If Google Trends are anything to go by, in January people around the globe will be 25% more interested in joining a gym than in December*. Visit one in both months and the figure seems much higher. However, gym owners know that this trend only lasts a few months, as May is almost as slow as December.

Why is it then, that the “I’ll finally get healthy” resolutions don’t last? Drawing on my own personal experience and discussions with other gym-goers, here are the most common pitfalls I’ve seen:

1. Treating the challenge as a physical one, instead of a mental one

Losing weight seems like a simple mathematical equation: (Calorie intake < Calorie consumption) over an extended period of time. Therefore, it’s natural to look for ways to eat less and work out harder. However, the last part of the equation (extended period of time) is actually the hardest one to accomplish.

How to solve it?

Re-frame the problem you’re solving for, for example, from “how do I burn the most calories?” to “how do I stay motivated for a longer period of time?”. A so-so workout done consistently beats a great-but-unsustainable workout. Dig into why you quit the last time. Was the gym too boring? Then look for other sports you find interesting. Was it too time-consuming? Then look for activities closer to your home or office to save time on traffic.

2. Not looking for help

Practice makes perfect, expect if you’re practicing wrong.  Whether it’s out of insecurity, budget constraints, or ignorance, many people start the gym all by themselves, figuring out as they go how to use the machines and dumbbells. At best, having a poor form can result in no progress, which will only discourage you and make you quit. At worst, it can result in injury.

How to solve it?

The obvious solution is to get both a personal trainer and a nutritionist. But if you can’t do that, there are tons of diets and workouts online with videos on how to properly do each exercise. Find a reliable source, such as Muscle & Fitness or Men’s/Women’s Health (here’s an example of a 4-week beginners guide). Then, when you take it to practice, ask a personal trainer or a friend to watch your form and correct any mistakes.

3. Assuming that what worked for someone else will work for you

Finally, just because someone you know is in shape it does not mean you can copy his or her routine and get the same results. Everyone has a different body composition, different experience, and therefore different needs. Some people find it easy to lose fat but struggle to put on muscle. Others can easily bulk but need a few hours more of cardio a week to avoid putting unwanted weight (more on body types here).

How to solve it?

Trial and error are your best allies if you do not know what works best for you. Do not get fixated with certain workout or eating habits. In fact, try alternating with different types of weight exercises, cardio, and diets, for periods of 4 to 8 weeks and track your results both quantitatively (weight, BMI) and qualitatively (easiness to follow, practicality).


*Monthly worldwide Google searches of “Gym” from 2008 to 2017


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