Podcast: My beginner workout mistakes

Are you feeling a little shy about starting a new fitness routine because you’re unsure what to do? Have you been working out without seeing much progress?

I’ve been there. In this episode, I share the five mistakes I made that limited my fitness returns, no matter how hard I worked. Learn from my mistakes!

My beginner workout mistakes: Episode 39

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In addition to my five mistakes (included below), beware of some other common mistakes, too:

  • Not warming up
  • Ignoring pain
  • Not sleeping enough
  • Ignoring nutrition
  • Assuming cardio was all there was
  • Having no plan
  • Not resting
  • Using poor form

What has been your big mistake when beginning a workout program? Email me (ryan at thebadpod.com) and we’ll add it to the list!

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Episode transcript:

My newbie mistakes in training and what I did about them

  1. Hey Bad-Ass Dad, this is the Bad-Ass Dad Pod
    1. The podcast for upping our games physically, financially, and relationally
    2. And living a great life, no matter what age we are.
  2. We’re getting physical in this episode.
    1. We’re going to explore common mistakes and hang-ups when starting a workout routine or fitness journey.
    2. Specifically, we’re going to take a look at the 5 things I’ve done wrong in trying to get in shape while in my mid-40’s
    3. And what I’ve done to begin to course correct those errors, oversights and blunders.
    4. And what I’ve done right in order to get in the best shape of my life while being 44 years old.
  3. Thanks for joining me.
    1. I’m Ryan Dunn.
    2. A fellow journeyer on the quest for awesome.
    3. Seeker of the holy dunk
    4. A recovering gym newbie…
    5. Uplifter of the masculinely maligned…
    6. I’m a level 5 relationship ranger.
    7. Level 6 gym warrior.
    8. Level 3 debt mage.
    9. AND your lawful good podmaster. [MUSIC OUT]
  4. Let me take you back a year and half.
    1. The year was 2019
      1. Remember that year?
      2. What an amazing year it was.
      3. We could venture outside without fear of getting ill.
      4. And go listen to music in big rooms with other people.
      5. And sit in eating establishments and enjoy food in the company of other people.
      6. And there were these large places
        1. I believe they were called gyms
        2. And many people would gather there.
        3. And do physical activities… sometimes together, and sometimes alone. But still, together.
        4. I was one of those people.
        5. And as I looked at the other gym-people I gathered with, I often found myself thinking “I want to be like them. With bulges in muscle places instead of stomach places. 
        6. And I want to look like I’m having fun while doing this physical activity-stuff.” Because, at the time, I was not having much fun.
      7. I was a spritely 43 at the time.
        1. So young and naive.
        2. Innocent, really, of the hard lessons 2020 would teach us all.
    2. Actually, I was not spritely.
      1. I was tired. Like all-the-time tired, know what I mean?
      2. I woke up tired, I went to work tired, I came home from work tired (because, you know, in those days I had a separate place of work to go to…) And then I went to bed…still tired.
      3. I felt like I was short with my family because I was tired.
        1. I just didn’t have the energy to invest in them
        2. Or to do a bunch of things with them.
      4. My body didn’t feel right.
        1. It felt… difficult.
        2. It was hard to move.
        3. I found myself making weird noises when doing simple tasks…
          1. Like grunting when bending over to plug in my cell phone charger.
      5. And my clothes kept getting tighter.
        1. At first I convinced myself that it was natural clothes-shrinkage caused by our washer and dryer.
        2. But that notion was dispelled when I visited my doctor and stepped on the scale.
        3. I weighed as much as NFL linebacker… but I was not built like an NFL linebacker.
          1. NOR did I QUITE have the physical skills of an NFL linebacker
          2. I was just a bit slower… a bit weaker… A BIT, right?
        4. In truth, I was rocking the dad-bod supreme.
          1. All muffin top and love handles
          2. And I did not like it.
    3. And in that moment of realization, I recognized that I could do something about all this.
      1. It was not too late. I was not destined to live the rest of my life like this.
      2. I could change how I felt and looked.
      3. I just needed to take advantage of that gym membership I’d been paying for, while not really using.
  5. And so, I did. I hit the gym.
    1. I began working out at least 5 days a week.
    2. I sweated and breathed and breathed and sweated (I don’t know if I conjugated those verbs correctly… actually, is it I sweat and breathed and breathed and sweat?)… Here’s what I know, there was a hell of a lot of sweat.
      1. If sweating were competitive, I’d have gone pro.
      2. I may not be blessed with natural athletic ability or the most agile brain synapsis…
        1. But these sweat glands
        2. Holy heck, they must be amongst the most productive sweat glands in all of humanity.
        3. I’m going to say this: I can sweat.
