15 Ways To Avoid Sabotage At The Gym

by Isadora Baum, CHC

Working out is great for the mind, body, and soul, but often life gets in the way of allowing us to follow through on our workout plans and stick to a regular schedule. Mental and physical barriers can cause us to sabotage our gym efforts, and usually, it's right when we are starting to make progress.

As a certified health coach, it can be tricky to encourage my clients to maintain an exercise regimen that they love. Whether it's about finding time for it in the day, amidst work appointments, family engagements and long commutes, or just not really feeling into it, exercise time can certainly get cut. While it's important to find types of exercises that make you happy, as that is the true way you will internally motivate yourself to stick with the program, it's also critical to prioritize it as a set appointment and to not let physical and mental barriers get in the way. Of course if you are injured, you should take a break and see a doctor, as you don't want to worsen the injury; yet, if you are battling mental blocks and soreness, they can be needlessly sabotaging your health efforts. Here are fifteen ways to keep yourself strong and motivated.

1. Taking On Too Much

"The quickest way that we can sabotage our time at the gym is by doing too much too soon," says running coach and blogger Susie Lemmer, over email correspondence with Bustle. If you are beginning a new exercise routine, start small. Baby steps can help you achieve a larger goal and will promote consistency, rather than overwhelm. "Habits that start sustainably and are almost 'too small' at first have a much higher chance of sticking over time," says Todd Nief, owner of South Loop Strength & Conditioning, over email with Bustle. Stick to a couple sessions, or even just one, a week to get started.

2. Work With A Trainer

While training sessions can be pricy, they are also totally worth it in building strength, learning the ropes and having an accountability partner. "Invest a bit in your time and your future by hiring a trainer," says Lemmer. Even one session a week will help get you in the flow, and you can learn a lot from the instructor and then apply that bodywork and form to solo gym time during the week. Even if training isn't plausible long-term, that initial assistance will help get you started and in proper form.

3. Attend Classes

Classes are really fun and are often lead by super motivational instructors. It's also the perfect setting to make new friends, ones that you can go out for smoothies with post-workout or text before class to hold you accountable. Personally, I have made so many friends from classes, and it's a pleasure to see them each week. "Join a gym or a fitness-class-pass company like Class Pass, even for a month, and get your money's worth by trying everything," says Lemmer.

4. Learn The Techniques

Before beginning a new regimen, learn the basic techniques and do some research. "Learn the correct and effective way to exercise," advises Lemmer, as poor form can result in injury, soreness and burnout and cause you to take a break in your workout efforts. Ask a trainer for advice or fellow exerciser for tips. Once you're more informed, it'll be easier to stick with it and see results.

5. Aim For Consistency

Consistency is so important for developing a habit. "Consistency is key when you are starting out," says Lemmer. If you don't think you can workout five days a week, don't shoot for that. Unrealistic expectations will only backfire and sabotage your efforts. Instead, aim for what realistically works for you and your schedule. Let's say you can do three cardio sessions a week (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) and yoga on Sunday mornings. Pencil it in, and promise to keep the routine for at least three weeks. I pencil it in, I set my clothes next to my bed at night, and I put them on first thing in the morning and go," says certified health coach Sheila Petersen, over email with Bustle.

6. Vary It Up

Doing the same workout over and over can get boring, and such boredom can lead to sabotage. Switch up different exercises during the week to keep your mind and body excited. Also, different classes and machines work various muscle groups, which will enhance performance. Step outside of your comfort zone, and try new moves.

7. Partner Up

Research shows that working out with others boosts performance and motivation. There is a strength in numbers, as watching others work out hard causes us to want to mimic their actions. "Group sessions have the ability to keep participants engaged over time so that they can progress," says Nief. Also, working out with a buddy keeps you accountable. You wouldn't want to bail on your friend, right? By making a promise to another person, you're more likely to stick with it.

8. Don't Compare Yourself To "Fitspo"

Many of the images on the internet are photoshopped, so it's unrealistic to try and compare yourself to those bodies and transformation stories. It can also be hard to feel good about yourself and your gym efforts if you keep feeling inadequate to those around you. Don't worry about media or other exercisers at the gym, but rather focus solely on your own progress. Negative thoughts can definitely derail us from sticking with a health habit.

9. Block Out Discouraging Influences

While friends and family love and support us, there is a fine line when it comes to healthy behaviors, such as limited drinking, eating well, and going to the gym. Jealousy exists, and unfortunately when others feel that their personal willpower isn't high enough to make the same changes you are, they may often offer discouraging words to make themselves feel better. Stay strong despite criticism, and instead, say how wonderful your new gym routine has been making you feel.

10. Eat Properly

Limiting acidic foods, heavy meals, and excess fiber before working out is really important for allowing you to get through a session stomach-pain free. Experts share that what you eat before and after exercise matters in your performance. Prior to working out, stick with complex carbs and a little protein, such as a banana with a dab of nut butter or a Greek yogurt with probiotics to keep your gut under control. After working out, consumption of protein, between 20g-30g is key, as it helps repair muscles, allowing you to work out all over again the next day.

11. Don't Use Social Media During Workouts

Distracting yourself with Instagram, Facebook, and texting can lower performance and results. When you're at the gym, try and be as efficient with your time as possible to get the best workout you can. Phones are annoying to other gym-goers as well, so use it for music, with headphones, only. You might be able to read articles on an elliptical or bike, as those don't necessarily require arms, but it still will lower your intensity.

12. Don't Be Scared To Sweat

Worrying about your appearance can cause you to avoid the gym or a heavy sweat. However, sweating at the gym can promote attraction, so grab a towel and keep going. Feeling insecure about appearances should not interfere with you health goals, as everyone around you is trying to do the same exact thing. Bring extra clothes and hop in the shower after, and get excited about doing something that makes you feel your best.

13. Don't Be Intimated By Weight Room

Research shows that strength training prevents osteoporosis and improves cognition, so overcoming fear in the weight room will help you be healthier and achieve great results. When in the weight room, zone in on your muscles. "Focus on how the muscle is contracting from the start to finish of each rep. If you aren't feeling the "squeeze" from start to finish, you're probably cheating to make it easy, " says Martin Kimpston, muscle activation techniques specialist at Strictly Muscles, over email with Bustle. Ask a trainer how to use the machines and change settings so that you can perform your movements correctly and effectively. If the machines scare you still, you can grab some free weights or just a mat for bodyweight exercises.

14. Understand Life Happens

"Life happens. We get busy at work, we have family issues, we travel, we get sick - all kinds of things can happen to derail a routine," says Nief. We can't be perfect, and when things come up, it's important to adjust accordingly and try and find a solution elsewhere. If a work deadline holds you up at the office, schedule a make-up session for the following day when things have slowed down. "When these unplanned circumstances inevitably happen, we are sometimes very hard on ourselves, and we quit since we feel like we're already failing by missing a week of training," Nief continues. Be easier on yourself, and get back on track.

15. All Or Nothing Mentality

"Many people get very excited about a new fitness program and are highly motivated to get to the gym for the first few weeks. However, after the initial burst of energy wears off, they struggle to maintain a routine," says Nief. Try not to get discouraged when you hit a plateau or results are not as immediate as they were previously. Extremist behaviors are likely to backfire, leading us to forgo a regimen entirely out of frustration. Take small steps to achieve a larger goal, and keep everything in moderation to see long-lasting results.

Whatever is getting in the way of your exercise goals, stop now. You have the power to kick major butt in the gym and achieve long-lasting results with patience, motivation and self-love. Lose the fear and shut criticism out. Focus solely on yourself, and enjoy every moment of it!

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