There’s no denying that the gym can be a daunting place. So many machines. So many people. SO MUCH TERROR. Unfortunately, when this lack of knowledge is coupled with an inability to ask for help you’ve got a recipe for disaster. A quick scan around the gym before a workout often has me cringing involuntarily – I see a lot of people doing some pretty questionable things. So this week I sat down with Fitness First’s National Personal Training Manager, Michael Cunico, to chat to him about the most common mistakes he sees around the gym. And this is what he had to say…
“To a certain degree there’s an element of ego that comes with exercising in a gym environment; it reminds me of when I get lost and I don’t want to ask for directions, I simply want to work things out myself. The difference though, is that not asking for help when I’m lost will simply waste time, while not asking for help in a gym environment can be frustrating and potentially dangerous.
A lack of results due to a lack of structure will quickly railroad the best of intentions, while an injury can temporarily halt progress altogether. I would absolutely recommend you get help when embarking on an exercise program. In any other area this is common – if you’re not sure how to cook, you’ll go to a cooking class; if you want to learn how to hit a golf ball, your best option is to learn from a professional. Exercise is exactly the same: it’s worthwhile getting some help prior to starting.
Not getting help at the beginning may lead to a second problem – no plan. Our bodies are incredible machines that have the ability to adapt to a training stimulus over time. However without a plan of attack your body may not ever get an opportunity to adapt to a certain training stimulus. If you yo-yo between training plans or just use whatever is free when you arrive at the club, your body cannot take advantage of one of the key principles in training: progressive overload.
Progressive overload is the process of supplying your body with more challenging training stimuli over time, most commonly seen in resistance training as additional weight, but also total volume or increasing range of motion. This process forces the body to go through a process called super-compensation, which helps it to push further than it could in your previous workout. Over time, this is what allows athletes to lift more, run faster and improve movement capability.
The fitness industry doesn’t always make it easy for consumers either. Trends come and go, controversy brings attention and attention can be profitable. But when we’re all looking for the quickest path from A to B (i.e a goal weight, a 10km or lifting PB) it can be hard to come to terms with the idea that progress isn’t always flashy. It can be a grind, it can stall, there will be days when the scale isn’t moving where you want it to and the bar suddenly feels like a tonne when you were crushing the same weight just last week.
Stay the course – and stick to the basics of nutrition and exercise. A diet predominately filled with whole foods and an exercise plan that incorporates cardiovascular and strength training with some movement training sprinkled in is a great starting point. And always be wary when someone claims that their way is the only way to do something – this seems to happen a lot when the person making the claim has something to gain from it.”
Michael Cunico is the National Personal Training Manager for Fitness First Australia. He is responsible for driving fitness programming innovations and the personal training business of the organisation. With approximately 1,200 personal trainers in Fitness First, Michael has spent the majority of his fitness career working directly with trainers and has delivered training to thousands of trainers both in Australia and abroad.
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