    3. ANYWAYS, the point is I worked real hard.
      1. And you know what happened?
      2. I witnessed very little change.
      3. Now, it wasn’t all for naught.
        1. I did lose a considerable amount of weight.
        2. BUT, I expected the bulge of the belly to migrate towards a bulge of the bicep or pectoral muscle
        3. And that did not happen.
      4. Honestly, I just became more dad-bod-ly
        1. Thinner all around, but still with muffin top and love handles.
        2. And now I had sore muscles on top of it.
    4. Turns out, I was doing a great number of things incorrectly.
      1. And, dad, I want to spare you the same agony
      2. Because, let’s face it, it sucks to invest so much time and energy into something like a fitness routine only to see crappy results.
      3. Big effort should bring big results, right?
      4. I want that for you.
      5. So, I’m going to detail my newbie, rookie, Level 1 gym warrior mistakes so you may be spared the drops of wasted sweat…and start getting the results your work deserves.
    5. Now, I gotta disclaimer this whole thing… this being 2020 and all.
      1. I think I’ll probably make references to the gym–you know, that place where people gather en masse to work out.
      2. I do so a bit metaphorically at times… sometimes I might say “hit the gym” when I simply mean “go workout or train.”
      3. At this time in particular, I regrettably do not recommend people go hit the gym with a lot of people.
        1. As I piece this episode together, we’re spiking in COVID cases all over the place.
        2. My home state of Tennessee has just set some new records for COVID cases.
        3. That means there’s a lot of sick out there.
        4. And I don’t want to be passing on that sick…
        5. So, I may talk about the gym… but I currently am not going to any gym.
        6. My workouts are currently at home or in open-air spaces, using minimal equipment.
        7. I’ve actually posted a few at-home, body-weight workouts on the web site if you need some ideas… so check out thebadpod.com
  6. With that in mind, let me share my newbie mistake that was probably the most impactful and actually had absolutely nothing to do with the gym… or working out, really.
    1. I thought food didn’t matter
    2. My basic belief was that working out granted me the right to eat whatever I wanted
      1. So if I ran 5-miles, I could slam down an entire Tombstone pizza and wash it down with some banana pudding
      2. Or that it was totally OK to grab a handful of mini Reese’s cups every time I entered the office break room, so long as I got my sweat on at the gym after work.
      3. My daily meal plans often consisted of toast for breakfast, Spaghetti-os for lunch and a dinner of turkey pot pie.
        1. Snacks were whatever was laying the office break room and, sometimes, a piece of fruit.
      4. Then I would go slog out a workout… sweat like the messy sweat champ I am… and feel good about what I’d done. Which is nice!
  1. But after a long, long while, I took a hard look at the results: I worked out a lot and made next to no progress.
    1. My return was not lining up with my workout effort.
    2. And what really enraged me is that I could get online and share my experience with in like-minded Facebook interest groups… and I would see dad’s pulling off the fat and getting ripped in months… while I toiled away to look exactly the same.
    3. What was up with that?
      1. Well, it turns out that about 85% of fat loss and fitness is achieved in the kitchen.
      2. The food we eat, how much and what it’s made of… totally matters.
      3. Diet is key.
  2. There are a lot of opinions on how to approach diet
    1. Fast, cut carbs, track calories, don’t track calories, eat good fats, don’t eat fat…
    2. I had to try all of the above to find out what would work for me… and actually, the truth is… a little of all of the above is what works, when I’m disciplined enough to do it all.
  3. Let me tell you what worked for me:
    1. Initially, I cut calories… started tracking how many calories versus how many calories burned.
      1. So if I burned 3500 calories in a day: Good news! I could gobble down 3000 calories and still often see a lighter number on the scale the next morning.
      2. And that worked for a good while, I lost significant weight.
      3. I dropped about 25 pounds in about 4 months… which is pretty healthy.
      4. Physically, I got thinner…
        1. But, I also got thinner
        2. Weight was coming off, but I was doing some weightlifting and nothing was coming on, know what I’m saying…
        3. I wanted to cut fat and add muscle… but I didn’t see any muscle
        4. There were a couple things going on
        5. One of them being that I was ignorant about the fuel I was giving my muscles
        6. In my diet, on most days I exercised and ate 2600 calories or less
          1. I didn’t care what those calories consisted of.
          2. That was big mistake
          3. B/c I wasn’t giving enough protein back to my muscles to produce any muscle growth
          4. AND, over time, I believe my body adapted to the way I was starving it
          5. So, eventually, what happened was this:
            1. I kept working out, I kept counting my calories… and nothing changed.
            2. My weight stayed the same.
