What I WISH I knew BEFORE Starting My Fitness Journey
Today we are going to take a look at some of the SILLY MISTAKES I MADE during my early days in the fitness industry.
I first entered the weight room around 5 years ago. Aside from my dance experience and measly treadmill endeavors, my knowledge of weight lifting was completely nonexistent. Although I spent countless hours on bodybuilding.com watching exercise demo’s and trying to absorb as much information as possible, I just was not as #blessed as YOU ALL ARE to have a crippled, yet fit(ish) trainer THAT COULD HELP YOU OUT in this area. While I DID make numerous mistakes, the lessons I learned were beyond worth it, because I now get to share them with my own fit clients! Whether you are a new or old gym-goer, give this read article a read and maybe you’ll apply one of these lessons to your own fitness journey!
MISTAKE #1: I had a very “all or nothing” mentality when it came to exercise.
My motive for working out has DRASTICALLY changed over the past 6 years. I remember dreading any form of exercise that did not take place first thing in the morning. In fact, I used to fear having a lackluster workout and usually skipped it if I thought I wouldn’t be able to give 150%. This definitely stems from my perfection driven dance days. My impetus for working out truly came out of a place of fear; fear of gaining weight, fear of being a weak dancer, and fear of myself. Eventually, life knocked some sense into me and made me realize two things: 1) I am only human and have an expendable amount of energy each day and 2) My body is NOT capable of pushing itself to maximum capacity day in and day out. It was such a RELIEF to come to terms with these things. My mindset surrounding exercise shifted from striving for perfection to simply doing my personal best, using whatever energy I had in me for the given day. This became pivotal at the beginning of my chapter of life known as CHRONIC ILLNESS LAND. Chronic illness limits me in so many ways. I can either just throw in the towel when I have bad days or give the mere 15% of energy I have in the tank that day. Besides, 15% is better than nothing. Wherever you fall on the fitness continuum, know that it’s okay to have off days; days where working out is the LAST THING you want to do and days where your body will not have much energy. You have two options. You can either succumb to those negative thoughts and take the easy way out, or simply show up and make yourself even a little bit stronger than you were yesterday. Now, which option sounds better to you?
MISTAKE #2: I thought I was a failure when I couldn’t push my body to give 150%, or even when I had a bad workout
Here is the thing… YOUR BODY CAN NOT PHYSICALLY HANDLE BEING PUSHED UNTIL FAILURE IN EVERY WORKOUT This is often a hard concept for newer lifters to grasp. I have had countless clients show up their session perplexed as to why I am having them squat less than they did the week before. Some will even IGNORE MY INSTRUCTIONS and do more reps because they were feeling “good”. The truth is, if you have a good coach/ trainer, each workout is strategically planned to help get you towards your goal. In the strength training world, in order to make CONTINUED AND SUSTAINABLE PROGRESS, one must take a step back for every 3 steps forward. This allows the body to rest and recover, and CNS adapt to the stress applied to it. Our bodies are SMART and send us signals when we need to dial back (pain, inflammation, fatigue, hormonal issues, etc). If you push your body too hard for too long, these signals will siren to alert you that it’s exhausted. Sometimes it's hard to make these judgment calls to scale back on our own. That is why I 100% recommend investing in a coach or trainer if your budget allows this. My coach and I are in synch regarding the priority to put my health first above all else. I know my limits and communicate to him when I know my body needs a little extra rest. This accountability allows for me to stay in the sport of powerlifting, in spite of my chronic illnesses. This segways into the next point…
MISTAKE #3 : I sought out advice from all the wrong people (social media influencers, fad diet schemes, random gym bros, etc)
