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Personal trainers reveal the most common mistakes people make in January

Anyone who’s been to the gym in January will know it’s a time where people suddenly embrace fitness, bringing in their new year goals by working out and eating healthy.

But by February, there’s a huge drop in gym-goers – and many people have given up their new year’s resolutions to live and healthier and fitter lifestyle.

So, as the end of the month nears are you still keeping up your fitness goals? 

As many fail, personal trainers have explained to FEMAIL how to avoid common pitfalls – from doing too much too fast to not putting together a proper plan.   

Nik Naidoo, a co-founder of strength based-platform GRNDHOUSE, who used to be a trainer for world-renowned Barry’s explained:  ‘New year, new you? My number one piece of advice I have is to forget about that.

‘It’s paramount to take progression through exercise slowly, and while this isn’t necessarily a sexy mindset to have – patience, consistency and discipline are going to be your secret weapons if you are really serious about making long lasting changes towards your fitness goals. 

‘January fitness plans are great to have in principal, but sadly a lot of these self-made promises are broken within weeks’.

Here Nik and other fitness experts reveal the common pitfalls and how to avoid them. 

Anyone who’s been to the gym in January will know it’s a time where people suddenly embrace fitness, bringing in their new year goals by working out and eating healthy. Stock image

Start small 

Tom McClelland, Head of Athletic Training UK at Virgin Active told FEMAIL the best way to get fit is to pace yourself.

‘Start small,’ he explained.

‘Set yourself a daily task that benefits your physical or mental health; and tick off that task off every day. 

‘This could be a walk, a group exercise class, a stretch/mobility session, or even just something that helps you gain some clarity on your goals’.

 Autumn Sahar, an ambassador for online fitness brand Core Balance, who provides an array of equipment to support easy and maintainable healthy lifestyle changes, added to FEMAIL: ‘: ‘During January you will be inundated with unhealthy diets which are unsustainable and a road to failing any wellness goals. 

‘These diets promise huge results for significant changes to your life. 

‘Not only are they unrealistic for long-term goals, but they’ll also make you unhappy while you follow them.

‘Instead, make small changes to your diet that you can continue such as managing portion size, eating more fruit and vegetables a day and swapping to healthier snacks.

Tom McClelland, Head of Athletic Training UK at Virgin Active advised starting small and not going too hard too fast. Stock image

Tom McClelland, Head of Athletic Training UK at Virgin Active advised starting small and not going too hard too fast. Stock image

Don’t focus on weight loss 

Tom added: ‘Try to set goals other than those focussing on aesthetics and weight loss. For example, set a goal to have more energy, or to feel more confident. 

‘Find a workout, a class or something that makes you feel good, you’ll enjoy it a lot more and therefore keep coming back.    

David Wiener, Training Specialist at AI-based fitness and lifestyle coaching app Freeletics added: ‘Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

‘It’s easy to watch someone else do the exact same exercises as you and compare yourself to them. Even if someone can do more reps than you, use a higher weight, or just make it look so much easier, don’t be discouraged. 

‘At some point everyone has to start from the beginning, just make sure you’re focused on your own personal fitness goal and aren’t getting too ahead of yourself. 

Have a clear plan with realistic goals 

Long and short term goals are important

From Aimee Victoria Long, personal trainer added: ‘Firstly set some goals that you’d like to achieve. 

‘Now for the biggest part of setting those goals is breaking them down into three parts. 

‘Short term, medium term and long term. 

‘The short term goals are the goals you will hit more easily and these are the small foundations that you can build to help you on your way to the long term goal. 

‘Each time you hit one of these small goals your motivation will increase and you’re far more likely to stick to the plan. 

‘Furthermore if you just set a long term goal of I want to lose 10kg this year then that can become quite daunting. 

‘That’s where the small milestones along the way can help you stay on track.

Nik Naidoo, a co-founder of strength based-platform GRNDHOUSE, added: ‘Not having a plan is merely exercise. It’s easy for January to come round and think, I’ll go to the gym, try and burn as many calories as possible and hope for the best, but that is unsustainable and demotivating.

‘Of course you might see some results initially but to see really long lasting changes, a plan must be put in place.

‘That means tracking your workouts, having structure, creating a sense of routine and pushing for weekly improvement – however big or small that is progression is.

‘Not having a plan at all is one thing but creating vague goals can be just as dispiriting. Goals such as “losing weight” is simply a fluffy wish – it needs to be specific.

‘Use the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) acronym to make clear objectives, for example ‘I am going to work out twice a week for 30 minutes and within the next three months I want to be able to shoulder press X kilograms’. Goals like these provide direction, motivation and a clear path to achieving success.

‘More on the process, less on the statement.

David added: ‘Don’t let missing one workout be the catalyst for you to miss a whole week of training. 

‘Being realistic about what you want to achieve is key, because when you start seeing results, you’ll be inspired to work out more and as a result stay committed to your training plan. 

‘There’s no harm in setting yourself a big goal, but break it down into smaller, micro-goals so that you can celebrate your achievements and progress often.’

Autumn added to FEMAIL:  ‘One of the things we see time and time again is people making huge changes to their lifestyle such as a big calorie deficit or committing to exercising every day when they are usually inactive. 

‘These types of huge changes usually last a week and then they return to their old habits.

‘A much more effective strategy is finding a balance in your lifestyle with small changes that can be kept up. 

‘For example, if your aim is to lose weight it’s much more likely that you’ll achieve your goal by setting yourself a goal to lose a couple of pounds a week. 

