Starting an Exercise Program? Avoid These Mistakes

Author: Matt K Training | | Categories: Exercise training , Fitness Tips

Blog by Matt K Training

To help avoid some basic errors that could undermine your brand new, sparkling exercise routine, Matt K Training has put together a list of common mistakes people make when starting an exercise program.

1. Planning your routine based on people watching

To get started on their exercise journey, some people go to the gym. The exercise routine that emerges is often simply a collection of exercises they've seen others do; Others being "people who look fit" or "people who look like they know what they're doing". The problem with copying others is you don't know how long this "copied" person has been training. What does the exercise they are doing actually do (besides supposedly “tone” or reduce belly fat)? Is the person doing it correctly? If it’s a machine, do you know how to set it up properly for your body size? If it requires lifting heavy weights, do you know how to get into the position to start the actual exercise? Even sitting up on a bench holding dumbbells can put excessive pressure on the lumbar spine (bones/muscles/connective tissue in your lower back), does that person know that? Do you know how to avoid it? Choosing your exercise plan simply by watching someone else, in person or a video, is a mistake. Exercises should fit nicely into a plan that fits you as you are and moves you toward your goals (not someone else’s). 

2. Checking boxes

Going to the gym after work, sometimes before work, because it's on your calendar. Showing up, running through the routine, mostly on autopilot, finishing, checking the box, then going on to the next thing on your agenda. Checking the box releases spritzes of dopamine (a chemical in our bodies related to motivation and learning) in the brain, it feels momentarily good, as if you are getting things done, modern-day proof that you are a productive person. This seems fine but is a mistake in itself. Exercise works optimally when we are mindful. That may seem obvious when lifting weights, (pay attention or drop a heavy weight) but even doing cardio requires attention. Our bodies quickly adapt to exercise routines. When we exercise properly, we are forcing an adaptation that benefits us. To do that, we need to push out of our comfort zone. Just going through the motions (autopilot) does little to challenge us to improve. We should periodically change the routine, intensity, and/or volume to achieve the benefits we seek. That requires paying attention and avoiding simply plowing through to check the box.

3. Setting the wrong goal

Why do we exercise and/or diet? We want something to be different. Too often, we want things like body weight or body composition (how much of us is fat), or smaller pants size, or for those of us in competitive events, to finish first, second, or anywhere "in the top ten. Each of these things is not the actual goal, they are outcomes. We have very little to no direct control over whether they happen. Why is this a mistake? By setting these outcomes as “goals”, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We cannot “will” or “cajole” our weight or body composition to change, nor can we “will” other competitors to finish behind us. We can, however, control our actions. We can choose actions that will encourage an outcome. We can choose what, when, and how much we eat and sleep. We can choose how much sitting and or how much exercise or physical activity we do. We can choose where we go (and where not to go), and we can also choose to get help for any of those things if we need it. Therefore, goal setting should include a series of regular practices and actions, over which we have a good amount of control, that lead in a progressive, stepwise manner toward the outcome we want. Think of your outcome as the top floor, there are no elevators, you must take the stairs, each step is an action you take, each landing is a goal you reach, all moving you towards the outcome. More on this one here.  

4. Succumbing to entitlement syndrome

The idea that exercise can make up for other behaviors is false. If we work out hard enough, we can drink, eat, forgo sleep, and/or indulge without any undue side effects. We can, in effect, burn off any excess calories, alcohol, or otherwise, scruffy-looking nerf herding behavior we have done (or intend to do). In contrast, if we behave poorly enough, say on vacation, we could gain an unholy amount of weight, like, 15 lbs in a week. With this idea of some karmic influence on how much we sweat (or how many veggies we eat for dessert) determining health and performance outcomes, we develop entitlement syndrome. If we exercise, we are allowed to misbehave, it’s my right, and it’s only fair. If I indulge, I am a bad person, unworthy of acceptance, empathy, and/or happiness. Why is this a mistake? Well, for one, it goes synergistically with the above mistake, setting the wrong goal. Secondly, it raises the stakes of succeeding in our exercise-related goals to unconscionable levels. Finally, this type of thinking makes vacations or social events extremely stressful when they should be the opposite (I have to be able to drink at my cousin’s wedding! Wait, no! I can simply do this instead!). Notwithstanding the detriments to self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth of constantly failing at something. Realize that exercise doesn’t prevent or "cancel" poor eating and/or sleeping patterns. Exercise and physical activity is but one pillar, to be most effective, it ought to be in line with the other pillars (eating, resting/recovering).  

To avoid these and other mistakes, reach out, I can help.

Serving clients across Northampton, and the surrounding areas. I also have remote options through my holistic nutrition coaching program, as well as my remote personal training program. 

For a complete list of our services, please click here. If you have any questions about fitness, we’d love to hear from you. For more information please call us at (413) 341-8111 or email us at