Avoid the 5 Biggest Workout Mistakes

Woman Working Out

Verywell / Sabrina Jiang

Sometimes, exercisers with the best intentions may be undermining their own progress with these five common exercise mistakes. Not seeing the results you hope for can be frustrating and confusing.

So what makes one workout plan succeed and another one fail? There could be a number of factors involved. But in many cases, the cause can be traced to one of these five blunders. If your exercise plan isn't yielding the fitness gains you had hoped for, see if you are making one of these common workout mistakes.

Should You Go To the Gym Every Day?

Going to the gym every day is not inherently harmful, but it's not necessary to maintain and improve your fitness. While many experts recommend taking at least one rest day every week, it is OK to have an active rest day.

The keys to exercising every day are avoiding injury, which could keep you from exercising during a long recovery period, and avoiding boredom, which can cause waning motivation. Read on to avoid some of the biggest exercise mistakes.


Watch Now: How to Avoid the 5 Biggest Workout Mistakes

Repeating Workouts

Working out every day is great for starting and maintaining a habit and integrating exercise into your regular life. But repeating the same workout mode, intensity, or duration day after day can make you miss out on some results.

Why? Your body adjusts to the daily workload. If you are participating in intentional weight loss, you may hit a plateau. If you are trying to reach specific fitness goals, you might find that after a certain point you aren't making the progress you expected.

Try This Instead

Experts recommend challenging yourself gradually, adding intensity to beat the plateau, but doing so conservatively so you don't overdo it. Develop a workout schedule that involves different activities, different intensity levels, and different session lengths.

For example, if you normally do 40 minutes of walking, keep that activity on your workout schedule two or three days per week. But as an added challenge, walk for 60 to 75 minutes one day during the week.

On the remaining days, mix in a cycling workout and a day of walk/run intervals. If you are healthy enough for vigorous activity, add HIIT workouts, which have been shown to be effective at burning fat

Getting the Most From Your Workouts

To get the most from your workouts, follow these key tips:

  • Vary your workout intensity to avoid plateau in your progress.
  • Plan meals and snacks in advance so you are strategic about your calorie and nutrient intake.
  • Include cardio, strength training, and stretching for a well-balanced exercise routine.
  • Keep up with non-exercise physical activity like cleaning, running errands, and taking the stairs.
  • Plan your post-workout fuel-up to include nutritious food options.

Lack of Nutrition Strategy

When you add exercise to your routine, your patterns of hunger may change. Studies show that food choices after exercise are variable, with some people experiencing diminished appetite, and others feeling an increased desire to snack on energy-dense foods.

Not having a plan for what you might eat to re-fuel after a workout could lead to making food choices that are not optimal for your health and nutrition. Some evidence shows that eating whole food sources of protein is best for repairing muscle and recovery from exercise.

Try This Instead

Planning a nutrition strategy to align with your workout routine is helpful to make sure your nutrition routine is targeting your overall goal. According to the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, planning meals and snacks a few days in advance leads to a more nutritious diet overall.

Take some time on the weekends to plan your meals for the week. When you are hungry right after a workout, you'll already have nutritious food on hand. As an added bonus, this also makes grocery shopping easier and can simplify your weeknight dinner decision making.

If weight loss is your goal, a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day or 3,500 calories per week is thought to result in about a one-pound weight loss each week.

Engaging in Lopsided Training

A good fitness schedule includes cardiovascular (aerobic) training, strength training, and flexibility work (stretching). A balanced workout program ensures that your body stays healthy and fit.

But each of these three components also has benefits. If you skimp on one or two of them, you will end up with a lopsided workout program and you won't reap the full rewards of your exercise sessions.

Try This Instead

Most weight-loss workout programs include aerobic activity so it's unlikely that you'll have to add cardio. But you should also make sure that you do two to three days of strength training, as well.

If time is an issue, do a circuit workout and complete short intervals of strength exercises between 5 to 10 minute bursts of cardio. Then, finish every workout with 10 to 15 minutes of stretching so that you maintain healthy joints and an injury-free body. By incorporating more variety into your schedule, you can work out every day and still avoid burnout.

Exercise Recommendations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that adults need at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-level exercise each week. If you exercise vigorously, you need 75 to 150 minutes of exercise per week. Of this, strengthening exercises should be done twice per week. Remember you can split this up over several sessions!

Decreasing Non-Exercise Activity

It is great if you go to the gym every day and complete a killer workout. But it is also important to get lots of activity like commuting on foot or bike, gardening, housework, shopping, taking the stairs, and other non-exercise physical activity. It can be tempting to develop a mindset that, because you worked out at the gym, you earned the right to lounge the rest of the day.

Try This Instead

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) should account for a significant percentage of the calories that you burn each day. NEAT is any physical activity that isn't intentional exercise, like walking around your home or workplace, cooking, even fidgeting.

When your NEAT decreases, your metabolism slows, you don't burn as many calories each day, and you don't lose weight.

If your workouts drain you to the point of exhaustion, it may be time to re-evaluate your program. Make sure that your high-intensity workouts are relatively short and that you include some easy recovery days during the week to give your body a chance to recuperate and rebuild.

Also, keep in mind that it's not always the workout that is causing the lack of NEAT. Sometimes the choice to lay on the couch or sit in a chair all day is made out of habit rather than genuine fatigue. Try to skip the afternoon nap and go for an energizing walk instead. If you are stuck at work, see if you can use a standing workstation or take short breaks to get out of your chair and move around.

Investing in Supplements

Do you refuel during or after your workout with sports drinks or bars? If so, you're probably erasing the calorie deficit that you just earned. In some cases, athletes need sports drinks, but for most exercisers, water is the best choice for hydration.

Reconsider your post-workout protein bar. Not all supplement bars are created equal, so pay close attention to nutrition facts labeling to ensure you know the amount of each macronutrient (protein, fat, and carbohydrate), sugar, sodium, and calories per serving.

Try This Instead

Instead of investing in bars, drinks, or supplements, invest in a visit with an accredited sports nutritionist or registered dietitian. They will help you to make sure you are getting enough of the right kind of calories to recover adequately from your workout.

A registered dietitian can help you decode and perhaps debunk the claims of the supplement that you want to use.

A Word From Verywell

Regardless of your goals, exercise and nutritious eating habits should always be a part of your daily routine. While going to the gym every day or speaking with a registered dietitian are great options, sometimes they are not accessible for every individual's budget, finances, or physical conditions. No matter what your circumstance may be, starting small and working on setting achievable goals is a sustainable step toward bettering your health.

10 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Malia Frey, M.A., ACE-CHC, CPT
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.