Summer is here, and with the warm weather brings thoughts of sun, sand, and swimsuits. Even though it’s about halfway through the year, it’s never too late to jumpstart a healthy routine, especially if that New Year’s Resolution didn’t quite stick.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t some roadblocks, though. For the great majority of us who aren’t professional athletes, trainers, or nutritionists, the concept of “getting into shape” can be a source of anxiety or frustration. Establishing a comprehensive meal plan feels like an episode of a cooking show you never auditioned for, and no one at the gym seems to be a beginner like you.
While this is all perfectly normal, inexperience and uncertainty have been shown to increase the likelihood of common exercise and diet mistakes, which can ultimately hold you back from your health goals. We’ve identified some of the core mistakes below, so you know what to avoid.
These tend to be extremely common for newcomers, but even experienced individuals are guilty of more than a few:
- Sticking to one type of terrain
- Avoiding guidance
- Not using exercise supplements
With the weather improving, it’s a great opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy working out in nature. And machine-based cardio (for example, a treadmill run or intense stair stepper session) can easily be adapted into an outdoor workout. However, we often fail to train to account for the differences in environments. It’s always a good idea to set a treadmill, bike, or stair stepper to reflect conditions like hills, wind resistance, and climate so that your body isn’t shocked when you take your cardio routine outside.
Similar to getting into an indoor workout rut, overtraining, especially in one specific workout style (like weightlifting or cardio), is an unfortunately common mistake. Make sure you’re splitting up your week into separate cardio and strength days that make sense for your goals—but leave plenty of time for recovery. Not taking proper rest days is a surefire way to overtrain, which can lead to injury.
No one likes asking for directions. But if you guess how to use the varying machines available at your local gym, you run the risk of serious injury through improper form. The attendants are there to make sure you can work out safely, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Protein powders and supplements have the power to elevate your workout and accelerate the body’s natural accumulation of muscle. Utilizing performance aids like these are super helpful—just make sure you do your research to make sure that what you’re consuming aligns with your desired result.
Though exercise is important when it comes to health goals, the impact of proper nutrition is often understated. Here are some common diet mistakes:
- Improper refueling
- Incorrect portion sizes
- Inconvenient meal prep
- Never mixing it up
Refueling following a workout is key to faster recovery time—but figuring out what to eat can be confusing. Try a healthy (sugar free!) cereal with milk, protein shake, avocado and whole grain toast, or Greek yogurt with fruit for a great post-workout snack. These foods contain carbs, proteins, and healthy fats, all of which work together to repair torn muscles and re-energize the body.
Many of us don’t actually know what a healthy portion looks like. We’re used to being served extra bread at a restaurant and making prepackaged food like pasta for multiple people, so the way we arrange our plates has been skewed.
Take a look at the actual serving size on the packaging of the food in your pantry. It might surprise you to learn that we’re often eating double (if not more) than the recommended serving. Try portioning your food out this way and avoid eating straight from the bag or container. Eating slowly and taking short breaks as you enjoy your meal will also help you better digest your food, lowering your chances of overeating.
Another key component of a balanced diet is lunch. Since a busy work schedule can make it tough to put together healthy meals from scratch to take along each day, meal prepping twice a week is much cheaper and more convenient. Using bento boxes with compartments helps with portion control and is more manageable than lugging around multiple Tupperware containers. Chances are that if it’s inconvenient, you won’t want to do it, and it’s so much easier to get off track.
Mix It Up
Finally, sticking to the same meals over and over is a mistake most people make when trying to streamline their diet. Yes, it makes planning and shopping easier—but it also gets really boring and tiring. Try experimenting with new recipes, or even using different spices and produce if you’d prefer to use the same protein.
Even though we call them “mistakes,” it’s important not to let that term define your approach. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t give up—everyone improves with practice and commitment.
Remember that what you eat affects your workout, and vice versa! Treat exercise and diet as equal partners in your health journey, and you’ll start to see positive long-term changes.