The weight room floor can be an intimidating place. There’s grunting, screaming, and the occasional oiled fitness pro posing in front of the mirror.
For women new to strength training, it’s a lot to take in. Looking around the weight room at your gym might not offer a lot of inspiration for a newbie. The information online can be equally unreliable if you don’t know who to trust.
If you start off on the wrong foot, you’re likely to give up on strength training entirely. Give yourself a chance to succeed instead. Avoid these 5 common mistakes and learn to love your time in the gym.
Avoid these 5 common mistakes and learn to love your time in the gym.
1. Underestimate Yourself
Women tend to greatly underestimate their strength when they start training. This is the opposite of men who are often seen using bad form with weight that’s way too heavy. Don’t be like those guys, but do challenge yourself.
If your gym has a women’s only weight room with nothing but pink weights, ditch it and head to the “regular” strength area. It should be a little difficult to finish the number of reps you’re aiming for. So if you’re doing 3 sets of 12 reps on shoulder press and you blaze right through them, it’s time to use more weight. If reps 10-12 are a bit of a struggle, you’re probably using the right resistance.
2. Worry About Other People
At some point, a guy is going to look at you. And some woman will glance over at you from her treadmill. Are they making fun of you? Jealous? In love? It really doesn’t matter.
The reality is that 99% of the time, no one is looking at you at all. Most people in the weight room are there to train pretty seriously. That usually means earbuds in and the rest of the world shut out.
It’s easy to feel self conscious when you’re the only woman in a space full of guys, but just do your own thing.
3. Start a Strict Diet
One healthy decision often inspires another. So starting a new gym routine might just motivate you to take your diet a little more seriously.
It’s great to clean up your eating and make healthier choices, but this is not the time to start a restricted diet. To get the most benefits from strength training, you need plenty of food to preserve and increase muscle mass. Doing squats while eating 1,200 calories a day isn’t going to get you that shapely booty you’ve seen on Instagram.
If you’re trying to lose weight, eat in a slight calorie reduction while strength training. Eat as much as you can while still losing weight and make sure you’re getting plenty of protein. As always, it’s best to aim for slow, steady weight loss of no more than 1 pound per week.
4. Wing It
If you head to the gym without a plan, don’t expect good results. While you may make some beginner’s progress for the first month, you’ll improve much faster if you follow a training program.
There’s a lot to consider when hitting the weights, so leave this one to the experts. You don’t necessarily have to hire a personal trainer; there are lots of great books and online routines that offer 3-6 months of detailed training programs. These programs will vary your exercises, sets, reps, rest, and intensity as they progress.
Look for full-body routines to get the best overall results. Even if your main focus is your arms or your butt, training your whole body will help you lose fat and look toned all over. A good full-body program should also address muscle imbalances and help keep you free of injuries.
5. Skip Rest Days
We all know how hard women work. Women are comfortable taking on a lot, like balancing a career, family, and household. So it’s no surprise that when women start new training programs, we want to go all in and hit it 7 days a week.
Daily activity is great, but daily strength training is a recipe for disaster. Muscle only grows at rest, so it’s essential to rest for 48 hours between training days. That doesn’t mean you have to do nothing on your rest days, but try to stay away from the weights. You can always play a sport or go for an easy run.
Try to take one true rest day each week so your body can reset. Exercise is a form of stress and it can take a toll on your hormones if you never fully recover.