Five mistakes that could sideline your fitness comeback

February 8, 2014

OK, it’s that time of year when the holidays and cold temperatures have you chomping at the bit to get in shape, but before you dive headfirst into a routine, consider a few common mistakes that could end your fitness journey before it gets started.

Beware of impact

If you need to lose a few pounds and start off by doing exercises that incorporate a lot of jumping, running and pounding, you’ll more likely get injured than get in shape. This is because every extra pound of body weight adds three to four times the amount of pressure on your knees and other joints, and doing high-impact moves like box jumps or running could be a recipe for disaster. Instead, take the time to strengthen your muscles and lose weight first, and once you are in better shape, begin to incorporate more advanced athletic movements when the body is ready for more difficult exercises.

Avoid overtraining

Most people associate getting in shape with constant hard work, but there are other things to consider that must be present in your program to achieve success. Resting muscles and making sure they recover properly from tough workouts is just as important. If you work out two hours a day, six days a week and don’t give your muscles time to recuperate, then your results will be minimal and you’ll be at great risk of overtraining. Signs of overtraining include joint pain, constant muscle soreness, insomnia and low energy. These can be a buzzkill to any program. A good rule of thumb is weight training should take no more than 30 to 45 minutes per session, and you plan at least one to three days a week where you rest and give your body time to recover.

Don’t skip body parts

If you only concentrate on the muscles you like working and neglect the ones you don’t, you could be slowly creating a very dangerous situation that could land you in the emergency room. This is because failure to work opposing muscle groups creates imbalance and puts pressure on joints and connective tissue, putting you at greater risk of injury. A few good examples of imbalances that cause injuries are weak hamstrings that put pressure on the knees and lower back, weak rear deltoids - back of the shoulders - put pressure on the rotator cuff, and weak abdominals put pressure on the lower back. When creating a new workout plan, it’s important to consider weaknesses and strength and make a plan that will promote muscular balance.

Take breaks

Most people think spending more time in the gym will give them an advantage, but there is a limit - your workouts can become counterproductive if you’re not careful. Spending too much time in the gym can raise cortisol levels in your body, causing some unpleasant results. Cortisol - the stress hormone - is naturally produced in the adrenal gland but can be elevated by too much physical stress and not enough rest. If cortisol levels become too high, your body will begin to lose lean muscle mass and store body fat, and your workouts will be doing more damage to your body than good. This is why it’s a great idea to take a week off from working out two to four times a year and allow your body time to recuperate.

Cycle your workouts

The average person enters the gym with one purpose in mind, to get a great workout, but they sometimes fail to understand that achieving this goal doesn’t always mean working so hard you can hardly walk up the steps the next day. Don’t get me wrong; hard work is important, but the body responds best to small, incremental changes that slowly and consistently increase the intensity of the workload. Failure to do this correctly can lead to quick results followed by a steady free fall into a plateau that will yield little to no results. To avoid this, cycle the intensity of the workouts to peak every three to six weeks, and you will constantly make progress.

So as your quest to get back in shape continues, be sure not to overdo it, or your journey could be over before it gets started.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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