            3. My BMI stayed the same.
            4. I didn’t notice any particular growth in my muscles
            5. I was stuck!
            6. And I spent months trying to get the fat burning started again.
              1. And by that, I mean I kept doing the same thing that had been working before but was no longer working
              2. In hopes it would magically kick in again.
  4. Finally, I got fed up.
    1. And decided I would just try something new.
    2. I was already tracking calories: started track what calories were made of
      1. I found I was way short in protein, way high in carbs
        1. A pretty widely accepted and simple rule of thumb for men who work out with weights is that you want to consume about 1 gram of protein per pound you weigh each day.
        2. So, for example, I weigh 205 pounds. I want to consume no less than 205 grams of protein each day.
      2. Here’s what’s worked: I eat as much protein as I can and as few carbs as I can while keeping under 2500 calories.
        1. When I do that, I seem to be trimming fat.
        2. I say SEEM, because I honestly have periods of un-discipline.
          1. Periods where I go off the rails.
          2. And that’s a learning thing, too.
          3. Like, how do I go on vacation without allowing my dietary discipline go to hell?
            1. Honestly, I blew it last time and I’m paying the price.
            2. And the hardest part was trying to get back on track after returning from vacation.
          4. But I was totally getting results prior to this lapse in judgement.
          5. Under 2500 calories to cut weight, and at least 205 grams of protein in there…
  5. Next rookie mistake: When working out, I really just concentrated on cardio
    1. Now, cardio is good. 
      1. Cardio has a purpose.
      2. If all I wanted to do was trim fat, then I could’ve really just kept blasting cardio.
      3. And Some people might want to do this
    2. But I wanted to get stronger
      1. My very specific physical goal is to dunk a basketball
      2. That means I need some leg strength and explosiveness
      3. Cardio doesn’t train for that.
      4. Cardio makes you fit, but not necessarily strong
      5. So my rookie/newby mistake was that I did a ton of training without getting any closer to my goal.
    3. Wayyyy back last summer–the splendid summer of 2019– I did a 100-mile challenge
    4. I gave myself 30 days to run 100 miles
      1. Which you would think, would accomplish something, right?
      2. Well, when you couple poor eating habits with lopsided training that has nothing to do with your goals, guess what happens? 
      3. You know it, you don’t get any closer to your goals.
      4. I accomplished the warm feeling of completing that goal of running 100 miles in a month…
    5. AND, I might have lost a little weight and trimmed a little fat (though I didn’t trim much)
      1. What I didn’t achieve were any inches on my vertical jump towards a basketball goal
      2. Nor did I pack on any kind of muscle.
    6. What to do instead: lift heavy weights
    7. You want to be strong? Practice being strong.
    8. Maybe that’s the big learn there… it’s so much that cardio doesn’t work…
    9. It’s more likely that most of us aren’t simply reaching for the goals that cardio might enable us to achieve.
    10. Do the thing you want to get good at doing.
    11. For me, that means I need to practice jumping high.
    12. If you’re goal is to become great at a cardio activity like running… then cardio is most definitely the way to go.
    13. But it wasn’t what I wanted.
    14. I need strength.
  6. So I finally figured out that in order to get strong, I needed to practice being strong by lifting weights.
    1. BUT, When I started working out with weights, I committed another mistake: I didn’t plan for overloading my muscles.
    2. My workouts looked like this 3 sets, 8 reps. Move on.
    3. Next workout was the exact same thing, with the same weight.
      1. See where I was going?
      2. I wasn’t practicing getting stronger. There was no progression.
      3. And this went on for months: me doing my 3 sets of 8 reps and not adding on any more weight.
      4. And you know what happened? That’s right, you’re seeing the pattern: nothing happened.
      5. I wasted months of time and several dozen workouts because I had no progression plan.
      6. I simply thought that I’d keep doing what I was doing until it felt too easy and then I’d up the weight.
      7. Like, I was just going to keep benching 135 every week, rep after rep and expect to somehow go up in weight and get stronger.
      8. But that’s not a path towards advancement.
    4. What to do instead: plan to add more weight
      1. Again, I’ve become a big believer in practicing the thing you want to accomplish
      2. So if you want to lift heavier weights and get stronger, you have to practice, you know, lifting heavier weights.
      3. Even when I hadn’t maxed out on 8 reps yet, it is important to keep pushing for overload. 
        1. So it’s OK 
      4. I don’t know what my plan for getting stronger was.
        1. It doesn’t work well that way
      5. Here’s an alternative: plan to do a little more next week than you did this week.
        1. That means either lifting a heavier weight
        2. Or doing more reps
