Common mistakes to avoid when trying to get into shape – a personal trainer weighs in


Woman stretching before a workout.

Fitness is an aspect of our lives that most of us are constantly trying to improve. Sometimes we find ourselves making very common mistakes without realising it which can eventually lead to feeling de-motivated because we don’t see the results.

TRUELOVE spoke to qualified personal trainer and sports nutritionist, Naledi Mahlangu, about what you should avoid when trying to get into shape.

Mahlohonolo Magadla: What are the most common mistakes people make when they start their weight-loss or fitness journeys?

Naledi Mahangu: From working in a gym environment and working with a predominantly female demographic, I’ve noticed that a lot of women tend to starve themselves to help them lose weight or accelerate their results and that’s not at all correct. In fact, it’s extremely incorrect to do. When it comes to weight loss and a generally healthy lifestyle, you need to ensure that what you’re doing is maintainable.

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I always recommend that my clients to follow a balanced and holistic diet which is filled with whole foods for weight loss or weight gain. You have to ensure that you are getting enough food into your body. If you don’t fuel it, your body won’t run and work optimally

I always recommend having 2-3 servings of protein, 2-3 servings of dairy, 2-4 servings of fruit, 3-5 servings of vegetables, 6-8 servings of carbohydrates and sparingly using your fats, oils and sweets. Food is not your enemy, you have to develop a healthy relationship with your food and ensure that you’re eating the correct food for your body.

MG: Is supplementation as necessary as many of us think it is?

NM: Going back to what I previously said, nutrition is important. It makes up 75% of your healthy body so that’s why I focus a lot on nutrition and additionally exercise. When we look at nutrition and the mistakes people make there, a lot of people tend to buy into supplement culture to reach their goals.

We often think that fitness should be painful or difficult but we should strive to find ways to make it fun

Naledi Mahlangu, qualified personal trainer and sports nutritionist

Supplementation is not necessary to achieve your fitness goals – you should avoid it because you need to get food in naturally into your body. You should only use supplements if you can’t get any food in through your meals. When you cannot eat enough to meet your fitness goals then I’d recommend supplements for those people. For others, you can get all your nutrients from food.

MG: Should we be weighing ourselves everyday to monitor our progress?

NM: One of the myths I tend to hear frequently is that you have to be glued to your scale to monitor your progress and that’s the furthest thing from the truth. If anything, try to minimise weigh ins to at least 2 or 3 times a month. They are not the only way to monitor your progress physically.

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They can be beneficial to monitor your progress but there are more accurate ways to do so. The scale isn’t always beneficial and can often demotivate you. A way to better monitor progress is a body composition test – it measures your body mass and percentages.

The scale can limit what you learn about your body whereas a body composition test will reveal why your body is a certain way, any underlying conditions you should be aware of and how you should be working out or eating.

MG: What type of training should a person who wants to lose weight do?

NM: I work mostly with women and I’ve noticed that they think the only training they should be doing is cardio and that is not true. Cardio is good for building heart strength and is one of the fastest ways to lose weight, however, this is not the only way to lose weight.

I don’t know why, but people have created the narrative that training with weights will make them look extremely muscular and have a male physique but that’s not true. I like to integrate weight training into sessions because with cardio, yes you’ll lose weight but we also have to focus on building muscle strength. Building strength will also help in other factors of your fitness and not just in losing weight.

When trying to lose weight, people should also not only stick to one type of training routine because this does not give your body enough time to rest and  your body becomes conditioned to just doing that one type of training. So, you need to ensure that you’re changing up your routine. Doing cardio the one day then resistance and strength training on other days. This will help yield the results that you are seeking. All in all, functional training will help you lose weight and ensure you have total body fitness.

MG: What overall advice would you give to someone who is trying to get into shape for summer?

NM: I’d definitely advise that you change the perception into more of a lifestyle rather than for a short period. I hate the term “summer body” because it limits you and it creates a temporary or quick thing. We need to create a more holistic approach to getting into shape.

I’d also advise people to make getting into shape a fun thing. We often think that fitness should be painful or difficult but we should strive to find ways to make it fun. Be it attending classes or going to bounce as a fun activity with friends because at the end of the day, that’s what will help you maintain your fitness journey.

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