5 things that almost screwed up my fitness life

(the title of this post is a little dramatic, but so am I, so there ya go. haha)

Today, I thought it would be fun to talk about things that stood in my way when I was first getting started on a healthy lifestyle. There was a lot of information out there, and I was intimated, confused, and at first, enlisted the wrong type of help to assist me with my goals.

It's easy to make fitness mistakes that can hinder your progress. Here are five fitness mistakes to avoid and what to do instead! fitnessista.com

But first, a sweet picture here at home this morning with lovebug, taking it easy. She’s a little bit under the weather, so we’re just going to chill at home, drink tea, eat soup and watch Enchanted. Not a bad way to spend the morning. 😉  

Snuggles with Liv

(Picked up this shirt at Express and LOVE these tops for spring. Printed button up, check.)

Anyways, I love to read others’ stories about how they got to their current spot, so I thought I’d share some of my mistakes I made in the early days. (I also talk a lot about my fitness history and backstory in the intro of “HIIT It!”) Here are 5 fitness mistakes I made that almost screwed up my fitness goals. See if you recognize yourself in any of these!


5 Fitness Mistakes to Avoid and What I Did to Fix Them

Lunges on the beach

Mistake: Not Strength Training

I totally let myself believe that strength training makes you bulky. As someone who was trying to get to a healthy weight, I did NOT want to become bulky. At first, I avoided strength training like the plague. Now I’m pretty sure whenever Tracy Anderson says that weights make you bulky, a fairy falls down dead. It is NOT TRUE.

Fitness Fix: Strength Train Regularly

I didn’t lean out until I started strength training on a regular basis. Not only does it help to build lean, strong muscles, but it also increases your calorie-burning potential and protects your bones over time. There are so many reasons to add strength training to your routine, and it’s one of the few things everyone should do.

Mistake: Taking Advice From Someone Unqualified 

When I first started getting into fitness and consistently walking each day, I decided I wanted to do more and signed up at a gym. That’s usually a good step to take, but I let myself become prey to the gym sharks at the personal training desk. This was a big box gym, where any high school kid could be a “personal trainer.” Intrigued by the promise of an increased metabolism, a friend and I signed up right there on the spot. It was such a mistake.

Our “trainer” put us on an extremely low-calorie eating plan (FYI certified personal trainers can give you ideas of what to eat, or portion ideas, but they cannot give you a specific plan without additional certifications or expertise), but would tell us to eat a bagel after each workout. I still don’t understand. He gave us a really strange example of a fitness routine, which eventually sucked me into the “more is more” mentality.

Fitness Fix: Sign Up with a Certified Personal Trainer

Or you can become one, like I did! A certified personal trainer can show you how to workout properly to reach your fitness goals. Trainers can be helpful no matter where you are on your fitness journey, from getting started on the right foot to giving your workout routine the boost it needs. They can also show you how to workout efficiently, so you’re not stuck working out like crazy for long periods of time. Which brings me to my next point…

Treadmill and magazine

Mistake: Overtraining

I started to believe that the more I did, the better it was. Little did I know, I was eating away the precious muscle I had worked so hard to build. I took a LOT of fitness classes–especially when we lived in Fayetteville. I was bored and the gym had a fantastic schedule. But doing so much actually hindered my results. I started to get some serious overtraining symptoms and knew I had to scale back.

Fitness Fix: Workout Efficiently 

After I scaled my workouts way back (but kept up the intensity), I finally saw the results I had been looking for. Shorter workouts can be more effective than longer, drawn out ones, and you’ll see that reflected in the workouts I post here, as well as in my book.

Work snacks

Mistake: Not fueling my workouts properly

This is something that took me a long time to learn, and is still constantly evolving. I would work out on an empty stomach, or fail to replenish afterwards, and found myself getting injured, tired, or hit the wall way before I should have. 

Fitness Fix: Fuel my body

I think my exact methods will continue to change as my workouts (and modes) change, but at least I know now that I need to have a small bite before a workout (unless it’s super early) and definitely a meal afterwards with lots of water. 

Mistake: Trying to fit myself into a mold. 

As someone who likes to do a lot of different things, I found myself wanting to fit into a specific mode or label. I felt like I couldn’t be a spinning weightlifting barre-ing Zumba-ing yogi. I needed to be a runner. Or a lifter. Or a dancer. I felt all over the place, and if I wasn’t focused on one thing, I kind of felt like I was failing at it (which, looking back now, is so silly). 