        3. Now it doesn’t have to be drastic–in fact, it probably shouldn’t be.
        4. Shoot for incremental improvement
          1. I’m really concerned with squats right now
          2. Let’s say *hypothetically* I’m going after a 300 lb squat
          3. A recommended plan of action would be to progressively add 10-15 pounds just about each week.
          4. If I can’t add the weight, then I need to increase reps.
          5. That sounds so common sense, NOW,  but I wasn’t working out with that in mind
          6. Somebody else out there needs to hear it too
  7. Now, here’s the catch… and the next mistake I was making: time to rest is necessary, too
    1. This might sound like talking out of both sides of my mouth…
      1. Yes, you need to overload your muscles
      2. You also need to give them time to rest.
        1. That means resting after a workout where you’ve overloaded and challenged yourself
        2. It also means building in some down days or down weeks in your training
    2. I learned  this one the hard way because at one point I was over training
      1. How did I know?
      2. It hurt to move
      3. I was tired before I even began working out
      4. And because of that, I was doing less in my workouts
      5. I saw negative returns.
      6. Just a few months ago I did a 30-day pull-up challenge, 
        1. It was a simple goal: do pull-ups every day for 30 days.
        2. The need for rest became obvious within the first week.
        3. It was like I Could do 6 pull-ups one day, but just 4 a few days later
        4. And, my muscles never felt refreshed.
        5. So, I threw in some rest days and some days where I did alternate activities so I could give my traps and biceps some time to recover.
    3. Really the watershed moment was when I heard this tidbit:
      1. Muscles don’t grow during exercise, muscles grow during rest
      2. Exercise tears the muscle down
        1. Actually, during an exercise like weight-lifting, you’re literally tearing your muscles.
        2. Tiny tears form in the muscles.
        3. Your body reacts to that by repairing the tear with a little more muscle than was there before… but it needs to time to make these little repairs.
      3. So if all we’re doing, every day, is tearing down the muscle without allowing time to build back, then we’re screwing ourselves.
        1. That’s exactly why I could 6 pull-ups one day, but could only do half that many the next: 
        2. The muscles were torn down.
        3. They needed time to repair.
    4. The fix for this, of course, is both simple and welcomed: REST.
      1. In the midst of an exercise program, rest days are not counter-productive.
      2. In fact, they are necessary.
      3. Plan time for rest.
      4. Also, listen to your body.
        1. I’ve learned, at 44-years of age, that my body speaks to me a lot.
        2. And sometimes it tells me it needs rest.
        3. It’s not a bad thing to allow it that rest when sore or fatigued.
        4. Taking a day off is not a bad thing.
      5. Now, I generally workout 5-6 days a week.
        1. I do that without overloading myself by staggering the kind exercises I do–especially when it comes to weight lifting.
        2. So if I have a leg day in the weight room, you can bet I’m going to do non-leg workouts for the next day or two.
        3. So, let me give you a glimpse at a typical week for me, right now:
          1. Monday is upper-body day with weights and a trainer.
          2. Tuesday is basketball and some body-weight leg exercises
          3. Wednesday is cardio and yoga
          4. Thursday is lower-body weights with a trainer
          5. Friday is upper-body body-weight exercises and some light b-ball or cardio
          6. Saturday is plyometrics day for jumping.
            1. And plyometrics are basically just jumping drills.
          7. I’m sure you noticed a pattern: that I don’t workout the same muscle groups consecutively.
            1. Each group gets a couple days rest before going hard again.
            2. And, when I’m not feeling it, I give myself permission to take a day off, period.
            3. I give you that permission, too… for whatever that’s worth.
  8. Alright, let’s review quick:
    1. Here are the mistakes I’ve noted thus far:
      1. I ignored the importance of food and nutrition.
      2. I focused on the wrong thing, in this case, too much cardio
      3. I jumped in without a plan for progression–which is where I didn’t try to overload my muscles to get stronger.
      4. And I ignored the importance of rest.
    2. And now, magic number 5, the workout mistake I was making that limited my fitness advancement was this: I didn’t pay attention to form.
      1. Form matters… a lot
        1. Damage a joint while doing squats incorrectly and you’ll likely give a big amen to that.
      2. I jumped on to doing squats when I started my training to dunk a basketball.
        1. After a couple weeks of squat-heavy workout routines, I had a ton of pain in my hips.
        2. Like, sometimes it felt like my hips were on fire.
          1. And not when I was working out.
          2. But on my rest days.
        3. It turns out I have a bad habit of rounding my lower back and tailbone when squatting, which puts undue pressure on some muscles in that area. 