In an era where the fitness world is heavily influenced by social media, it can be nearly IMPOSSIBLE to navigate a weight loss journey or strength progression with so much misleading information. How many different diet schemes have you read about on the internet? How many different exercise routines claim to be the ABSOLUTE best for fat loss? All of these mixed messages can be confusing!!! It can be easy to fall privy to them if you are desperate for answers. I tried everything from low carb, LOW SUGAR, low fat, and intermittent fasting, to low weights /high reps or even cardio only. TAKING THIS A STEP FURTHER, when I first entered the weight room, I had EVERY MALE IN THE GYM come up to me and offer “advice” on form, my physique, or my goals. While it was easy to get overwhelmed by these conflicting messages, what I should have done from the beginning was hire ONE knowledgeable coach to help me battle these conflicting messages. I was stubborn and neglected to do this. Thankfully, through countless hours of studying nutrition, biology, and exercise science, the truth behind such topics was finally revealed. Like the fact that there is NO SPECIAL DIET that results in a crazy fast weight loss. Carbs, sugar, fat, etc ARE NOT ATTRIBUTED TO WEIGHT GAIN. The cuprite lies in solely EXCESS CALORIE CONSUMPTION (for the majority of healthy populations). You don’t have to limit yourself to cardio in order to lose weight. You don’t have to cut out your favorite foods in order to be “fit” PER YOUR REQUEST, MANNY, YOU CAN EAT AN ICE CREAM CONE AND STILL REACH YOUR GOALS… just not an entire tub ;) Basically, you don’t have to obtain a formal education in exercise science in order to reach your goals!!! PLEASE reach out to me if you need help deciphering the truth from the fitness industry BS. THAT is what I am here for!!
MISTAKE #4: I did not understand the importance of mind-muscle connection
When I first entered the weight room, I was extremely self-conscious of how weak I was (especially with upper body strength). I never attempted pull-ups, I went too heavy on shoulder exercises and never really “felt” the right muscles working. The result was that it was not until later in my lifting career that I actually started to see definition in my back and actually FEEL my muscles engaged. I know I am not the only one who struggled with this. As a female, it can be difficult to feel the correct back muscles working, especially since we can’t SEE these muscles. It doesn’t help that the majority of us have underdeveloped lats and rear delts ALREADY due to the compromised nature of our posture (all my desk job peeps WHERE YOU AT). The biggest piece of advice I can give when it comes to training your upper body (especially for females) is to GO LIGHTER than you think you should. There is no shame in lowering the weight in order to use the CORRECT muscle groups. If your traps and neck tense up when you lift, drop the load, and really try to close your eyes and VISUALIZE your lats, rear delts, or mid back working (depending on the specific exercise). DON’T WORRY ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND YOU. This workout is about YOU and YOU only. The more you start engaging the right muscles, the easier it will be to progress in the long run. Think of it like this: which muscle group is bigger, your lats and mid back or your biceps?? If you are grinding through pullups solely with your biceps, you won’t be able to progress as fast because you are missing out on tapping into the powerhouse that is your back. Bottom line, the gym bro slinging around heavy weight like its nothing… probably ISN’T actually making himself stronger since he isn’t fully practicing the mind muscle connection. Drop the weight, go slow, and before long your upper body progress will start catching up with you!
MISTAKE #5: I let the scale define my progress
Is the scale a helpful tool for gauging progress? YES Is it also a hurtful tool if you obsess over the daily fluctuations? YES Should it be the ONLY tool you use? NO!!! Worrying over every pound you gain and lose day in and day out will drive you CRAZY! I’ve written articles on this subject several times, but scale fluctuations are inevitable because of water weight, sodium and potassium concentrations (ie going out to eat and eating high salt foods), TIME OF THE MONTH FLUID RETENTION, stress and cortisol level changes, and eating highly inflammable foods. It is not worth it to step on the scale every day and drive yourself crazy over these things. And I get it, detaching our emotions from the scale isn’t easy, but IT CAN BE DONE. On days where you are feeling bloated and lethargic, put on your favorite comfy clothes that make you feel a little better. Eat nutrient-dense foods and drink PLENTY of water to flush out the inflammation. Focus on all your body does for you and how STRONG it allows you to be! Picking up a barbell was the single GREATEST thing I did for my body image. It transformed my mindset from focusing on my limitations to EMBRACING my strengths!
Those are my mistakes! What are yours? I hope you learned a thing or two from this article and are able to refrain from making the same mistakes that I did! If there is anything I can ever do to help you out, PLEASE let me know!