We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

The Most Common Fitness Mistakes, and How to Avoid Them

A man stretching his right leg on the floor.

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

Skipping Warm-Ups and Stretches

Remember warming up and cooling down back in phys ed class? Well, your teacher knew exactly how important these were to do before and after any type of exercise. Warm-ups prepare your body for activity by increasing its temperature (hence, the term), improving blood flow, lubricating joints, and loosening up any stiffness to prevent injuries.

Depending on the type of workout you’re doing, warm-ups might focus on the upper or lower body, or both. The purpose is to prepare you for the specific training you’re about to do, so make sure you choose exercises that will prep the right muscles and joints.

Stretching and cooling down after a workout, on the other hand, helps your muscles and joints recover. It can improve flexibility, increase your range of motion, and speed up the breakdown of lactic acid build-up, which occurs when you strengthen and tone your muscles.

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

So, always carve out 5-10 minutes before and after your workout session to focus on properly warming up and cooling down.

Improper Technique

An exercise instructor correcting a student's form.

Whether it’s running, swimming, boxing, yoga, or cross-fit, whenever you start a new exercise routine, it’s crucial that you know how to properly execute each move or activity. While you might be more familiar with activities, like running, swimming, or cycling, that doesn’t mean your technique is on point.

While you might be able to get away with improper technique in the very beginning, you’ll soon begin to notice some aches and pains. Once you train your muscles the wrong way to do something, it can be difficult to fix it because your body is so adaptable.

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

This is why, before you start any new fitness routine, it’s so important to make sure you know exactly how to do each move or exercise. If you’re unsure whether you’re doing something correctly, ask a trainer at the local gym or your spin class instructor to assess you.

Avoid relying on YouTube videos and simply copying the person on-screen. Even if they’re explaining or demonstrating the right way to perform an exercise, everyone is different. You might be doing more harm by struggling to get into a certain pose, performing movements out of order, or pushing yourself too far before you’re ready.

Pushing Yourself Too Hard, Too Fast

A man adding weights to an exercise machine.

While seeing others at your gym stacking 45-pound plates on the rack might be intimidating at first, it won’t be long before you’re thinking you should be lifting that much, too. If your body isn’t ready for it, though, it will just result in you struggling, straining, holding your breath, and/or using improper form.

A helpful thing to do before you enter the gym is to leave your ego at the door. You’re doing this for yourself, so what anyone else is doing doesn’t matter. Plus, the only way you can get better or stronger is by listening to your body and always honoring the level it’s 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 right where you are before, so find the weight, accessory, or machine that challenges you, but still keeps your breathing and exercise technique on point.

Being 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 bicycles are all great ways to warm up, do some interval training, and maintain good cardiovascular health, overdoing it is way more common than you might think.

Muscle fatigue and lactic acid build-up can be constant, and prevent you from seeing any progress on the strength and toning front. Also, depending on your build and diet, there’s a good chance your body could break down your muscles and use them as fuel, if it hasn’t yet fully adapted to your routine.

Monitor how much and how often you’re doing cardio. A couple of days a week, or a max of 20-30 minutes per day is ideal when you’re just starting out.

Not Taking Enough Rest Days

A woman resting on the couch with an orange tabby cat.
Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock.com

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

Sometimes, your body will remind you it’s time to take a rest day, but other times, it might not be as obvious. This is why you should make sure your fitness schedule includes rest days. Depending on the type of exercises you’re doing, you might need 2-4 days of rest.

Talk to a professional trainer or your physician to figure out what would be best for you. It might sound counterintuitive, but rest days will actually help you get the most out of your workouts, so you can achieve your fitness goals that much sooner.

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

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
LifeSavvy is focused on a single goal: helping you make the most informed purchases possible. Want to know more?