You’re Doing it Wrong: 5 Mistakes You Make in the Gym


I recently observed a woman about my age at the gym recently who has been doing the same “routine” every time I’ve seen her. She always seems to manage to get the bench next to me in the weight room. And she always seems to be doing similar exercises at the same time I’m doing them. But that’s where the similarities stop.

I would say this woman is probably following a Tracey Anderson-type of workout, perhaps from that blonde idiot (sorry, not sorry) herself or maybe out of a magazine. Who knows, all I know is this woman looks like she needs help. Why? She lifts nothing higher than 10lb dumbbells. When she goes to the machines, she tends to do almost all of them and puts the pin in the top (lightest) weight. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to her routine. The amount of reps is more than 20 because I literally lose count any time I attempt to count how many reps she’s doing.

I vowed to myself that if I see her one more time, which would be the third, I would go over and attempt to help her. Because maybe she just doesn’t know….

Here are 5 things that I think people do wrong at the gym. And if you think you’re doing some of these, maybe this will help you because maybe you just don’t know either!


  • You go in without a plan. I’m talking no plan whatsoever – no sheet of paper, no notes on your phone, no workout journal, nothing. WHY?  You travel from machine to machine. Going through the motions, staring off into space, probably making your grocery list in your head because you don’t have a plan when you go there either. You’re here to workout, put some EFFORT into it, will ya? Don’t be Mr. or Miss Random. Get in, do the work, and get out. Get an actual program from someone who knows your goals and is knowledgeable and someone you trust. Preferably a personal trainer. (Want online training? I do that now too and I’ll have videos coming soon. Click here for more information) Magazine workouts are sub par for those on a budget. If you have sworn off hiring a PT, you should invest in one or two really good BOOKS with programs that you can follow. Here are two that I’m reading right now: Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle and Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body. Obviously men wouldn’t purchase the latter recommendation although most ladies like a man with some a strong set of glutes on them. 😉  A couple other authors I really like are Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove. Rachel put out one of my favorite books: The Female Body Breakthrough and her hubby Alwyn wrote what I consider the bible for women lifters: The New Rules of Lifting for Women.

Not a woman and want some recommendations? Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle mentioned above is appropriate for everyone but another good one –  The New Rules of Lifting: Six Basic Moves for Maximum Muscle is geared towards men.

  • You have a routine…but it’s been the same routine for over a year. While there’s nothing wrong with being consistent, all of us could use a little update to our current programs. It doesn’t even have to be anything drastic with regards to the changes you’re making. But if what you are currently doing isn’t quite getting the job done, it’s time to update your ancient program. At the very least, you should be changing up the amount of reps or at least adding a more challenging weight. Repeat after me – Change is Good! I trained a woman recently who was doing the same program her old personal trainer had her on…3 years prior. She complained that nothing was changing at all and she was bored. No wonder! I’d be bored too if I did the same exercises day in and day out 3 years in a row too! When you can’t remember the last time you changed up the exercises in your current regiment, it’s time for an overhaul.
  • You don’t lift at all. Why are you even reading this blog? 😉  Seriously though, time to stop thinking you don’t need to lift in order to see results because I promise you, you do. Cardio will only get you so far. And no one is saying you have to lift super heavy. The woman at the gym I referenced earlier lifts nothing heavier than 10lbs. Based on appearance alone, I feel like she is MUCH stronger than that! I feel like there’s a little lion in there and it needs to roar, ha! She doesn’t seem like she has an injury that she’s recovering  from, her range of motion was fine. Perhaps she’s worried about getting “bulky.” Perhaps she doesn’t think she is CAPABLE of lifting that heavy. You have to start somewhere! You don’t need to grunt and sound like you are in pain everytime you lift…but you should look like you’re putting forth some effort to get those weights up. This is the only way you will see change. You. Need. To. Lift. Even if it’s your own bodyweight.
  • You have no idea about pre and post workout nutrition. I don’t care if you’re going for fat loss or muscle gain or maintenance – Anyone who works out knows that the best snack is your PWO snack (Post WorkOut). This is the time when you can enjoy the benefits of working up a sweat and repair those muscles. EAT your Carbs! Drink your Protein Shake! This is the BEST time to eat. I make sure I eat within 30 minutes of finishing up my workout. When I was training for my competition it would not be unusual for me to be eating my snack the MOMENT I finished my last rep, walking out the door of the gym, scarfing down that Pop-Tart or fruit snacks like they were my last meal. It was glorious! As for pre-workout, some people can get away without eating anything and still getting a good lift on but at the very least, you need to ingest some BCAA’s so you have some energy.
  • You don’t know what tempo means. I was guilty of this as well. I would get a good pump going on at the gym and go home and it was fine. But once I started getting coaching from Erik at LBC, and he instructed me on tempo when lifting, it was a game changer for me. I finally started seeing significant change in my physique. I finally started feeling a little sore too, which wasn’t a bad thing. Most of all, I FELT the muscles in my body working. You not only have to visualize your muscles working, you have to slow everything down and concentrate on the motion. Only then do you really appreciate what a machine your body is truly capable of being. Stop being in a such a rush when you lift. It just looks plain silly. Like this poor fella.


