The Top 10 Ways You’re Ruining Your Workouts, According to Philly Trainers 

Hint: It's not all about form and fuel.

What is the absolute worst workout habit? That is the question I asked 10 Philly trainers, and the answers I got back truly surprised me. Turns out, many of the trainers’ top picks have more to do with your mental attitude or things you do outside of the gym, like fueling your body, than they do with your actual, well, workout.

Saying “I can’t,” creating unrealistic goals — or creating no goals or routine at all — and using exercise as your sole form of therapy all made the list. And of course, a few form mistakes made it, too. Check out what these 10 Philly trainers say are the top ways you’re ruining your workout below.

Holly Waters, owner of Fitness Alive 

“Negativity, in my opinion, is the worst workout habit. Saying ‘I can’t,’ shaking of the head and talking down to yourself work against a workout that is supposed to be healthy, happy and positive. The more we try, work hard and think positively about our abilities, the more we succeed and enjoy our workouts, as we should.”

Jayel Lewis, owner of JL Fitness 

“One of the worst workout habits is overcommitting: when you tell yourself and others that you’re going to make it to the gym every day of the week, and find yourself making up excuses as to why you didn’t make it at all. If you haven’t been to the gym in a year and you tell yourself you’re going to make it every day, odds are you’re not being honest with yourself. Instead, try to be realistic about things.”

Jeff Liebreich, owner of Fearless Athletics

“Seeing a member show disregard for proper form in exchange for maximum output makes me cringe. At Fearless, we stress the importance of foundations and basics because without them, sustainability in movement can become compromised. Members who are patient and trust the process of properly learning the basics will reap many more benefits than those looking for a quick fix or easy way to complete a workout.”

Ali Jackson, owner of Never Give Up Training 

“One of the worst workout habits in my opinion is lack of proper nutrition, before AND after a workout. You can plan your goals, be doing the right workouts and put all this effort into reaching those goals, and still ruin all that hard work by simply not eating the correct pre- and post-workout meals and/or snacks. The correct amount of complex carbs, fast-absorbing protein, recovery supplements and hydration are key to getting the best results possible.

“Everyone’s body and nutrition success are different, but a general rule of thumb is to have a snack consisting of primarily carbohydrates (sweet potato, almonds, whole wheat toast with almond butter, etc.) about one to two hours before working out, depending on intensity. After your workout, within 30 minutes, you want protein and fast-absorbing carbs (yogurt and almonds, protein shake, chicken with brown rice, etc.) I am a huge believer in adding some BCAA Glutamine powder as a recovery agent into my water for directly after my workout. Again, proper nutrition all depends on your training intensity, goals and also how your body responds. Obviously, my nutrition is different when I’m doing a cardio workout for one of my triathlons than it is when I do my strength training, but one truth is always constant: Nutrition is key to success and is something everyone should spend time nailing down.”

Gina Mancuso, owner of CoreFitness

“The number one worst workout habit is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This applies to your workout — ‘If I just do 50 more sit-ups, I’ll have a flat stomach’ — and to the way you fuel your body — saying ‘I never, ever eat breakfast’ for instance. Nothing changes unless something changes, so instead of spending 45 minutes on the elliptical for the fifth time this week, do interval sprints on the treadmill for 15 minutes; eat a couple of hard boiled eggs and a banana for breakfast instead of starving yourself until lunchtime.

“Albert Einstein said ‘Nothing happens until something moves.’ I love this quote and I use it all the time with my clients. Change your thoughts, change your habits, change the way you move, and get results!”

Marshall Roy, owner of RISE Gym

“By far, the worst workout habit is the absence of habit! Many people fail to plan or prioritize enough to make working on their health and fitness a consistent effort. And consistency, more so than anything else, will drive your success. Totally killing it in the gym one month, then totally slacking the next, will lead you to spin your wheels forever, then beat yourself up when you get no results. Find a routine that is challenging but sustainable and commit to it. Plan the work, work the plan!”

Osayi Osunde, owner of Optimum Fit USA 

“For me, I believe the worst thing people do when it comes to health and fitness is say ‘I CAN’T.’ Those words are not allowed if you train with me! That phrase automatically puts you in a negative mindset which allows you to accept failure and not move toward progress. Around Fit Academy, I only allow people to say ‘I will try my best,’ then modify where needed. Fit Academy fosters a positive and encouraging atmosphere where ‘I can’t’ becomes nonexistent and ‘I WILL’ and ‘I DID’ become your mantras.”

Brian Maher, owner of Philly Personal Training

“Aside from obvious things like skipping workouts and poor form, I would say one of the worst workout habits would have to be working the same muscle groups over and over again, while neglecting other important muscle groups. It’s common to see people only working out the most visible muscles of the body. By neglecting other important muscle groups, they’re doing more than just making themselves look disproportionate; they’re putting themselves at a higher risk for injury. Muscle imbalance can lead to abnormal compensation by other muscle groups, faulty joint alignment and inefficient movement, all increasing your risk of injury. For every muscle you train, you should train the opposing muscles equally to maintain balance.” (Pssst: These are the muscles that are most often neglected.)

Perry O’Hearn, owner of Philly Phitness

“The worst workout habit I have seen over the years is when people use a workout as their main stress reliever, or ‘therapy.’ This practice leads to overtraining and not taking adequate rest, which always results in an injury over time. This injury will take away their vice and leave them in a very vulnerable state with excess stress. In this state, people will either push through the injury, exacerbating it, or rest and become overwhelmed with stress, and often end up getting depressed. By not utilizing any other means of stress relief — whether it be meditation, yoga, self-reflection, mindset practices, watching a movie, reading a book, you name it — they are left with only one option: working out and adding MORE stress to their body. By adding alternative stress relievers into a routine, an individual can continue to reach their goals — often quicker and with less risk of injury!”

Alli Schwartz, owner of GFit Women

“One of the worst workout habits I see is bad eating habits. People who are consistent in the gym and work out really hard expect to be lean and ripped, but getting to that level includes an overhaul in your eating habits. And let’s be honest: that’s the hardest part — even the best trainers struggle with it. But improving your eating habits will take you from good shape to incredible shape. You’ll feel better, you’ll sleep better, you’ll have more energy and you’ll get the physical results you want. Getting people to make that change is the hardest part; it takes commitment and consistency. But when they do it, wow!! It all clicks and transformations happen. There’s nothing better.”

Like what you’re reading? Stay in touch with Be Well Philly — here’s how: