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Beginner’s Training Guide: 5 Fitness Mistakes Women Make

Watch out! These five blunders often keep women from reaching their health and fitness goals. Learn what they are and how to correct them!

The cliché is true: Knowledge is power. The more you know about health and fitness, the more likely you are to succeed in your program.

The reverse is true as well. Research shows that one of the primary reasons women don't accomplish their health goals is that they have no idea what they should be doing1. There are many roads you can travel to achieve your health and fitness goals, but there are just as many (if not more) pitfalls that can collapse your progress, cause injury, and completely destroy your motivation.

Don't start your program without first gathering a bit of information. Because the quest for optimal health is life-long, it's essential that you understand the basics of eating and of exercising from the beginning. These five fitness mistakes are common to women who are just beginning a training regimen. Steer clear and you'll be a much smarter, happier, and successful fitness junkie.

Mistake 1 /// Over-relying on Cardio

Many women believe the antiquated idea that cardio makes them thin and resistance training makes them bulky. This type of thinking makes me cringe! Most women would like to have less fat and be more toned, right? In order to lose weight and sculpt your body, you have to incorporate some kind of resistance training into your fitness regimen!

As you increase your lean muscle mass, your body will burn up to four times more calories than you did before—even while you sleep! It's safe to say that most women want to benefit from this type of increase in their metabolism.

Don't do away with cardio workouts entirely. Cardiovascular activity is a must if you want to get rid of that layer of fat covering your new lean muscle. It's just not everything.

Tips to avoid making this mistake:
Try my seven-day "Beginner's Workout" at the end of this article.

Mistake 2 /// Eating an Extremely Low-calorie Diet

There seems to be a common perception that if you workout more and eat next to nothing, you'll lose weight fast.

Although this system may work for a short period of time, it will most likely cause havoc later. Just as your car needs gasoline to function, your body needs adequate fuel to perform at capacity.

Numerous low-calorie diets in the marketplace promise miracle results. Science however, has repeatedly shown that any diet under 800 calories per day can be dangerous to your health.3

Instead of depriving yourself to such an extreme, balance your lifestyle between a healthy caloric intake and an increase in physical activity.

Tips to avoid making this mistake:

  • Have a personal trainer, nutritionist or medical provider determine your daily caloric intake, or choose a diet that has at least 1,200 calories per day.
  • Try to lose a maximum of two pounds of fat per week. Any additional weight loss may come from muscle, which will cost your fat-burning potential.
  • If you want to lose weight more rapidly, add 45-minute cardio sessions to your current workout schedule.
  • Make sure all of your meals include healthy fats, carbs, and protein.
Mistake 3 /// Repeating the Same Workout Over and Over Again

When you are new to something, it's often easier to "play it safe" and stick to a routine you know you can do without problems. This may work in some areas but not in health and fitness.

Repeating the same exercises day-in and day-out will lead to boredom, burnout, and plateaus. Constantly adding variety to your workouts can help ensure that your body is perpetually challenged.

Tips to avoid making this mistake:

  • Try changing the number of reps, sets, tempo, and range of motion in your exercises.
  • Try a variety of exercise styles like boxing, yoga, kickboxing, cardio barre, or Pilates.
  • Don't stay indoors all the time. Hiking, swimming, jogging, and biking are all great ways to stay in shape and to switch up the routine.
Mistake 4 /// Not Pushing Yourself Hard Enough

Before applying the avoidance tips recommended with this mistake, first make sure that you have been medically cleared to exercise with intensity.

Most people don't push themselves hard enough to achieve the results they desire. Going to the gym and lifting 10-pound dumbbells isn't enough. In order for the body to make drastic changes, it must be placed under stress.

According to the University of New Mexico, exercising at a vigorous pace offers several positive health benefits over moderate exercise. These benefits include higher calorie burn and lowered risk of cardiovascular-related diseases.4

Tips to avoid making this mistake:

  • Purchase a heart-rate monitor so you know how your body burns calories. Don't rely on the cardio machines at the gym. They're not always accurate.
  • Use the Rate of Perceived Exertion to determine your intensity level during exercise.
  • Incorporate interval training into your cardio routine. Try alternating 30 seconds of sprinting with one minute of walking over the course of 20 minutes.
Mistake 5 /// Setting Unrealistic Expectations

If you only remember one thing from this article, make it this: Having unrealistic expectations of yourself and your results makes continuing a workout program almost impossible. Your goals must be both quantitative and qualitative in their scope.

For example, instead of hoping to lose 10 pounds in one month, change your goal to: "In one month, I want to lose 5-10 pounds, gain energy, and reduce my body fat." By giving yourself several benchmarks to shoot for, your odds of success skyrocket.

Too often, women do themselves a disservice by trying to match someone else's success. Just because your best friend lost 15 pounds last month doesn't mean that you will or even should try to lose this amount yourself.

Your healthy journey is yours alone. While others can motivate and encourage you, only you can do the work.

Tips to avoid making this mistake:

  • Set quantitative and qualitative goals, and write them down.
  • Don't compare your goals to someone else's.
  • Take your progress one day at a time, and forgive yourself if you fall off the program from time to time.
7-Day Beginner's Workout ///
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Repeat Monday's workout
Saturday: Sprint/Jog Intervals
Sunday: Rest

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Feb 5, 2013 12:03pm | report

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I think I will try this workout as a beginner for one week.

Feb 18, 2013 2:25pm | report

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I have been successfully losing fat and gaining strength for a year now and this article has solid advice!

Mar 6, 2013 9:13am | report

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Love this article and the printable logs... Thanks

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May 9, 2013 6:39am | report

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Can anyone suggest an alternative to jogging/sprints for this? I'm a big girl and my knees aren't the greatest.

May 20, 2013 2:07am | report

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Use a stationary bike if your knees can't handle running so much. Switch up the intervals using the resistance level and your rpm on the bike. for a jog your rpm should be between 70-89rpm. For the sprints shoot for 95 and find a resistance that makes you work. You should be running short of breath by the end of your sprint and the jog should keep you working but allow you some time to recuperate as well. I lost a good 15 lbs weight training and doing bike intervals.

Jul 17, 2013 10:28am | report

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Swimming! Swim sprints rock, and plus you won't get too hot! :D

Sep 11, 2013 8:44pm | report

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this is very useful info, thanks

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Aug 28, 2013 9:48am | report
Showing 1 - 8 of 8 Comments

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