Get in the Zone

This says: "You're kicking a$$!"


A few days ago I went to LifeTime Fitness where I used to work as a Personal Trainer and got my heart rate zones re-assessed.  If I was computer savvy enough I would post my old testing results here but just to put these two pics up here was tedious enough (You have to click on them to enlarge them so you can actually read them).

I was really excited to see these zones because they have changed dramatically from where I used to be.

To summarize for those who are not familiar with heart rate training, the above results show what my heart rate in beats per minute is in each Zone.  There are 5 Zones.  You will see that I didn’t reach a Zone 5 because…well, why would I prolong the torture? Not only that, but the point was to get to my Zone 4,  which is the threshold – the point where someone stops burning a significant amount of fat and starts burning a significant amount of carbohydrates.  See that shaded area in the top pic?? That’s fat being burned off.

Nine or 10 months ago I was nowhere near 175 beats per minute in my Zone 4.  I was closer to 156.  A huge leap!  Makes sense since I wasn’t doing much in the way of high intensity a year ago.  Actually I was in crutches a year ago so I wasn’t doing much of anything at that time.  I had just done some recumbent/stationary bike as my main form of cardio after getting off the crutches.  It was killing me not to be able to do any running of any kind.

Nowadays, my cardio workouts are much SMARTER.  I was told by my test administrator Amanda that I would be wise to implement some recovery training once in a while (staying below that Zone 1) to give my system a break.  I like to describe it as keeping your foot on a gas pedal – you might be going FAST but are you really doing your body any favors by constantly “running” it into the ground?  You gotta take your foot off the gas and hit the brakes.  I was really fearful of over-training at this point in the game so I’m happy to see that I am NOT…..yet.  Had I not gotten tested I probably would just continue to hit it hard without getting in any recovery time.

The second pic shows the Zones and how many calories are being burned per minute as well as my Volume of Oxygen.  To make a long story short: the higher the Volume of Oxygen is, the better.  Again, I was nowhere in the 40’s prior to this test so yet another milestone conquered.

Of course it’s not all about the numbers.  As with any goal, the hard data is great to have but it’s also important to note the other Non-Number Related Victories:

  • Getting above 7mph on the treadmill during this test without passing out.  Granted it wasn’t for a long period of time but I’m amazed at how FAST I’m able to go, even for brief intervals, on the treadmill.  One of my first posts on this blog was about my experience at A.S.A.P. Fitness where I participated in my friend Gerred’s R.E.A.L. Training class.  I know for a fact he had me on the treadmill to “run for 3 minutes” and I can still see myself hanging on the treadmill for fear I was going to fly off….at 5mph.  Ha!  In my defense that was the first time I was “running” on a treadmill in over a year so, it was probably to be expected.  But now, I can sprint at 8mph for about minute, and then I am wiped out collapse on the floor.
  • Taking progress pics more frequently now, every week.  It seems like everyday I’m noticing something small yet significant related to some muscle growth going on.  I would emphasize to ANYONE on a weight loss journey or just a body transformation quest to take pictures.  You might be the only one looking at them but you will REGRET it when you make some progress if you don’t have that “before” pic to show everyone how far you have come.
  • My lower abs lower abdominal region is trying to sneak its way out of the fat and show itself. 🙂  I’m coaxing these muscles as much as possible to show themselves – no doubt due to the Hanging Leg Raises and Hanging Knee Raises I try to do every other day at home from my Pull-up bar. (The nutrition helps of course too!)  Thanks again to my sister for getting that for me and my brother for hooking it up.
  • Speaking of pull ups, I completed 3 chin ups – unassisted this morning. Woohoo! I still have yet to do one complete unassisted Pull up but I’m getting there!

