5 Gym Owners & Instructors Explain Common Newbie Gym Mistakes

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Just showing up your first time at the gym or fitness studio should count as a win.

But once you show up once, you’ve got to show up again. And again.

And again.

There are lots of little things you can do (and avoid) your first couple of times working out to set yourself up for long term success.

I talked to 5 gym owners, trainers, and fitness coaches about some of the biggest beginner gym mistakes and how to avoid them.

Here’s what they said:


James Zhang – Have a goal in mind, and start small.

It’s a good idea to get a handle on your “why” and what you’re hoping to accomplish by going to the gym.

Wanting to lose 50 pounds is fine, but according to trainer and gym owner James Zhang, smaller goals are better for beginners.

“You can have something like, ‘I want be able to hold a plank for 30 seconds, 90 seconds,’ something small that you’re able to make progress on. And that will keep you in the gym,” he says.”

Those bigger goals can seem too daunting and hard to manage at first. But the rush you get from achieving your first tiny fitness goal will keep you coming back for more.

See more from James at The Bright App.


Marc Miller – Have a coach teach you the fundamentals

It’s important to have fun in your workouts, but it’s even more important to learn the basic building blocks of exercise.

That’s according to Marc Miller, gym owner affectionately known as “The Kettlebell Guy.”

Before you get too fancy, focus on learning your fundamental movements like:

  • Hip dominant exercises
  • Knee dominant exercises
  • Horizontal pushes
  • Horizontal pulls
  • Vertical pushes
  • Vertical pulls
  • Rotational exercises
  • Stability exercises

It’s best to have a coach or trainer teach you these moves properly. From there, you can build on and add to your repertoire over a long fitness career.

But without a proper start, you might not see the best gains.

Find Marc at Independent Training Spot.


Timothy Bish – Start by learning, having fun, and exploring.

Mind your intensity on day one says trainer and Row House instructor Timothy Bish.

When trying something new, don’t compare it to other workouts you’re familiar with and don’t try to go all-out your first time.

It’s important to let your first few workouts be fun and instructive. Learn the equipment, learn the moves, learn your body.

Then, you can start to create the right workout for yourself on any given day.

“People will get on, they’ll push really hard, they’ll spike their heart rate very quickly,” says Bish. “And it will make it nearly impossible to sustain that level of intensity for the duration of a 45-minute workout.”

Burning out right away doesn’t help you in the long run!

Find Timothy at Row House.


Tevia Celli – Don’t try to keep up with the instructor or trainer

Tevia Celli, a longtime spin instructor and VP of Experience at CycleBar, says she sees first-time riders make the same mistake over and over:

They come in to their first class and try to keep pace with the instructor.

Even if you’re in great shape, she says, going too hard too fast in something you’re a beginner at can lead to bad form and injuries.

Take it slow and go at your own pace as your body learns a new modality.

“I’m a great indoor cyclist but if I go to run, by quarter of a mile I’ve got a sideache and I’m panting at the side of the road” she says.

Find Tevia at CycleBar.


Greg Maurer – Plan, plan, plan. And then progress.

Greg Maurer, VP of Fitness at Workout Anytime, says the most important thing for beginners is to have a plan.

Have a plan for your goals. Have a plan for your workout each day. Have a plan for how you’re going to make progress on day 2, week 2, and month 2.

“When am I going? What am I doing? Why am I doing it? You want to know that every time. Have a plan,” he says.

And don’t forget to record your workouts (write down each exercise you performed and what intensity, sets, reps, etc. you were able to do).

It’s the only way to make sure you improve your performance over time. If you don’t improve your performance, you won’t get results!

Find Greg at Workout Anytime.


Wrapping Up

Seeing a pattern here?

Most beginners don’t have a plan and they tend to try to do too much, too fast.

Avoid these key mistakes when you’re new to the gym (or group fitness class) and you’ll have a much better chance of seeing the results you want in the longterm.

And before you go, don’t miss my favorite guides for beginners:

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