Ten Tips To Help You Benefit From Your Fitness Routine, By Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, CSSD

10 ways you are sabotaging your fitness routine.

Breaking news: regular exercise is good for your physical and mental well-being. Okay, you probably already knew this. Research has shown that daily exercise comes with a long list of health benefits:

  • promoting better sleep
  • strengthening muscles
  • improving cardiovascular health
  • improving mood
  • building self-confidence
  • optimizing body composition
  • boosting metabolic health
  • boosting hormonal health

Regardless of your current fitness level or previous athletic background, exercise can do a body good. If you are starting a new exercise routine or wanting to advance your training regime, consider the following tips to help you get the most out of your fitness journey.

Rushing the journey

Whether you are exercising for weight loss or you have your mind set on participating in an athletic event – such as a local half marathon, cross fit competition, 5K, or sprint triathlon – be patient. When you embark on a new journey, motivation may be very high. You may find yourself wanting to exercise more than your plan calls for. A patient approach to gaining fitness is critical in the early stages of your fitness development. There are no quick fixes.

Buying the latest and greatest

The fitness industry can be overwhelming. Resist the urge to purchase the latest and greatest products. Instead, invest into the things that will truly help you stay consistent with your exercise regime. Examples include a professional bike fit if you are wanting to ride your bike for more than leisure. A consult with a sport dietitian to address any missing nutritional links. A coach, strength trainer, or physical therapist to help reduce the risk of an injury and to correct muscle imbalances. A smart watch to record your steps, heart rate, or distance covered. Or a massage therapist to work out your niggles and knots. Far too many individuals begin an exercise regime and quickly pour money into unnecessary supplements and impractical gear/equipment. Finally, spend your money (and time) wisely.

Too routine

Consistency should always come before variety. However, after around 6-8 weeks of routine exercising, your body will adapt to the repetitive training stimulus. To avoid a fitness plateau and to keep yourself out of a mental rut, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone. Participate in a new exercise class, add a little intensity into your workout, try to develop a new sport-specific skill, train different muscle groups, or diversify your routine. By varying your workout routine every few weeks, you’ll keep yourself out of a fitness rut. This ensures that exercise will stay enjoyable and fun.

Cardio junkie

Although cardio is great for the mind, body, and soul – giving you an incredible full-body endorphin boost – a cardio-only routine means you miss out on the body’s other needs. Cardio works your heart and it’s great to get your heart rate up, but your body also has muscles that need to be trained in a purposeful way. Weight training can help you maintain and build muscle, strengthen bones, improve balance and mobility, and boost your metabolism. Yoga can help with body awareness and breathing. A balanced exercise regime should include cardio, strength training, and mobility. Not only will this approach help you get more out of your weekly exercise routine, but you will also reduce the risk of overtraining from a cardio overload.

Skimping on your Zzzz’s!

There’s no better performance enhancer or recovery tool than sleep. Sleep doesn’t just energize you. Healthy sleep promotes muscle growth, strengthens your immune system, improves memory and mood, and helps keep hunger hormones under control. Aim for no less than 7 hours of sleep. In addition, gift yourself one day a week to wake up without an alarm. By doing this you will most likely awaken at the end of a full sleep cycle. This no-alarm approach will naturally promote the best type of restful sleep – which is something you are likely missing in a busy and rushed lifestyle.

No pain, no gain

There is no magic number of hours you need to exercise per week (or day) to reach your goals. Personalize your routine to your needs and goals. Not every workout needs to be intense. Although intensity can be good for the body, it’s easy to exercise too hard, too often. Don’t forget to keep the easy sessions easy. To optimize training adaptations and to provide different stimuli to your body, manipulating intensity is key. Always focus on quality, not quantity. Maximize fitness, not soreness.

Feeling isolated

While it can be beneficial to workout alone – honoring your own needs and listening to your body – social workouts can be a great way to stay motivated.  Try involving your family in your workouts. Perhaps join a running club. You could even plan events that are spectator friendly. Consider creating a tribe of friends to hold you accountable during your workouts. This positive support from others is imperative to keep you enjoying the exercise journey.

Afraid to fail

Fear of failure can lead to inaction. As you challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone, remind yourself that setbacks are part of the process. You don’t have to be the best at everything you do. However, by keeping yourself in a state of comfort, you have no way of discovering your strengths and unique talents. Start slow. If you find it difficult to master a new skill or complete a group exercise class, don’t give up on yourself. Nobody becomes an expert overnight.

Poor recovery

The recovery process is a continuous process that occurs from one exercise session to the next. The more organized you are with the meals and snacks that you eat between two workouts, the easier it is to recover. The better you fuel and hydrate before and during the workout, the more effective the recovery process. Although not every workout will warrant the consumption of a protein drink, post workout consumption of carbohydrates and protein may help restore muscle glycogen. Furthermore, it helps repair damaged muscle tissue and provide important nutrients for your immune system. If you struggle with appetite post workout or find yourself rushing from your workout to the next to-do in your daily routine, consider a protein powder to help you consume the protein, carbohydrates, and fluids that your body needs to kick start the recovery process.

No goals 

While an idea of a goal may seem doable in your head, it isn’t until you break down the steps to reaching that goal that you may begin second-guessing yourself and asking “Is this goal really possible?” Give yourself realistic goals that gently stretch your comfort zone. A stretch goal (big scary goal) may also be helpful for added motivation. Be mindful that it is within the process of attempting to achieve a goal that the real transformation occurs. Don’t wait to achieve a goal to be proud of yourself.


Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, CSSD is a nationally recognized sports dietitian, 2x author, and triathlon coach. She is the author of Essential Sports Nutrition and the 365-day Running Journal.

Through her renowned successful private practice, Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition, she helps athletes from around the globe prepare physically and nutritionally for athletic events.

As an elite endurance triathlete who has completed 16 Ironman-distance triathlons (including participating in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii five times) and placed 1st overall female amateur at the 2017 Ironman Chattanooga, she uses her real-life experiences and formal education to help educate, motivate, and guide athletes to achieve athletic and nutritional excellence in training and on event day.

Here unique “health first, performance second” approach of applying sports and daily nutrition science to real-world settings has gained popularity with many age-group and professional athletes who want practical and realistic nutrition and training strategies when preparing for athletic events.

Marni lives near the mountains in Greenville, South Carolina with her husband Karel and three four-legged kids: Campy, Madison, and Ella. Finally, you can contact Marni through her website, www.trimarnicoach.com.

All bloggers receive a small compensation for their contributions.*

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