Everyone makes new year’s resolutions in January. You probably did too. Maybe you decided to kick the old smoking habit, spend more time with your family, or start a new hobby. The most common new year’s resolutions have to do with fitness though. It is one of the most popular resolutions because it is so hard for sedentary Americans to stay on top of. Labor intensive jobs are more rare now days, we drive everywhere instead of walking, and high calorie foods are cheap and readily available. It is important because obesity ranks as the number two killer of Americans, second to tobacco use, with 400,000 deaths per year(Cover Figure). That is almost 17% of total deaths in this country per year. This is tragic because obesity is a completely preventable disease.
So now you know why going to the gym is important in today’s society. It is probably not January anymore and based on statistics; if you are still not going to your gym you are not alone. Most new gym goers have quit showing up well before February is over. That leads us to the title of this article: “5 Mistakes New Gym Goers Make”.
1.Going Straight to the treadmill and staying there
This is the number one mistake, if you do this you are not likely to reach your goals. Sure, you are getting your sweat on and burning calories; but this will not work for long. Our bodies are very good at getting efficient with repetitive movement. After 5 or 6 weeks your heart and lungs will be strong but your body composition will stop changing. If you hang out at gyms for much time at all you will see this demographic of people. They continue to try to eat less and spend more time sweating on a treadmill for more and more time each day. This can only go on for so long. They end up always feeling hungry and frustrated trying to eat less and sweat more day after day, month after month, until they eventually give up not seeing the results they saw in the first six weeks. This leads me to point number 2.
2.Staying away from resistance training
Resistances training, weights and lifting things, is not just for athletes or bodybuilders. It can be intimidating for a new gym goer to go into the squat rack or by the dumbbells because of all the strong and ripped people there. While free weight training is the number one way to add muscle and get in shape; you do not have to start there. Doing bodyweight exercises on the mat, in the corner, or using resistance machines is way better than just doing endless cardio. This is because it adds muscle. Adding muscle is not just for show. Adding muscle builds your metabolism. This means you can burn more calories the more muscle you add. If you build muscle, then you can even burn more calories in your sleep or at home just watching TV. This is the secret to weight loss and changing your life for good.
3. Choosing a gym based on price alone
There are a lot of options when it comes to gyms. Finding the right one for you is key. If you are a motivated former athlete, without a lot of cash, who just needs a place to train, maybe a big box (like 24 Hour Fitness or Crunch) is a good idea. The problem with these gyms is that they are not personal. The business model is to sell way more memberhips than they could ever actually fit in their facility. They assume you will most likely show up two or three times then completely stop showing up, but keep paying that $20 a month just to make you feel better. They know this and would like to keep it that way. What these gyms lack is “community”. Wherever you go you need to find a community. A place where you will have friends on the same path as you that will hold you accountable, and give you energy to keep going even when it is tough. The best gyms are small local gyms ran by caring people who will remember not only your name, but ask how you are doing and check up on progress. These gyms come in many shapes, sizes and flavors. Some are small one-on-one personal training gyms, others are small group training facilities, and still others are warehouse style gyms teaching functional fitness with a competitive atmosphere. Whatever flavor you choose make sure that this gym has a “community” that you can thrive in. This is another secret to reaching your fitness and health goals.
4. Doing endless crunches
Fat spot reduction is a myth. If you have a trouble area like your flat tire of a stomach, trying to burn it off with thousands of crunches a day will only leave you with a case of back pain and some strong abdominal muscles. Fat distribution is based on genetics. Men tend to store it in their belly, low back, and face. Women tend to store it in their hips, legs, low back, face ,and breasts. The place you will put it on first and take it off last are one and the same. You have to reduce fat over the entire body and many times, genetically the last place it burns off is around the stomach. The only way you will see those abs is by getting leaner, not endless ab exercises. A disciplined nutrition program is the secret to six pack abs. This saying is overstated but it is still true, “Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym”.
5. Having no clear goal
Another saying that I live by personally and have written on my mirror for years is, “those that fail to plan, plan to fail”. With no clear goal and plan to get to the gym is not much help. It is like taking your car to a shop and having all the tools to fix it with none of the blueprints to success. This is why talking to a personal trainer is such a helpful strategy. It is like having a guide that understands how to read maps and a compass to take you where you want to go. Unless you spend hours reading and doing research yourself, a good trainer is invaluable in helping you define your goal, and building a program to get you there.
Data for the Cover Figure and in “Trend of the Month” are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More information is available on the CDC Web site: www.cdc.gov.
By Josh Sargeant
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