11 Steps to Avoiding The BIGGEST Workout Mistake…That Almost Everyone Makes

For the past 19+ years, I have seen people come to the gym in an attempt to get fit, lose weight, gain weight, lower their blood pressure, stave off old age

Most of them stick around for a few months and then gradually disappear. I would estimate that this group makes up about 75% of a typical health club’s membership.

The remaining 25% become regulars. They come to the gym between 2 and 5 days a week. They usually fall into 1 of 3 groups.

  • The Cardio Junkies
  • The Weight Lifters
  • and The ‘Group Class’ Ladies

Within each of these groups, only about 25% make any significant improvements after the first 6 months.

And if my math (25% of 25% is 6.25%) is correct, that means that only 6 percent of gym-goers make any significant improvement after 6 months.


Because 94% of them make the single BIGGEST Workout Mistake…That Almost Everyone Makes.

They don’t PLAN for success.

  • They plan to lose body-fat by following the diet of the month.
  • They plan to increase their aerobic fitness by following the program recommended by Lance Armstrong.
  • They plan to sculpt their body by following training programs pulled from Men’s Health
  • And 94% of them fail.

How to Plan for Success

  1. Before you do anything else, realize that your mind and your emotions WILL determine your plan for success. You can have the perfect diet and the perfect training program, but if your mind and heart are not onside, you WILL fail….Period.
  2. Realize that you are unique and that the program / diet that works for someone else may not work for you.
  3. Understand that even if a program / diet does work for you, it may not work forever. Your body adapts to the stresses that you impose upon it.
  4. Have a definite goal. I know that it is a cliche, but make it a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
  5. Keep a journal. Track your nutrition, your workouts, your thoughts and feelings. Ups and downs. And I know that most of you will never do this. Especially the guys. But I am serious. I just can’t say enough about what a great tool a health/fitness/workout/diet journal is for guaranteeing your success. I don’t know if it forces you to be more accountable to your success. I just know that it works.
  6. Educate yourself. Hire a trainer. Ask questions. Go online. Surf through the archives of my blog.  Read a book….Something. At the very least, you should know how to improve the function of your cardio-vascular system. You should know the difference between muscular strength, power and endurance… and how to develop each of them. You should understand how important structural balance is to keeping injury free. You should know the impact that different types of food have upon your body. Learn about the importance of sleep to your fitness success.
  7. Step outside of your comfort zone. Try something new. Apply your knowledge to a new training method.
  8. Remember that your fitness progress requires your fitness program to progress.
  9. Enjoy yourself. This isn’t work. If you don’t like what you are doing, fin something else.
  10. Rest and relax. It is during your periods of rest that your body repairs and improves upon the functions of your body necessary to handle tomorrow’s workout
  11. This one is up to you…figure it out for yourself.

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  1. So true about the mental factor – your mind has to be in it or you won’t succeed. And I’m a big fan of writing things down – you can really see what you’re doing and learn from it. If you just keep things in your head, often times, you don’t remember them accurately.

  2. Great tips, I’ll give the journal the accountability points. Without it I’d definitely be in the group that slowly leaves the gym after a few months. With it I may leave for a week, but once I have to write that down I’m back the next week.

  3. I think the journal makes it much harder to B.S. yourself.

    It’s easy to rationalize in your head that you were too tired to workout or that the cheesecake you ate was not that many calories.

    As soon as you have to put pen to paper, it becomes more real…for me anyway

  4. It’s the BS factor that I wanted to control. I haven’t used a personal trainer yet. My rationale has been that if I’m going to pay a trainer I want to pay them to teach me things that I don’t already know, not pay them to babysit my willpower.

    So my first goal is to be honest with myself. I need to find out how fit I can get on my own with my VERY basic knowledge of eat right and move my body. When that isn’t enough I’ll look for advice. But, to figure out ‘if it’s not enough’ then I need to be really honest about if I am actually eating right and moving my body to the best of my ability.

    Keeping the journal does that for me.

  5. Nice post Doug!

    As a Certified Personal Trainer & gym rat myself, I can relate to your observations. Creating a fit & healthy lifestyle begins with desire…how bad do you really want it. Once you get into the gym/workout routine you enjoy, most people get hooked – WOOT!
    Also agree that journals are great for accountability.

    Be Well,

    -Max @NU_FiT

  6. This is a great article, and I can totally relate. I was one of those unsuccessful gym stats a few years ago. I quit excersing and got pretty fat. Shocking, I know 🙂
    It took a 90 day workout program for me. I knew no matter how hard the workout was I could keep at it for that long. I am just past my 90 days and will be ordering p90x very soon. If you are interested in p90x or the work out I just completed Power 90 leave me a message. I really enjoyed power 90.

  7. I have a number 11 for all gym newbies!

    Do not think because the treadmill/bike/cross trainer has told you that you burned 100kcals that you can go eat 100kcals, it doesn’t work like that! Not only is the human body fantastic and conserving calories when it feels it risks losing them but gym machines tend to exaggerate, like by 200% over exaggerate!
    The machines are designed to make you think “oh I like using that machine” and return to it. The reason many people think they like a machine is because it has managed to supress the guilt they had at the vendi signature hot chocolate at starbucks prior to the workout!

    Another tip would be that if your in the gym hogging a machine, use it properly, don’t stand there moving in slow motion reading the kindle, its frustrating to watch for those queueing and it indicates your not pushing your body anywhere near what it requires to make any real difference to your heart health or waist line.

    And finally, though exercise is very important when trying to lose weight, in reality it matters more what you eat nutritional wise (esp. kcals) then it does how long you spent on the treadmill (or any other machines) going to a gym does not give anyone a written certificate to eat any and everything they fancy.

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