          1. I’m fortunate that all I got was extra soreness and inflammation and not a more severe injury.
        4. I lucked out there with my knees, too…
        5. Because I have tendency to let my knees collapse towards the center of my body during squats–which can also lead to some serious injury.
      3. How do I know I have these tendencies, you may ask…
        1. I check my form to make sure I’m doing exercises properly.
      4. This is one of the reasons why gyms have mirrors.
        1. So, if you’re working out in a gym, don’t be so bashful.
        2. Give yourself a good hard look. 
        3. Golly, you’re sexy!
      5. If you’re like me and workout mostly without the luxury of mirrors, then video yourself from time to time.
        1. I’ve gone total vanity and now have hours of footage of me doing various exercises.
        2. I can check jump technique.
        3. I can make sure I’m not rounding my back when doing Romanian Leg Lifts.
        4. I can make sure I’m not leaning forward when doing lunges.
        5. I can make sure I’m not pushing my hips up when doing a plank
        6. All these are things I’ve caught myself doing because I videoed my technique while exercising.
        7. I’m not likely to share these videos with anyone
          1. They’re rarely instagram glamor shots.
          2. I mean, I do share a video from time to time when I think it might be beneficial
          3. But, for the most part, these videos are for my eyes only… I use them then delete them.
      6. So don’t be afraid to look at yourself.
      7. And don’t be too shy about having someone else look at you, too.
        1. By that, I mean, personal trainers or coaches can be awesome for making sure you’re doing things right.
        2. I currently work with one a couple times a week, and he’s constantly throwing me reminders about how to do an exercise well.
        3. It’s valuable advice… and, so far, has kept me from excess soreness and injury.
        4. PLUS, just a little plug for trainers… he’s really good and coaxing me through my “quit” stage.
          1. That’s when my mind has decided I’ve done enough
          2. But it turns out my body can actually press out a bit more.
          3. Having the coach there telling me to do one or two more reps really does a lot of good.
    3. ANYWAYS, good form is important.
      1. If you can’t do an exercise with good form, then you’re pushing too much weight.
      2. The best practice is to use only as much weight as you can while maintaining good form.
      3. If you can push up 300 pounds on your squat but your form sucks, it might be time to bite the bullet and back off the weight and do the squat right before something happens to you.
        1. That said, if you can a 300-lb squat I doubt there’s much new information in this podcast episode for you…
        2. But ANYWAYS…
    4. That was my fifth and final mistake to avoid.
      1. A quick review:
        1. Food and nutrition matter.
        2. Don’t focus on one single thing or on the wrong thing.
        3. Plan for progression
        4. Rest yourself 
        5. And utilize proper form.
      2. Do these five things… and you’ll be Bad-Ass in a reasonable amount of time.
  9. [MUSIC IN] Hey, if you have some newby mistakes to add to the list, send them my way!
    1. I’ll add them to the shownotes page on the web site.
    2. You can DM me on Twitter at thebadpod1 or on Facebook or instagram at theBADPod
    3. You can also email me at Ryan@thebadpod.com
    4. If you’re looking for some workout ideas, I have a few accessible body-weight routines posted on the web site. They’re available right on the front page, so just visit thebadpod.com to check those out.
    5. And check it often, because new material appears on the web site every week.
    6. Podcast episodes come out every other week… so check back in two for the latest and greatest. 
      1. In the next episode I’m going to run through my newbie mistakes in marriage.
      2. That should be a ton of fun… for you. 
        1. I’m not excited to relive some of my immature and selfish moments.
        2. But I think it will be helpful, so I’ll go there… for you.
      3. If you liked this episode,  
        1. The episode entitled 7 hacks to staying motivated might be up your alley, too
        2. OR, you can venture back to this podcast’s infancy and listen to one of the very first episodes: The first step to physical badassery.
      4. As you’re listening, I hope you’ll mash, strike, or gently caress the subscribe button
      5. That would be dope.
    7. Ummmm… I’m going to sign off now. I’m Ryan Dunn.
    8. The music is by Eyoelin
    9. Stay golden, friend.
    10. OK bye.

Published by RyanDunn

Ryan Dunn has a bunch of certificates on his desk. A few are awards for content production and marketing. Another marks his ordination as a minister. One says he’s earned a BA in English from the University of Iowa. The certificate next to that says he earned an MA in Christian Practice from Duke (with honors!). Ryan is most proud, though, of the things he’s created: The Compass Podcast, some deep content on RethinkChurch.org, a series of practical spiritual advice videos, a long-lasting marriage, and fantastic little boy. (He enjoyed A LOT of help on all of those projects, especially the last two.)

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