needs is key to making sure you can get through your weekly workout sessions", Dean says, "Sometimes, it can be difficult to maintain a balanced diet, especially with spontaneous plans or hectic work weeks."

He goes on: "A balanced diet and eating the right foods are both vital in providing you with the sustenance you need to work out. If you don't eat the right foods, you are more prone to feeling lethargic and will make it easier to say no to exercise."

The best way to make sure your body is ready for exercise is to eat nutritious foods, with meals that are packed with fibre (fruit and veg), complex carbs, protein and healthy fats.

In addition, high-carb, high-protein pre-workout snacks can give you a much-needed energy boost to give you the extra motivation to work out. Try having a protein bar an hour before the workout or a protein powder shake and a banana post-workout. Hard-gainers can opt-in for weight gainer shakes instead.

5. Not factoring in inspiration

Exercise is all about having fun and discovering the unique ways your body likes to sweat. "If your gym has an app as we do at Total Fitness, why not find out the latest classes or chat with one of the personal trainers to get you pumped and ready to reach your goals", Dean suggests.

In addition, hitting the gym with a friend or workout partner is an excellent way to switch up your time together and an ideal approach to staying accountable for your fitness goals.

Matt Kollat
Matt Kollat

Matt is T3's Fitness Editor and covers everything from smart fitness tech to running and workout shoes, home gym equipment, exercise how-tos, nutrition, cycling, and more. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and he collaborated with other fitness content creators such as Garage Gym reviews.