On that happy note, Happy Wednesday Everyone!

Random Tweet of the Day courtesy of @PenniesAndGum: “It’s best mixture. One bag microwave popcorn, 1/3 big box Duds. They melt in the hot popcorn, and the whole thing is fantastic.”

All I can think of is: This is going to be what I’m going to eat as soon as I’m done with my competition. HA!

Week 5 Workout

Back from the gym from my first attempt at Fighter Diet’s Week 5 workout.  I’ve decided to share this workout because, hey, freedom of speech and everything.  And if I get sued by Pauline for sharing, well, let’s face it only about a dozen 3 people read this so I’m not too concerned about it.

Deadlift Pyramid

Set 1:  20 reps: 15lb DB’s (30lbs total, duh)

Set 2:  20 reps: 40lb Barbell

Set 3: 15 reps: 50lb Barbell

Set 4: 15 reps: 60lb Barbell

Set 5: 15 reps: 60lb Barbell

Set 6: 15 reps: 50lb Barbell

Set 7: 20 reps: 40lb Barbell

Set 8: 20 reps: 15lb DB’s (30lbs total)

No rest in between any sets except between sets 4 and 5 because I thought I might not be able to continue if I didn’t.

4 x 20 Squats resting for 15 seconds between sets: 25lb Kettlebell

4 x max rep Push ups resting for 10 seconds in between sets: 25 reps, 20, 15, 10 (dropped to knees for last few reps of last two sets)

3 x 15 bent over DB Row – 22.5lb DB’s (45lbs)

3 x 20 Standing Barbell Presses – Opted for the 30lb Barbell; didn’t quite pan out.  Should have went to the 20.  Did 20 reps, then 15, then 10.

Superset 3 x 15 bent over Dumbbell Raises with 3×20 hanging leg raises:  Did 7.5lb DB’s no problems.  But opted for the Romanian Chair hanging leg raises. Still not gutsy enough to try just hanging from a bar yet.  I’m such a wimp warrior.

Superset 3×20 crunches with 5×20 Squats resting only 10 seconds between sets.  Yikes.  Finished it though! Used 17.5lb DB’s (34lbs).

Did some abs afterwards for about 10 minutes before calling it a night.  Thoroughly wiped.


Weight as of this morning: 133.2lbs.  I’m trying not to obsess over my weight too much because as a female we all know how it can fluctuate depending on a certain time of the month, or if we’re retaining water or storing too many carbs.  In fact, I just came across a blog that explains this exact phenomenon pain the ass.

But it does feel good to see that number go down after all this hard work.  I’m also back on the veggie track after today.  I kind of got derailed from my veggie intake after doing so well for almost a year!  Honestly, budget had a lot to do with it.  But payday is on Friday and most of my $$ lately has been going into food; a well worthwhile investment.  🙂

Time for sleep!!


Victory Formation

This was a pretty great weekend for Ohio sports so I’m feeling victorious today.  I can’t help but be inspired by my alma mater Kent State football team getting *this close* to a bowl game, The Ohio State University beating Michigan and going undefeated, and the Browns beating the Steelers.

One non sports related reason is because I hopped on the scale this morning and I’m already down 1lb!  So note to Craig, my weight loss challenge instigator, get your check book ready! 🙂  That $20 (big money big money no whammies!) is as good as mine.

I also heard from an FB friend from high school that is inspired by my little challenge to take on the challenge herself!  She’s in it with me too, we are determined to lose these 5 little pounds.   Anyone else up for the challenge?  Let me know!