Fitness Fix: Enjoy a variety of workouts

Now I embrace the fact that variety is the spice of my fitness life. Sometimes I run more often that usual, others I’m all about dance, or super into yoga; it changes based on how I feel. When you lead an active life that leaves you healthy and feeling energized, labels don’t matter. Plus, changing it up keeps your body guessing and can be great for overall fitness.

arm balance

The good news is that you can change any of these things at any time. There are always little tweaks we can make to properly fuel ourselves, give ourselves sufficient time to rest and rebuild, and add (or subtract) habits from our routine. Also, if you ever need help setting up a fitness plan, I have a ton of tips and strategies here. <— shameless book plug

What’s something that you had to learn the hard way with health and fitness? How often do you train now? Do you fit into a certain mold (runner, swimmer, dancer, etc), or are you a little all over the place like yours truly?

As always, I’m excited to read your comments! <3

Have a wonderful day.



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  1. kristin | W [H] A T C H on March 4, 2015 at 9:27 am

    i think it’s taken me a long time to learn that it’s okay to listen to my body and do what it wants. i go through phases where i don’t want to run or want to try barre or only feel like hitting the yoga studio. the more in tune with my body i become, the more i realize that it’s sort of similar to nutritional cravings — physically speaking our bodies benefit from different forms of activity at different moments.

  2. Tara | Treble in the Kitchen on March 4, 2015 at 9:42 am

    I love this! So many people can relate 🙂 I love that you focus on mentioning that you are still figuring things out, things are changing and always evolving. SO TRUE!

  3. Grace on March 4, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Thanks for sharing all of these tips! I can definitely relate to feeling like I need to specialize in one thing, but yet I enjoy so many different types of workouts, so I’m happy I’m not alone in this.

  4. Jen on March 4, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Strength training was totally my pitfall. I loved to run and didn’t have time for weights. I finally checked out a TRX class offered at my work and fortunately the trainer was amazing so I continued it. Then my friend made me try a class at a CrossFit box (I called it CrossFit lite because we didn’t do much with heavy weights/bar). Then my schedule changed and I started doing actual CrossFit two months ago. I am already in so much better shape and I love it so much. Lift heavy things for sure!

  5. Erin @ Erin's Inside Job on March 4, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Great post! There are a lot of things that I had to learn over time in my fitness journey. I had a lot of overtraining injuries a few years ago and so from that I have learned to listen to my body when it tells me something. It could be nothing, but it could be a symptom of something worse that I need to pay attention to. Also, rest is not the enemy!

    I am still working on proper fueling and had more experience with that when I trained last year for my half marathon. Apparently my stomach likes very bland protein and carbs (think baked chicken and a sweet potato) or else it will revolt and leave me running for the woods!

  6. Alex @ True Femme on March 4, 2015 at 10:17 am

    I love posts like these! When I first started out with fitness, I felt like I really had to be a runner to fit in. About 7 months later I found Pure Barre, and it was something I *loved.* I didn’t feel the same way about running as I did about Pure Barre. This year I’m trying to be more well-rounded because Pure Barre alone wasn’t giving me the results I wanted, so I’ve been incorporating HIIT, circuit training, and running. I still love Pure Barre but I’m accepting that I can still love it and do other things.

  7. Tracy on March 4, 2015 at 10:39 am

    I was definitely guilty of being a cardio queen when I first started working out. That’s all I did! And the more the better like you said. I eventually discovered that weight training was so important to achieve not only my fitness goals but for my health (hello bones!). I still seemed to have nagging minor muscle pulls and imbalances. It was when I discovered my love of yoga that I finally found my perfect fitness equation! I do still have to constantly remind myself not to do too much cardio (love the endorphins, social time with friends and kindle time).

    • Fitnessista on March 4, 2015 at 10:00 pm

      looooove that kindle time too 🙂

  8. Erin on March 4, 2015 at 10:50 am

    I’m curious how you have learned the correct way to eat. I feel like I have the exercise where it needs to be, but I feel like I practically starve myself to stay small. Did you work with a nutritionist?

