How To STOP Ruining Your Workouts!

7 min read

We’ve all been there…

You go to the gym ready for your session and you leave thinking, “well, that was a waste of time,” then you go home, stew over how rubbish your session was, get angry and determined to smash it the next day.

The next day comes and… It all happens again.

But instead of looking for answers as to why your session was so bad at the bottom of your pre-workout you really should be questioning, well, everything else.  From sleep to hydration, stress to general bad advice, there’s a whole host of external factors that could be making your gym game lame.

So here are the biggest weight training mistakes you’re most likely making, and how you can fix them to guarantee epic training sessions all.  The.  Time!

Realistic Vs. Positive Thinking

Flip over to your social media feed right now and you’ll be bombarded with videos of perfectly ripped abs, glutes, arms and people generally killing it in the gym.

Yes, these images can help serve as a source of inspiration for many people, but they can also serve as a source of despair for many others.

Think about it, if these images and videos are uploaded 24 hours a day 7 days a week they undoubtedly create the false perception that people are in jaw dropping shape year round.

The reality – this couldn’t be further from the truth!

The inexperienced viewer can become pressurised into thinking they must be in shape year-round to belong and ultimately refer to such imagery as a benchmark for their progress.

I’m all for positive thinking, but when you base your beliefs on inaccurate assumptions you are most definitely setting yourself up for a fall.

The next time you feel so close yet so far when browsing social media, ask yourself:

•             Is this photo an accurate representation of my goal?

•             Is the person in the picture of a different ethnic race?

•             How long have they been training for?

•             Has the picture involved the use of professional editing/camera skills?

•             Have they dieted down specifically for these photos?

•             Have they any off-season pictures?

•             Are they natural?

You’ll find such images, reels and stories are merely snapshots from specific periods of time and do not fall in line with your personal circumstances. As such, they are in no way an accurate representation of an individual’s day-to-day shape.

Learn to differentiate between what pictures serve as a goal and what pictures simply serve as motivation.

Rubbish Advice

It’s very easy to get confused nowadays. There is so much information out there. Notice how I said information not knowledge! We live in an information dense yet knowledge starved era of health and fitness!

Seems like everyone is some sort of “coach” whether they’ve the credentials to back it up or not…

What makes information credible? A set of abs? A 1st place trophy?

You can’t argue with results but when you fail to consider the issue of great genetics and growing problem of drug use within the industry people will obtain results no matter what even if they follow a rubbish approach.

This can prove very deceiving to the newbie or someone who has been following a hypocaloric (fat loss) diet for a prolonged period.

The mantra of “they’re in good shape, they must know what they’re talking about” can develop a conformation bias with the vulnerable dieter and thus lead to confusion away from their original plan.

The truth of the matter is most people with abs couldn’t tell you what the term protein means (prepare to embarrass a few people) and therefore shouldn’t be dishing out advice on your most important asset of all – your health.

What to do about it?

Get advice from someone who can both talk the talk and walk the walk. Not one or the other.

To get the best advice possible, you need to have someone in your corner that both understands the physiological (book knowledge) and psychological (practical experience) of what it takes to get contest ready!

And if you’re serious about getting a coach, look for credentials.  Just because they carry a Pro Card doesn’t mean they’re qualified to train you. Instead hunt for people with accreditations like the UKSCA for Strength and Conditioning, or a certified nutritionist for nutrition advice.

Adjust Your Training Based on How You Feel

To get the absolute most out of your training program it’s imperative you listen attentively to your body. Know your limits; learn to push hard and back off when needed.

Although training is considered a controlled stress, it still is exactly that, stress. We are exposed to various types of stressors on a day-to-day basis; training is only one of them.  Other forms include household bills, negative people, air pollution, colds/infections, parking tickets, periods, having an argument with your partner…

Stress of any kind – physical or emotional - promotes a unique physiological response within the body to accommodate future stress. The adaption to weight training is stronger larger muscle fibres.

