Self training is one of the best ways to start getting fit. What seems easy or straightforward, self training has its own share of areas to watch out for. Here I share what mistakes I made and what I did to get the most out of working out by myself.
Table of Contents
Self training, or training by yourself, is very common. Mimicking someone’s movement after seeing them online or in a gym is how I started my journey into fitness. But along the way I made a lot of mistakes, and I took the steps to address these, as I will explain below.
This age old saying is apt in this context. This literally means you do what you see others do. But what is lost in this, when it comes to personal fitness and lifting weights, is the nuances that someone more experienced is aware of, which someone mimicking might fail to notice.
A pull up exercise might look easy, but when someone tries to mimic it, he or she might fail. What doesn’t come through during a visual “copy-paste” is the correct form the experienced person might following, tightening the core, optimal hand placement on the bar, and using the back to pull yourself than relying just on the arms.
This is just one example of what to watch for when you self-train at home or in the gym. Do your research before attempting any complex moves like the snatch and hand-stand push ups.
Self Training Mistakes
When working out by yourself you can skip on a few routines here and there. Everyone has done it, and will continue to do it. I have done it as well. But what impacted me more is missing/ cheating through the warm-ups before a workout session. Warm-ups are crucial to get the body primed for the workout. It stretches tight muscles, gets the blood flowing, and preps your body and mind for the workout ahead.
After a prolonged period of workouts with little to no warmup, I started having issues with my shoulders. It started small, like a sore muscle which I massaged into submission. But after a period of a few months, the pain became severe that I had to seek professional treatment. When reviewing what I have been doing with my doctor, when asked if I warmed up before every workout, I had to confess my lack of pre-workout routine. After a few weeks at the physiotherapist, my shoulders are back to normal, and I now pay attention to a proper 10-15 minutes to warm up before any workout.
So spend a few minutes warming up, especially the areas that you need extra care (tight back, hamstrings, for example), and also mimic the workout movement with light weights to get your body and mind focused on the workout.
Not Cooling Down
Equally important as a warm-up is the cool down. After any type of workout, some of your muscles tend to tighten from the stress of the exercise. Some muscles tighten and some loosen up. To get the body back to normal, a cool down is highly recommended. This can be anywhere from going for a quick 5 minute walk to get your heart rate to normal, to foam-rolling the tightened back or leg muscles from a heavy deadlift or squat session. This also gives you a moment to think about the workout and maybe help you plan your next routing or address your form.
Not Changing Routines
If you workout by yourself, it is easy to get into a workout routine that you like doing. This is great to get you to start working out. But if you stick to the same exercises and routine, you might tend to get bored or tired of the same thing. And your progression might hit a wall. I have hit this plateau, and I changed my approach to make every workout interesting and engaging.
1. Focus on specific type of workouts – I split my workouts into strength days, cardio days, and rest days. This helped me focus on what I was doing that day and plan. Strength days take a little more time because I try to pay attention on 1 or 2 areas, and can last about 45 mins to an hour. Cardio days are a little faster as a workout along with warmup can be done in as little as 30 minutes. So having a focused approach helped me add some variety.
2. Target different muscle groups – On a strength day, try to focus on one, or maximum two areas – legs, chest, back, core, arms, back, shoulders. Strength building takes time, so plan for a little more time than a cardio session so that you can pay attention and improve your strength building in those particular areas.
3. Variety of workouts – I try not to repeat workouts. I might repeat what part of the body I am working on, but not the same workout. Different movement can make your workouts interesting mentally, and physically can enable your body to get used to different movements. Squats is a common movement. To add variety I add in thrusters, lunges, and step-ups to add variety to lower body movements, as an example for strength days. Same goes for cardio WODs – try to have flavors of workouts targeting different areas. Also jump-ropes adds a quality cardio workout, as an alternate to running or stationary bikes, for example for cardio days.
4. Challenge your self – Add new movements whenever possible. And add movements you don’t like. Burpees are one of the best exercises, but the least favorite. So I try to add burpees here and there just so that I get the benefits of that movement, and a personal satisfaction that I am able to do that exercise. This also keeps your workout interesting and effective.
To Your Self Training Future
Almost everyone starts his or her fitness from self training. Everyone can try to keep the the above mentioned areas of common mistakes in mind as he/ she can continue on the path to fitness. As with anything, start slow and slowly increase weight and intensity as you start getting stronger and fitter.
I hope you found this helpful. Check out my other fitness posts as well.