As for my workouts, this week starts Week 5 of the Fighter Diet – on tap for the workouts are Pyramid Deadlifts.  Basically means increase the weight with each set until you’re at your heaviest and then work your way back down to the weight you started with.  I’m also seeing some squats, max rep push-ups and hanging leg raises which I still suck at.

Week 6 is Pull-ups.  YIKES.  YAY!

Although I can chalk up this week to a victory in terms of food selection, workouts and weight loss, it’s important not to get caught up in the moment and stay focused.

Here’s to another “winning” week!


Random iTunes song: Titanium by David Guetta Featuring Sia – LOVE HER!  How does this song not make anyone feel empowered?

Random Tweet:  “I love the product placement of the SUV’s in #TheWalkingDead. Got Zombies? Get a Hyundai!”



5lb Challenge…it’s on!

Thanksgiving was the official start of a bet my friend Craig had challenged me to: Lose 5lbs between Thanksgiving and January 3rd.
The premise being that hardly anyone can actually LOSE weight over the holidays.
I wanted to prove him wrong hence the bet. We bet a whole $20! 🙂
So I weighed in at 134lbs Thursday morning after breakfast. (Picture below)

I must say having a bet like this, albeit for very little money, is actually proving to be more motivating for me than the Figure competition goal! Probably because its short-term, I get a reward in the end, and in my eyes, this won’t be too hard for me to accomplish.
I already did great on Thanksgiving by avoiding the pumpkin pie but didn’t completely neglect my sweet tooth having 2 (yes 2) homemade chocolate chip cookies. No depriving, just careful choosing.
Next week starts the final two weeks of the Fighter Diet workouts I’ve been doing. It should prove to be the most challenging of all the workouts (I think she has me doing pull-ups, yikes!)
I’m actually looking forward to THAT challenge as well.
All in all I’m hoping for one of my most productive weeks to date!
And I promise to post progress pics…soon. 🙂


The Gym Ra(n)t

Over the past few years (possibly more) there has definitely been an increase in the number of women at the gym lifting heavy weights and not doing the usual Cardio Queen Routine.  I won’t pretend to know who or what was responsible for this “movement” but I have no doubt social media has definitely helped kick this into high gear.  You have all kinds of websites and support groups and apparel with motivational sayings on them everywhere you look: “Lift Like a Girl”  “Strong is the new Sexy”  “Beautiful Badass” etc.

A fellow blogger, Kim,  wrote about this very recently here Lift Heavy Get Sexy.

On the opposite side of this, however, there are women who are hesitant or possibly still too intimidated to step foot in a gym let alone a weight room.  There might be a few reasons why;  believing they will get “bulky” if they lift anything heavier than 5lbs, thinking cardio is still the answer, the unknown of what the heck to do first.

But I think women really would workout at the gym more often and with PURPOSE if they were surrounded by other women with the same goals.  Unfortunately, trying to find a workout buddy proves to be a little difficult if you’re all alone.

Sidenote: There’s a gym in LA called Pink Iron. Love this pic and love their story.

The main reason might be the presence of the gym rats.  The meat heads.  The boys and men who make the gym seem like an unfriendly and intimidating space, particularly if they are behaving in such a way that earns them a different nickname…like A$$hole.  See how I disguised the S’s with dollar signs? I’m so Ke$ha.

I witnessed this firsthand myself the other day.  (Having no iPod anymore allows me to hear all kinds of lovely conversations now as I workout in complete silence. )

Gym Rat #1:  The Loud Talkers

I had a couple of those Saturday afternoon.  Literally, a couple.  They were no older than mid 20’s and although it was undetermined if they were just friends or dating.  You’d think I would have figured it out after an hour of non-stop chatter.  They decided it was a good idea to have a very loud conversation with each other while working out together.   They couldn’t have been more than 5 feet from each other the entire time yet they insisted on speaking at a decibel reserved usually for concerts or bars playing loud music.

Eventually After an hour they finally stopped.  But not before I heard their plans for the weekend (she’s going to a friends house, he’s going to hang with his parents), their future purchases (he wants to sell his motorcycle, she’s saving up for a car) and what they did prior to coming to the gym (a church event that had them both giddy with laughter at whoever the speaker was).    Oh yeah…I know their life story now.

Loud talkers are tolerable…just really annoying.

What’s worse in my opinion?