Here’s a short check list, the more you can answer yes to each of these questions the better your recovery and results will be, period!

•             Are you getting a good 8 hours of shuteye sleep?

•             Do you stay mindful and avoid other stressors? (emotional/physical)

•             Is the bulk of your diet based on highly nutritious minimally processed food?

•             Do you avoid training through pain and injury?

•             Do you skip training if you’ve had a bad day (mind, diet, rest)?

•             Is your training program doable (specific to your experience)?

Remember with every training session the better the focus, the better the effort, the better the stimulus, the better the results.

And remember, if you’re not feeling up to it, it’s ok to miss a training session!

Just because it’s down on paper doesn’t mean it is set in stone. Your training plan doesn’t consider you may have missed a few meals, had a few sleepless nights or been anxious about an ill family member.

Before you train, ask yourself two questions:

•             Am I going into my training session with adequate resources? (i.e. rest, nutrition and a stress free day) If you’ve had a hectic day, missed a few meals and generally feel run down, go home, regroup and train another day. Trust me your body will thank you for it and you’ll be much more ready to rock come the next session.

•             Am I going to be able to recover from this training session? If you know sleep and diet aren’t going to be their best after training, it would be advisable to draw the line on what you do or step back and train another time. Key examples would include going on a big night out after training, or people who are traveling/work nightshift.

The idea of backing off becomes even more important if you are training two days in a row!

No one is going to thank you for training through a less than ideal mind-set, don’t try to be a hero.

Respect your body and do everything possible to chase high quality enjoyable training sessions and optimal recovery!

Avoid Silly Distractions

Whenever it comes to getting the most out of your training session it is imperative that you minimise distractions.

Get your head in the game!

Many of us are guilty of creating our own distractions or simply falling prey to the busy environment of the gym.

Are you spending more time looking at your phone than on your focussing on your reps and sets?  Too much chinwagging with your gym bro and now you’ve run out of time to train?

Distractions are everywhere and by being aware you can stop them in their tracks before they stop your train to gainsville.

Mark Your Territory

Another important tip you can use to get the most out of your workouts is to mark your territory.

When it comes to the gym don’t you just hate it when you’re in the middle of a super or giant set and someone comes over and hijacks your exercise?

Safe to say your ideas of including super/giant sets in your training plan have gone to waste.

What can you do to avoid this?

Don’t be afraid to mark out pieces of equipment with gym attire. Your towel, shaker and training jacket all serve as flags to mark out equipment and will save you the annoying hassle of asking to work in.

However, it is important to be respectful of other gym members, reassure them how many sets you have left to complete and make them aware what weight/attachment/setting you’re using. If they want to work-in, fine, let it be during your rest period, but make sure they know to put all the necessary weights and/or attachments back to your original setting.

Also make sure you have a plan B in place if the gym is too busy. Sometimes you need to take a detour from your original workout plan if you want to be efficient and effective with your training.

Train Through Pain

Prolonged soreness and pain every time you train is not a good sign. We’ve all heard and been under the influence of the old saying ‘no pain, no gain’. But, is this approach wise when it comes to getting the most out of your training and staying injury free?

The truth is, if you’re sore, and I don’t mean DOMs sore or just a small niggle, but something that is impeding your ability to train, something is wrong, and needs addressed.

Prolonged muscle soreness and tightness for days on end is a clear indicator your recovery hasn’t been a success.

There are a host of reasons for this, most likely you’ve out trained the nutritional and rest aspects that your typical recovery plan provided. As a result, you may need to pull back on your training volume and/or revaluate your nutrition and lifestyle practices to get you back on track.

Hope these tips help, but always remember, even if you have the most amazing prep and lifestyle fine-tuned to your training needs and goals, you’ll probably still have a bad workout once in a while.

And that’s ok!

Ashleigh Tosh

Ashleigh Tosh

Ashleigh is a Copywriter and content creator with over 10 years experience writing for the health & fitness industry. She's currently training for her first powerlifting comp at the end of 2023!