‘For people wanting to become more active in 2022 who usually don’t exercise, set a goal to exercise 2-3 times a week with a mixture of activities throughout the week.

Tom explained it's important to find a work out that works for you, which could be yoga (pictured)

Tom explained it’s important to find a work out that works for you, which could be yoga (pictured)

Not knowing why you’re getting fit

Nik explained: ‘ You hear about thousands of people creating fitness goals in January but why are YOU doing it. 

‘Ask yourself why your personal goals are so important to achieve. 

‘By doing this and providing the ‘why’, it gives more meaning and context to the goal itself, and thus giving you an even better reason to stick to it.

‘Always remember the ‘why’ and your mindset will change. 

‘For example, ‘I want to lose weight because it’s going to improve my confidence and allow me to live a longer, healthier life’.

David added:  ‘Take some time to discover why you really want to get fitter and make 2022 your fittest year yet.

‘You should ask yourself ‘why?’ approximately five times to get down to your core belief. 

‘Once you know why you’re doing this, remind yourself about it regularly and just focus on getting the work done. 

‘Its normal to feel unmotivated some days. However, knowing what drives you and keeps you going is powerful. Take time to ask yourself what motivates you.

Be kind to yourself

Tom added: ‘Don’t set unrealistic goals to work out five times a week when you haven’t ever done that before. 

Nico agreed, explaining: ‘Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Keep it short and sweet 

David added:  ‘Doing an hour-long workout (or more) can get seriously tiring, both mentally and physically. 

‘So, if you’re finding it hard to complete an hour-long sweat session, try breaking it down into 15-minute chunks.

‘Micro HIIT or mini bursts of intensive exercise can be beneficial for a large number of people, especially for those who do not have a lot of time to spend exercising. 

‘One of the beauties of Micro HIIT is that you can switch up your training methods by partaking in shorter burst of exercise which can be done throughout the day i.e., first thing in the morning, on your lunch break, or even when you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, or lunch/dinner to cook. 

‘Setting unrealistic timelines are incredibly unnecessary and can in fact cause more damage than good – it may even lead to injuries which would hinder progress even more.

‘I completely understand that slow and steady progression isn’t exciting, but it’s a lot more sustainable and effective in the long term than the need to gain instant gratification and always falling short.

‘Patience and consistency are care commodities these days – chase them.’  

Find a friend to work out with

Autumn said One of the biggest pitfalls when starting a new lifestyle change is doing it alone. When you’re surrounded by people whose lifestyles are a temptation for habits you’re trying to change it can be an easy way to slip up.

‘Encourage at least one person to join you in your new year health goal. For an even bigger push try and get someone you live with to join you, as you’ll be able to eat the same meals and workout together.

Don’t over do it

Tom added: ‘People tend to follow an all or nothing approach to fitness at the beginning of the year, which is generally not something that is achievable for the other 11 months of the year. 

‘This usually leads to a burn out.

‘Too much of anything is usually bad. Even stuff that’s good for you! 

‘Ask yourself, is this something I can maintain long term, not just 4-8 weeks. 

‘This’ll give you a much better relationship with the things you do to look after yourself.

David added: ‘Embrace setbacks. This is the biggest mistake people make. When people miss a session or “fall off the wagon” some days or even weeks, they see it as a reason to pack everything in. It’s not, it’s an opportunity.

‘Training is never linear; it’s more like a long and windy road, with plenty of speed bumps.

‘Accept off days and don’t beat yourself up when you do have setbacks. It’s not about what you didn’t do that particular day, it’s what you do throughout the year that counts. 

Dani Coleman, Los Angeles Lead Trainer for P.volve agreed, telling FEMAIL: ‘One of the biggest ones I see is diving in too fast. 

‘At P.volve we believe in working smarter for your body, not necessarily harder. Your fitness plan should be sustainable and progressively built allowing your body to feel energised and empowered, not depleted. 

‘With that, it’s easy to get swept up in social media standards and vanity driven fitness. However, there are so many more mental and emotional benefits to exercise that help create a stronger mind and body connection for sustainability over vanity. Focus on feeling first! Lastly, you don’t have to go it alone! Reach out and utilize your community to help you stay motivated.

Train at 70 per cent of your pre-Christmas levels 

Aimee added: ‘If you’ve taken a good amount of time off over the festive period or are a newbie to fitness then it’s important to ease yourself back in. 

‘I see so many people go straight back into the gym and try and lift the same weight or train at the same intensity as they used to. 

‘Not only is this going to increase the risk of injury but also I guarantee you’ll be feeling so sore for the next 3-4 days that you won’t be able to move. 

‘If this happens you’re going to think to yourself things like what’s the point in exercising when it makes me feel like this. 

‘When you go back to your first workout work at around 70 per cent of what you have previously or if you’re a newbie just ease your way in to your sessions and gradually each week you can increase the intensity and volume.

Find a work out that works for you

Tom added: ‘You might be a yoga lover, or you might prefer to hit the strength training and HIIT group exercises. Or perhaps swimming is what you love the most. 

‘Explore all the exercise experience options available at your chosen club to see what you enjoy the most. If you enjoy what you do, you’ll keep coming back for more. 

Aimee added: ‘A huge mistake I have seen is people not doing exercise that they enjoy. 

‘They are doing the exercise because they think it will help them lose weight. This is the complete wrong way to go about things. 

‘The weight loss will be a by product of exercising and should never be the sole focus. So over January play around with different forms of exercise. 

‘Find something that you enjoy and I guarantee you’ll stick to it for far longer than you ever would of if you’d just decided to do anything so that you can lose weight. 


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