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The Worst Thing You Can Do When Starting a Fitness Routine

You are probably thinking that I am going to suggest that not hiring a professional coach, being inconsistent with your routine, not considering how your eating habits play a role, etc are the WORST things. Well, while those are all great to address (and likely you will when you join us), that is not what I am sharing today.

The WORST thing you do as a newbie…and honestly, even as a fitness “veteran” is

Comparing yourself to others.

Unfortunately, many of us (if not all) grow up learning that we should be looking to others for what is right or how we should be instead of just trusting ourselves to do what is best for us. The psychology of that is really its own post. Today we are simply applying this to training intensity.

At Align, we utilize three contexts for our conditioning. They are Development, Stimulation, and Rebound. Each context has a focus for the day. These help us stay focused and are relative to each person.

  • Development: These are high intensity days, and usually include higher volume and work with a fast, tough MetCon. You will be encouraged to find an uncomfortable pace and sustain it best you can. Working at 90%+ heart rate.

  • Stimulation: You will feel like you got a good workout, but not too high intensity. Usually, these days will involve decreased load and/or moderate intensity MetCons. Focus on breathing and moving well. Working at 75-85% heart rate.

  • Rebound: Lower intensity days intended to recover, move well, and focus on breathing. The MetCon will be a long, slow piece. No one should be working at an intensity that requires laying on the floor afterwards. Working at 65-70% heart rate.

Each one of you is different. You will have different strengths, different limitations, different medical histories, different athletic and fitness histories, and just about everything else. While we do encourage you to be competitive (when appropriate), you need to take into consideration where you are at with your skills and fitness. Thus, each of the aforementioned contexts will be relative to YOU. For example, I have been following a specific strength and conditioning routine consistently for over 7 years. I regularly compete in local fitness competitions. My Rebound intensity will look very different from a newbie – in other words, I will likely still complete it quicker or complete more work at my lower intensity (in comparison to a newer person). And it SHOULD look different. But, that newbie to this type of fitness should not be comparing him/herself to my performance. The work completed or the time it takes to complete the work will look different for each person, pending their experience with exercise, skill level, and medical or pain history. Each person is on his or her own path when starting a fitness journey, and it can be difficult to be patient when starting out.

When you reduce this comparison, you will be able to focus more on how you are moving. You will likely not use an inappropriate amount of weight, cheat on your reps or range of motion, or adhere to a pace that is extremely challenging. This all leads you down a path of less pain and/or constant aches. Again, this is a difficult habit to modify. We humans certainly feel compelled to compare (EGO).

So, how do you change this behavior? Practice! And, join a community that has professional coaches focused on your well-being (both physical and mental) – we will help you retrain your brain. You will learn how to refocus on your abilities when training and what needs to happen to attain certain skills and movements. Under References, feel free to peruse the article listed about ending this behavior outside the gym, as well.

And yes, there is a time and place for (healthy) competition. We are not suggesting that it is not helpful to train alongside others in order to improve your own performance. This is simply stating that you need to be mindful of YOUR abilities in order to make better choices when preparing for and completing your training. A professional coach (like us!) will help you navigate when it is appropriate or inappropriate to be competitive.


Dr. Ana

Dr. Ana Grimh, DPT, BA, CSCS, FMS-1, CF-L2 Doctor of Physical Therapy, University of Wisconsin - Madison Owner/Mastermind

Align Wellness Services, LLC


Becker Joshua. Becoming Minimalist. How to stop comparing yourself to others – a helpful guide. Accessed 29 July 2020:

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1 Comment

So true! I find it is a fine line between pushing myself for growth vs comparing myself to other through competition. The reoccurring theme in my chats with Ana is positive self-talk. If you have can have honest, fair, and positive talks with and about yourself the natural progression would be competition to test your own boundaries and grow, and not for comparison to feed the ego or false motivation.

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