There are a number of ways to defeat yourself at the gym. For example, you can easily injure yourself lifting, running, or using machinery improperly. Or, you might catch the glance of a good looking guy or gal, see them scoff, and let the hit to your confidence send you fleeing back home. Even eating the wrong foods earlier in the day can lead to an energy drain that makes your workout all but useless.
With that in mind, there are several things anyone new to the gym or fitness center should know. It goes beyond simply following the rules and acting polite — the real work begins before you’ve even set foot on a treadmill or pick up a barbell.
Here are seven common mistakes beginners can avoid with a little foresight.
1. Letting anxiety get the best of you
Most people, when they first decide to take fitness seriously, are very anxious about it. Going to the gym for the first time brings it all out — you think everyone’s staring at you, judging you, and even making fun of you. It can cause you to want to back away and retreat home.
Don’t let it.
People aren’t there to judge you, and you shouldn’t worry about it. Just do what you came to do, and then hit the showers. Yes, you might have a rude encounter, but don’t let it discourage you. In these cases, ego is the enemy.
2. Not taking sleep seriously
If you want to get healthy and fit, you need to sleep. Seriously. Stop playing video games and watching Netflix until way into the wee hours — set a bedtime, and go to sleep. Your body (and mind) depend on sleep to sharpen and rebuild, and many people who don’t take sleep seriously end up forgoing any gains (or losses) they were hoping to achieve.
3. Going in without a workout plan
Don’t just walk into the gym and meander around, or sit on machines or racks trying to look like you’re using them. Go in with a plan. If you’re unsure of how to use certain things, ask a trainer, or even watch some tutorials before you go. You’ll need to have an idea of what you’re trying to accomplish, which leads us into our next point. …
4. Going in without goals
This may be the biggest mistake of all: Figure out what you want.
Want to lose weight? Great — figure out how much, and in what time frame. Want to build muscle, or get a six-pack before summer starts? Another good goal — now, you can put together a training and diet regimen to help you achieve it. You don’t want to go in without direction. Give some thought as to what you’re trying to accomplish, and build around it.
5. Too much protein, not enough fiber
Protein powder is as popular as it’s ever been, and a lot of people probably think that by merely consuming it you’re building muscle. Well, it’s a powerful tool — when used correctly. But if you do nothing but drink whey protein shakes and eat chicken breast? Your body’s going to turn on you. Be sure you’re getting plenty of fiber in your diet — in the form of fruits and vegetables — or you’ll learn the hard way how your digestive system works.
6. Not mastering your caloric balance
Getting your diet on point can be the most difficult part of getting in shape. A lot of beginners figure they don’t have to change anything about what they eat, and that they’ll still see results. It’s not true. A great place to start is by looking at how many calories you’re consuming. If you want to build muscle and get bigger, you need to eat. Want to lose weight? You need to run a deficit.
7. Skipping a “before” pic
It may sound stupid, but take a second and snap a “before” picture before getting started. It’ll be great for a few weeks or months out to look back at how far you’ve come, especially if it feels like you’re not making progress. You don’t need to post it on social media or anything like that, but just save it for your own personal reference.