    • Fitnessista on March 4, 2015 at 9:58 pm

      no, it was a lot of trial and error, and i feel like it’s still changing. instead of counting calories, like i did in the past, i am eating all day; it’s just mostly healthy, whole foods. i definitely think you should not be hungry. anne (fannetasticfood.com) has some amazing resources on her blog

  9. Mollie Kimmel on March 4, 2015 at 10:50 am

    this is a wonderful, honest post! Thank you for being real with this. I think may people engage in many of these things because they think thats what you’re “supposed” to do.

  10. Erin on March 4, 2015 at 10:50 am


  11. Kristine on March 4, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Great tips – I think the over-training and the fueling one is really relevant and pertinent. I used to think that marathon training AND almost daily Pilates classes was the fitness key to my success and I quickly burnt-out, didn’t see the results I wanted and was just exhausted. I think that fueling, etc is an evolving process for me too. I’m constantly learning more about food/fuel and nutrition and trying new things. Great post!

  12. Natalie @ The Ravenous Mommy on March 4, 2015 at 11:26 am

    Great post! I definitely fell into that “strength training = bulk” trap. But now I almost feel bad when I do “too much” cardio!

  13. Sam on March 4, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Great post! When I was in high school/college, I definitely fell into the cardio queen category. Now, I primarily use bodyweight training (or kettle bells) to constitute my cardio. I try to do a HIIT run about once per week. I definitely don’t fit into any mold – I love yoga, HIIT running, kettle bells, functional training, etc. I’ve been following a few of the TIU workouts, as well as yours, Fit Foodie Finds and Fitness & Feta’s.

    Which leads me to a few questions …. I seem to remember at one time you following or talking about Tone It Up. Do you still read any of their stuff? If not, why did you give it up? Just curious because I don’t seem to ever read any constructive/negative feedback about them, but I don’t think it’s because they don’t deserve any.

    How much training constitutes overtraining? What are some of the symptoms?


    • Fitnessista on March 4, 2015 at 9:55 pm

      hi sam!
      i did purchase their training and eating plan, and it was ok, but i don’t think it was worth the cost. i really like them and love that they inspire so many women. i still read their emails from time to time 🙂
      here are some of the symptoms of overtraining: http://fitnessista.com/2010/05/when-its-too-much/

      • Sam on March 5, 2015 at 12:37 pm

        That’s how I feel about their eating plan too (that it just doesn’t seem worth the price). I really like them as women and also like that they inspire and empower so many women too. Thanks for the link to the overtraining post! I knew you talked about it at some point.

        • Fitnessista on March 5, 2015 at 4:24 pm


  14. Katie @ Live Half Full on March 4, 2015 at 11:47 am

    I’ve had to learn the hard way to listen to my body and not push myself too hard just for the sake of reaching a goal after an injury last year. Now my goal is to stay healthy and energized and that took the pressure off me. As a result, I now look forward to working out!

  15. Crystal on March 4, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Great post! It took me a long time to learn that doing massive amounts of cardio wasn’t going to help me lose fat. I still remember training for a half marathon and wondering why my pants weren’t getting looser. The other thing is, yes, weight training is awesome!

  16. Kelly on March 4, 2015 at 11:53 am

    This post was sooo good for me to hear. RIght now, I’m needing to switch up my routine because I think I’ve stalled at what I’m doing… and I’m terrified!! I am currently reading your book and hope to use it. I just have a problem being my own motivator to work out. I utilize classes at my gym because they force me to work the whole time but I know I need to up the intensity of the classes that I want to take and I’m afraid that I cannot do them. I KNOW that you should listen to your body and modify if necessary, they are always preaching that in classes but I’m still afraid. This post really helped me realize that on this journey, there will be times when we have to assess… who we are training with, what we use as fuel and what we use for our workouts. I’m down 50 lbs and glad I started strength training earlier in! Thanks Gina!

    • Fitnessista on March 4, 2015 at 9:53 pm

      so so amazing to hear <3

  17. Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious on March 4, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Awesome post Gina! I cannot agree more with everything here. I think as with everything in life our fitness relationship is always evolving and changing, but when you’re first starting out these are key things to understand.

