…and how to avoid them

by Brandon Thomas, ACE Certified Trainer and Managing Director for Planet Fitness

A common factor in not succeeding in an exercise program is inherent in the program itself. Therefore, it is important to design a workout program around your lifestyle. I see a lot of people making the mistake of committing to the gym for two hours per day, six days a week when they are transitioning from a mostly sedentary lifestyle. This approach often results in a very strong first month, with a drastic drop in attendance toward the end of the second or third month. My experience has shown me that this is usually due to underestimating our regular commitments outside of work. By jumping into such a strenuous workout schedule too early you are adding 12-15 hours of commitments to your already busy lifestyle. All workout programs should first start with these important questions:

“What is your long-term goal?” This question will define the overall focus of your exercise program. This should also help you keep in mind why you are exercising – your motivation.

“What is your goal over the next 5-10 weeks?” Focusing on a short-term goal helps us to keep motivated by having checkpoints on the path toward our long-term goal. For weight loss, one to two pounds per week is considered healthy weight loss, and less likely come back later on.

“How many days a week can you realistically come to the gym, and how many days can you definitely commit to?” This question helps us to be realistic in designing our programs. If you can definitely come three times a week, but would like to come four, then design a program for three days. This is a mental technique that will allow you to feel good about your progress and increases adherence. The fourth day now feels like a bonus day, and you can feel great about it. If you had designed the program for four days and are constantly only able to go three days, because you are busy, that same experience now becomes negative and you feel like you aren’t sticking with your goals. Leverage your mental motivation!

“How long can you realistically spend at the gym on these days?” If you can only spend 45 minutes at the gym, then don’t commit to a 1.5-hour workout program. Many people often forget to calculate driving time and changing time into their schedule, resulting in stress due to time restraints. Sometimes, this stress is then wrongfully associated with working out.

“Do you currently have any injuries? In the last 5-10 years?” Be honest with yourself. If you have a weak shoulder, we need to address that realistically in the program design. Not spending the adequate amount of time required to rebuild and strengthen injured muscles is a common cause of injury. Make yourself earn heavier weights through adherence to strict form and incremental progress.

“Are you on any medications, and do you know how these affect your heart rate or other exercise related effects?” This is a biggie. If you are on medications affecting or controlling your heart rate, you need to speak with your doctor about beginning an exercise program and what your restrictions are. Be cautious using the national guidelines for target heart rate zones, because there are external factors involved.

Planet Fitness offers free fitness training with all of their memberships and is a great resource for helping you to succeed. Their “Design Your Own Program” will use these questions to guide the design of your fitness program. They are open and staffed 24/7, and their $10 per month membership allows you to workout whenever it’s convenient, without breaking the bank. Planet Fitness also offers full-service locker rooms, over 100 pieces of cardio equipment, cutting-edge weight machines, a stretching area, as well as both a 30-minute full body express circuit training room and a PF360 dynamic workout focused on function. With over 10 million members nationwide, their Judgement Free Zone is providing a comfortable, non-intimidating gym environment for first time gym users and experienced gym users, young and old, conditioned and deconditioned people alike.