Gym Rat #2:  The Meatheads who Judge

Two men were lifting in front of the mirror on a random Sunday evening.  I couldn’t help but notice that there weren’t many females around this time and the one that WAS, was on the elliptical not really doing much work.  The guys were talking about random things that I didn’t pay attention to because I was focused on my own workout.  But I couldn’t help but feel like they were ogling looking at me in such a way that suggested a “Why is SHE here?”  Or maybe I’m just paranoid.

No worries…Judge me all you want.  I carry on with my workout.  Meanwhile a different female approaches the weight area.  She’s probably about 5 foot 7, maybe 140lbs. (I’m a terrible judge of weight)  Her legs and chest are bigger than mine but it’s clear her legs are muscular.  No belly to speak of but not washboard either.  Average.

She has earbuds in so I assume she doesn’t hear one of the guys say to the other:

“I still think she looks fat.”

Wow, really dude?? Okay so clearly you know who this girl is or have seen her there before.  But you’re one to talk.  You are not the least bit thin or in shape, you have large biceps but that’s pretty much all you got goin for you.  Your abs are not chiseled in any way and you look like you should probably get those quads of yours in the squat rack.

And the girl was not the least bit FAT.

I’m glad she didn’t hear him.  I’m glad I did though.  It’s guys like these, which are few and far between in my experience, that are probably a good reason why most women won’t go to the gym.  As much as I would tell my shy female clients “Don’t worry, no one is staring at you, they’re too busy looking at themselves in the mirror,”  I would see a few CREEPERS from time to time.

It made me wonder for a brief second “Okay if they think she’s fat, what the hell am I?”

Of course I could care less what anyone thinks.  I’m there to workout, not make friends.  But wow…the audacity to say those words within earshot of ME, another girl!  I guess he knew I didn’t know the girl but what if I had? What if she was a friend of mine?

But I will tell most women, I promise the gym only has a few of these rats.

What gyms seem need to have more of are the Gym Rat #3 type:  The Spotters and Helpers

Working out alone can be a little sad and lonely.  Most of the time I’m okay with it but once in a while it helps to have a friend with you to guide you or spot your tell you you’re form is off.

But sometimes you get lucky and there are people there willing to help you even if they don’t know you.

I was on the squat rack at one point not doing anything too heavy when I heard a voice say “look up.”   I looked around and saw an older man.  I quickly looked away and thought to myself  “Who the hell is this guy trying to tell me what to do?”

Second set, he physically comes over and tells me “You’re looking down at your feet for the last few reps.  You’re not going to feel it where you should and you’ll strain your lower back by doing that.  Try looking up and you’ll end up going lower.”

Oh…Okay.  Here I was ready to ignore this man even further and he was just trying to help.

Lo and behold, it worked!  I didn’t realize I was looking down because I didn’t have a mirror in front of me and this man had a clear visual of my form.

That same seesion, while looking for a barbell to do deadlifts, I noticed a hex bar just sitting in the corner waiting to be used.

Aha! I’ll try that out since I’ve always wanted to.  Now to load the bar…

I grabbed a plate and walked to the bar but before I could even attempt to awkwardly handle this device, a gentleman came over to help me.  No questions asked.  No words spoken.  Just held the bar so I could put the plates on and walked away.  I said “Thanks” because again, I have the mentality that I don’t need anyone’s help.  I’m not some damsel in distress who can’t load a bar but after his help I realized it would have taken me at least 2 minutes to do what we did together in 10 seconds.

I couldn’t help but feel elated after that session.  Two complete strangers lend me their advice and their help.  It was a small moment but a big one.  For just a few minutes,  I had a gym buddy.

*Cue the Kumbaya song*

So to all the ladies (or gents) who feel like the gym is not their place, come one and all.  There’s plenty of room for you and I assure you no matter where you join, you will find someone who will make it an enjoyable experience.

And if not, plug in those earbuds and ignore the haters. 🙂


Random Tune on the Radio:  “Do You Believe in Love” by Huey Lewis and the News

Random Tweet of the Day:  I’m actually staying off Twitter today because I didn’t get to watch The Walking Dead last night and I KNOW one of my followers will tweet out some spoilers.