  18. Melodie on March 4, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    I would love to hear more about your overtraining symptoms. Two that immediately would stick out in my mind would be injury or exhaustion. It’s not something I am dealing with right now. But I have kicked it up a notch by trying to get in 5-6 days week of 1 hour workouts. 2 of those days incorporate weights. One of those days is a longer run. And 2 days are more HIIT style. But I’m doing this all through Camp Gladiator, except for the run day. So I’m just curious what it would look like if I was doing too much. Because I am sure not seeing results 2 months in! In fact, I’m trying not to freak out about the 5lbs gain on the scale.

  19. Sarah on March 4, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    Thanks to people like you, I’ve not had any bad experiences with fitness/health. There is defintely a lot of confusing information out there! I am active every morning, but I make sure to vary the intensity all the time. I am a little all over the place – love HIIT, barre, yoga, plyometrics, – anything new and exciting!

  20. Sara on March 4, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    This post is what I needed right now! I’m also all over the place. I teach cycling, water aerobics and Piloxing, and I enjoy doing yoga and running.
    Right now, I’m teaching 5 fitness classes a week and training for a half-marathon. I’m finding it challenging to fit in my weekday short runs on top of my classes (I also work full-time). Yesterday, I taught cycling, ran 3 miles and taught water aerobics!!
    I’m doing way too much cardio and not strength training because I can’t fit it into my workout schedule. I’m unable reach my own weight/fitness goals because of this. I know that I should cut down on my classes, but I don’t want to let anyone down.

    How do you fit in teaching with your own workouts?

    • Fitnessista on March 4, 2015 at 9:52 pm

      fitting in teaching and my own workouts can be challenging, and most of my classes are active teaching classes, so my personal workouts are very minimal these days. i just try to remember to get in extra strength where i can
      this is why it was really hard for me to train for distance races when i was teaching so much. on saturdays, i would do my long run and then teach 3-4 active classes. it was tough

  21. Michele on March 4, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    This is SO true. I can definitely relate to number 3. I’m currently working on getting my personal training certification and plan to go back to school to get my degree as a registered dietitian. I get on pinterest daily and I see these girls re-pinning these RIDICULOUS workout plans and “get fit quick” diets. It’s so frustrating, and it’s scary to see how easy it is to fall prey to moronic people claiming they know the best ways to get fit.

  22. Katie Mitchell on March 4, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    I am currently the product of overtraining. I struggle with the more is more mentality. Right now I am battling pain in my knees and shoulder that are preventing me from running, jumping, and weight lifting. I am most bummed about the weightlifting. Should I wait for my injury to heal before resuming weightlifting or is there a way I could still train without causing myself more pain?

  23. Sher @ Broken From Fire on March 4, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    I appeciate that you’ve pointed out we don’t all need to fit into a mold. I would really like to be a runner. I have been craving the intensity and have actually dreamt of it for years now (literally, in my sleep). But sometimes I wonder if I am built for it. I was never athletic, but always enjoyed walking and hiking.. and I fell in love with yoga in college. I used to try and workout 5-7 times a week, but would notice by the 4th or 5th day I was struggling to keep moving. My fiance recently pointed out that I needed to cut back and give myself time to rest.. and I have noticed it makes a big difference! I also need to incorporate some form of strength training. I think it will help my performance level, aid in chronic back pain, and also help me tone up.

  24. Sarah O'Connell on March 4, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    I am definitely a fitness chameleon. I’m an ex-ballerina, newly turned runner, I do HIIT, weight training and yoga for cross-training, and I have done kickboxing in the past. I always wanted to be a runner and I am LOVING it, but it has ramped up my appetite so much that I have a hard time getting the lean look I want. The fueling is the part I struggle with now, because I feel like my appetite has surpassed my fueling needs for the amount of activity I do…I’m always hungry but if I eat to satisfaction then I gain weight. It’s a work in progress.

    • Fitnessista on March 4, 2015 at 9:50 pm

      fitness chameleon <-- love that 🙂

  25. Amy S on March 4, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Great post! My biggest pitfall a few years ago was WAY overtraining for a half marathon and completely messing up my right leg. I kept working through the pain and it led to a stress fracture. I was so upset, and almost convinced myself that fitness wasn’t for me because my body couldn’t handle it. Thank goodness I didn’t let that end my fitness journey! After I healed, I started crosstraining in addition to running, which I was completely missing the first time around. Today, I enjoy running, strength training, zumba, and yoga. I also take classical ballet twice a week 🙂

  26. Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment on March 4, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    I feel like I have finally hit a good spot where I am doing enough variety but not going crazy. Unlike you, I felt like I had to do “everything” rather than finding a few things I really enjoyed and could concentrate my energies towards. It’s all about finding what works best for you and allows you to develop and go to the next level.

