Former personal trainer and Women’s Fitness Editor Christina Neal reveals eight common errors people make with their exercise routines…

I will always promote the benefits of exercise to anyone who will listen. I’ve unashamedly bored my many of my friends and my man about how exercise can make such a difference to our emotional and physical wellbeing. When I’ve finished a workout that I didn’t want to do beforehand, I usually feel so much more energised, positive and focused. Sometimes I do have to talk myself into it, especially in this hot weather, but I know that it will always be worth the effort. I get my workouts done in the mornings and spend the rest of the day feeling more productive. Of course, it wasn’t always that way and I had to get accustomed to working out. But once you get into a habit of doing it, the benefits are noticeable.

That said, there’s things you can do during your exercise routine that can hinder your progress and hold you back. Here’s eight things to avoid…

1. Copying others’ exercise choices

So often I’ve heard stories of people taking up a certain form of exercise because their friend did it and transformed their body. That’s all very well but if you don’t find a form of exercise that you enjoy, one that motivates you to want to get up from the sofa, you just won’t stick at it. Willpower can only last for so long. So if you heard that your friend ditched a stone by running, but you can’t stand doing it, don’t do it. Find something else.

2. Expecting too much too soon

When we first start an exercise routine, it’s easy to expect big changes early on. We may have also changed our diet and be on a mission to lose weight, so we feel like we’re doing the right thing and want to see results fast. It can take time for the body to adapt to a new routine but if you are patient and consistent with your exercise routine and diet, you will get results in the end. Just don’t expect a body transformation in the first two weeks.

3. Working too hard

It’s generally true that you need to find yourself moderately out of breath in order to get fitter and burn calories, but it’s perfectly OK to take rest or recovery periods if you need them. If you push yourself too hard, you’ll have a daunting experience that may put you off altogether. So if you’re running and finding it tough, slow down or take a walking break for a minute or two, then repeat. It doesn’t have to be hard work all of the time.

4. Skipping the stretching

Stretching lengthens muscles and increases your range of motion. The greater your range of motion the more easily you can move when you’re working out. It can also help to prevent muscle soreness after exercise, which in itself can put you off. So many people can’t be bothered to stretch after a workout, but really it only takes five minutes. Stretch your lower back, your front and rear thighs and your calves, as well as your upper back. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds.

5. Sticking to the same workout

Your body will adapt and grow accustomed to a set workout routine, so if you do the same run at the same pace every time, sooner or later it will get easy. If you want to get fitter, and push your boundaries, you will need to shake things up. Try incorporating some interval training into your workouts. The same goes for weight-training. Change your routine, increase the weights, have shorter rest periods, try new exercises. Don’t stick with the same workout for more than six weeks.

6. Expecting to be able to eat what you want

If you are exercising for weight loss, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you can eat anything because you are now leading an active lifestyle. Sadly it’s just not the case. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet. If you eat high-calorie foods and exercise every day, your weight will remain the same or you might even put on weight. I know this from personal experience. I gained weight training for a marathon despite covering many miles a week, and then lost weight when I damaged my knee and couldn’t do any cardio because I changed my diet. If you know that you have to combine a healthy eating plan with your exercise routine, you will get results, but one of those two on its own will be difficult.

7. Not committing fully to a workout

When you exercise, put your heart and soul into it and give it your full attention. Don’t get distracted by other people or your phone. Do it and focus on it. Give your workout your entire attention so that you get best results. Stopping to chat to other gym goers or check your phone or doing those things while training is just going to distract you, which could cause injuries and will stop you from focusing on good technique.

8. Getting addicted to one thing

I’ve done this, so I speak from experience. I got hooked on running many years ago and paid the price. I suffered numerous injuries and now have to live with a damaged cartilage that will always restrict how much I can run. Too much of the same thing can cause repetitive style injuries and can mean that you don’t have enough time to recover in between sessions. Don’t run every day – every other day is best if you enjoy it – and try to vary your workouts so that you do different forms of exercise. Triathlon training is beneficial as it gets you fit across three disciplines and means you don’t do too much of one thing.