We all have to start somewhere. Especially when it comes to taking care of ourselves both mentally and physically. No time is ever too late to better ourselves.
For me, since I was never athletic or “fit” in any shape or form, I definitely started from the way bottom. Throughout college I stepped into a gym on and off but never really knew what I was doing, which lead to lots of mistakes and wasted time that really didn’t bring any wanted results.
I decided to write up 10 mistakes I’ve made that did NOT help me but rather pushed me further from my fitness goals in the past and how you can avoid them- especially if you are just starting out with your fitness journey.
No time is ever too late to better ourselves.
1. Mindset and Goal: I only wanted to be skinny:
Instead of setting a goal to be healthy, my main goal in fitness was to be skinny. Many people that I would speak to often said, “Well Nilma, you are already thin and skinny, you will fly away if you lose anymore weight.” In some sense, comments as such would make me angry inside but in reality, I think it was always my fault for using the word skinny. There are so many women out there who aim to be skinny and end up with all sorts of eating disorders or health conditions as well as being very unhappy. Can we just let women be whatever shape they want to be? I changed my mindset and goal to be strong and healthy, the hard work became easier and the results came racing in. Create a goal and a mindset that is greater than skinny. Decide on something that is unique and important to you, not just a number on a scale.
2. Eating Habits:
Lack of adequate nutrition can cause so much harm to our bodies. Thankfully, I have finally learned that getting good results from a good workout go far beyond the number of reps I do at the gym. They start and end with FOOD. Food is not the enemy, it’s all about making the right choices. In the past, one of my biggest mistakes was with the type of food I was eating and how much or how little I ate. I was eating lots of starchy carbohydrates such as white rice or roti with very little intake of fiber, protein, or good fats. I was often eating foods high in sodium and oil. Breakfast didn’t exist for me which is also an elephantine mistake to make. I was also eating lots of “easy” meals such as quick packaged foods, Ramen noodles, or chips. Most of these packaged foods consist of an endless amount of sodium, sugar, and lots of other random ingredients that our bodies have a difficult time digesting and can cause water retention and bloating. The occasional workouts that I did, I was either performing it on an empty stomach or something that would beat the energy right out of me before even working out. I thought having only water in my belly was enough. WRONG. Your pre and post workout nutrition is just as important as other meals throughout the day. You should always eat something before a workout so that your body has enough fuel to push through it. You don’t go on a road trip with an empty tank in your car, right? Then why should your body do that? It’s important to give your body time to fully digest your pre-workout meal or snack — about an hour if you had an actual meal or 30 minutes if you had a snack. After a workout I would try to eat as few calories as possible to complement the calories I had just burned. In reality this idea of skipping out on can lead to slow or no results, a weak body, a confused metabolism, and muscle catabolism (breaking down of the muscle tissue). So don’t run away from a meal, instead run towards one that’s got all the right stuff.
3. I let the scale dictate my progress:
Whenever I returned from a workout, I would make my way straight to my bathroom and jump right on the scale. It sounds silly but lots of people do it. Understanding body composition is very crucial when wanting to reach fitness goals. Though I still don’t fully understand it all yet, something that I have learned is that the scale should not be used to justify results. The scale is what causes many people to quit their fitness journey before even reaching any goals. If you are strength training, then you are building muscle. More muscle = more fat burned. The scale might tell you that you still weigh the exact same as when you first started working out. The scale is not taking into consideration that you just put on some muscle mass! So instead of using the scale to justify your results, take before and after photos of yourself, keep taking photos of all your mini gains and pay attention to how your clothes are fitting!
4. The treadmill was the only thing I wanted to do:
The treadmill is a great tool for getting that dreaded dirty “c-word” (aka cardio) in but it sucks. This is my personal opinion because I hate running. But it was the easiest machine to reach out to when I was trying to get fit the first time. However, the treadmill also made me hate working out. Why do things that make you hate fitness? Instead, I’m finally learning that there are so many other methods that can help you get the yucky cardio into your routine. To name a few: HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), elliptical, simple step ups on a bench or box stool, stair master, rowing machine, battle ropes, sled work, jump Ropes, kettlebell swings, etc.
5. Machine Intimidation!
I think this is probably one of the biggest reasons why many people, especially women, don’t do strength or weight training. I remember when I first joined LA Fitness a while back before my wedding, I would walk in, go straight to the cardio area and watch the people down below training with weights in awe and intimidation. One day I finally went down to the weight machines with a friend and I developed a safe zone routine. Eventually I stopped going to the gym because I was so bored with what I was doing and I was still too scared to try anything else. Fear is always a mistake. You have to let go of feeling scared if you want to succeed especially when it comes to fitness. What better place to face your fears than right in front of that spotless gym mirror?
6. Trying to take shortcuts:
I strongly believed that taking in less calories would help me shed pounds and become toned so I ate as little as possible. This quick method did nothing but cause my weight to fluctuate like crazy, making me have a lot of stored fat in all the wrong places. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a magical pill, tea, or detox diet will make you look like an athlete. What will make you look and feel strong, fit, and healthy is HARD ASS CONSISTENT WORK and proper nutrition.
7. Not getting enough sleep:
Exercising not only makes us sleep better but sleeping also helps us exercise better. Back when my lifestyle was much different, I was barely sleeping enough. I was either staying up finishing up college work or out socializing and then getting about 4-5 hours of sleep to get to work on time the next morning. All of these choices were horrible for my sleep and any potential fitness goals. Sleep helps muscles repair themselves so I now try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep. So wake up early, get things done, get to bed before midnight as a start.
8. I didn’t have strong water intake:
Though I’m not a soda or a coffee drinker, I was still never drinking enough water. Of course I drank water during my meals but not throughout the day. After doing some research when I started my fitness journey, I learned that the more water I drink, the less water my body will retain! SCORE! So I ordered a 2 liter bottle off Amazon and haven’t looked back since. Drinking water throughout the day helps you sweat during your workouts, skin starts to look fabulous, and you feel less bloated.
9. I didn’t do my own research:
I was a little hard headed and blind. I honestly used to think my lifestyle was normal and healthy. I never bothered to learn from others or be inspired by them to make a change in my lifestyle. In my opinion, there is SO much information out there that it is difficult to not always be learning and evolving. If you are serious about a lifestyle change, don’t only take my word for it, start doing some research on your own about health, food, and fitness. You won’t regret gaining this knowledge.
10. Giving up before giving it time:
I remember the countless times I started exercising or eating somewhat nutritional and then I gave up because I wasn’t seeing results fast enough. Don’t make this mistake. Never give up. The reality is that when you have never done something, it doesn’t come easily and naturally. Our mind and body want to quit. “It takes four weeks for you to notice a change, eight weeks for friends to notice, and twelve weeks for the rest of the world!” So give yourself 12 weeks of hard work and see if that doesn’t change everything for the better.