  27. Yaara Leve on March 4, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    Love this post! To be honest–I still fall under most of the same traps that you did. I still avoid strength training like the plague because I don’t want to get bulky. Bodyweight/Yoga sculpt type strength is ok–but I’m terrified of lifting heavy. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that fear. I think as a small person–I”m only 4ft. 11in–and that I was once severely overweight–after I lost all the weight–it’s really hard to break through that fear that I could get “big” again.
    Also–growing up as a dancer/figure skater–I was constantly told that I was too heavy/fat and that I needed to get smaller in order to succeed.
    I also run into the same trap that more and more cardio is the answer and it’s not good. I too have had numerous overuse injuries and just overall body aches. And it’s not fun. I hope to one day find a happy balance with my body but I think that also means trying to find acceptance within myself and love for my body and what it can do.
    Currently I try to do a mix of different modes of cardio to keep my body injury free-i.e. jogging, elliptical, swimming, and yoga. I notice when I swim more–my body feels better. I know you’re not a fan of the water–but you should totally try to learn sometime. It’s such a good workout and low impact.

  28. Em on March 4, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    It’s more important to eat a healthy diet rather than worry so much about calories. And to listen to your body!

  29. Julie on March 4, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    I love the last one. I definitely embraced the fact that I love everything and won’t commit to just one thing. I signed up for the UFC Gym and told the guy I would come in 2, maybe 3, times each week because I like variety.

  30. Mila on March 5, 2015 at 5:22 am

    I feel like going through 1 – 5 is so common for a lot of women (or people’s) journey with fitness/healthy lifestyle.

    In the past I’ve definitely pushed the over-training *mentality*: I took days off from running but I would feel guilty about it, ESPECIALLY if I didn’t some how add in some other exercises that day. I wish I could go back in time and slap some sense into myself.

    These days, a no-workout day has absolutely no guilt attached to it. In fact, I’m active (walks, short yoga sessions on the off) and feel I enjoy it more because I’m so in tune with what my body needs. If activity doesn’t fit my day, I will skip it and feel totally fine. I think the personal growth is losing that guilt over the days off.

  31. Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat on March 5, 2015 at 9:27 am

    Definitely always evolving in fitness! I was focused on running as my primary source of exercise and marathoning for so long that I barely did anything else and my body felt it. Now after being diagnosed with Crohn’s/Colitis and in the middle of a brutal never ending flare running just isn’t happening much more than once or twice a week.
    I am so used to running ALL the miles that I get guilt after a 45 min boot camp type class and 1-2 rest days a week. Yes I leave drenched with quivering muscles but worry that I am not doing “enough”. Funny as well is that I am now leaning out after gaining some pounds and maintaining at a higher number for a couple years. Go figure 😉

  32. Sarah on March 5, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    I totally know what you mean about thinking you have to be doing one specific thing. I teach boot camp, dabble in barre, lift heavy weights at the gym and am constantly training for some running event. Every now and then I feel like I am an imposter at all of them but have to remind myself that there is a reason I am doing all of these different things and that is simply because it’s fun.

  33. Cady on March 7, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    The last one totally resonated with me! I do Crossfit and love it, but I am not a 100% obsessed Crossfit addict like most of the people at my box…I do it 3 days a week with 2 or 3 days of running mixed in. Sometimes I feel like there is something wrong with that, but then I realize that it’s my workout routine so who cares!

  34. Julia @ Lord Still Loves Me on March 7, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    Enchanted is SUCH a good movie. Seriously, it is one of my favorites, and I am not ashamed to admit that. I hope your sweet Liv feels better soon! Being sick is the worst, and I hate to see the youngin’s lose their happy energy. Praying she gets better soon!
    I was so concerned by the title of this post! Glad everything is good though! I agree that there is a lot of misguided information out there that can be detrimental to progressing in our personal journeys toward health. You seem to have a much more balanced mindset, and that is so refreshing to hear! As someone who has come from an extremely disordered past, I fear that I will never be able to find my own personal balance, but I am encouraged by your happiness and health!

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