Top five health + fitness mistakes people make

Happy Thursday to you, my friends! Were you aware that this weekend we begin the third month of 2015? Where-oh-where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating Christmas.

That being said, today, I’m revisiting something that I originally wrote several months ago as a guest post on Heather’s blog. It’s important stuff, and I’ve been waiting for the right time to share this with all of you here on A Lady Goes West with some additional tips thrown in.

You see, people ask me all the time what they should do to be healthy and get in better shape. And while I certainly don’t have all the answers, I do have a good bit of experience in this whole health and fitness world. While everybody has a different situation and different goals, there are a few things that will certainly derail your plans. And they look like this …

The top five health and fitness mistakes people make via A Lady Goes West

The top five health and fitness mistakes people make

1. Being a slave to cardio. I can’t tell you how many girls I see on a regular basis, come into the gym in a cute outfit, bounce on the elliptical with a magazine, and hit the showers after they’ve done their requisite 30 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, any bit of movement is great, and it’s awesome that you have the motivation to go to the gym for a workout, but you’ve also got to try using some weights, resistance bands or even the yellow-and-black TRX contraption to build strength. Lifting things is good for you, and no you won’t bulk up. Muscle helps you look lean, and it also helps you burn more calories throughout the day. For the girls and the guys, please pick up some weights! You can even do it in your own home, but lift things. (And yes, you still need to do cardio each week, but make it a part of a well-balanced workout routine, which includes resistance training.)

2. Not eating breakfast. There have been a few studies lately claiming it’s totally okay to skip breakfast. But I disagree. In working with clients in the gym, those who have something in their stomach before a morning workout perform much better than those who don’t. And in the working world, I’ve seen people who are much more focused and energized once they’ve eaten their first meal of the day, than they were when running on fumes. You need food. So eat a good breakfast to start your day off right. While there are some benefits to doing “fasted-cardio” in the mornings, I wholeheartedly believe that you work harder and perform better when you’ve got something in your belly to power you through. Not to mention, if you are completely ravenous come lunch-time because you haven’t eaten yet in the day, you’re bound to make less-than-healthy choices. Personally, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Check out these protein overnight oats or this quick five-minute protein pancake if you need some inspiration.

3. Getting too comfortable in a routine.  If you can do your workout routine without breaking a sweat because you’re so familiar with it, that’s a problem. Our bodies love variety. And when you have to work in new ways or try hard at new things, you’ll reap the benefits. Don’t be scared to try a new group fitness class, do a new workout at home via a streaming service online or invite a friend to go for a bike ride, if you usually just walk. Changing things up is nothing but a benefit to you. And you may even discover something that you didn’t even know you’d like. If you read my weekly workout recaps each Monday, then you know I applaud myself when I get out of my comfort zone. For instance, last week I took my first cycling class in months. While it wasn’t easy for me, it was good for me.

4. Relying on take-out food. 
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where there is truly a restaurant on every corner, under every building and on every block. In bigger cities like mine, I see people relying on take-out food for most of their meals. In fact, I’ve had clients who eat all of their meals out and have no food in their fridge. While there are plenty of healthy options available in San Francisco, I know that’s not the case everywhere. In fact, you can’t be totally sure how your food is cooked, unless you make it yourself. Yes, it’s totally fine to go out to lunch here-and-there, enjoy some take-out when you need it and dine out on the weekends. But don’t be scared to buy a few things and make a couple of meals at home, or pack some healthy snacks to have on-hand during your work-day. I take comfort in knowing what’s in my food, and I only eat take-out or restaurant meals on the weekends. Food prep comes in handy if you lead a busy life. Try making a bunch of food on Sunday, so you have healthy options on hand.

5. Not drinking enough water. I’d like to think that most of our problems can be solved by drinking more water. You don’t know how many clients I’ve had swear that they drink plenty of water. By plenty, they mean they finish one small bottle throughout the day. That’s not enough, folks. Chug your water! Tea counts, coconut water and sparkling water counts as well. If you have trouble drinking water because it’s boring, try adding in some cucumber for a little flavor. If you drink more water, your muscles will be more hydrated, your limbs more flexible, your mind clearer, your skin fresher and your body will perform more optimally. Just do it. And hey, check out the review and giveaway I wrote yesterday about some delicious coconut water, which will give you some extra electrolytes as well.

So there you go. Nobody is perfect. We’re all just trying to do the best we can with what we have. And therefore, I encourage you to keep moving around with variety, cook some food at home, drink plenty of water and heck, be a nice person while you’re at it. 

Questions of the day

What is the best health and fitness advice you’ve ever heard?

What’s your favorite healthy recipe for breakfast?

Do you have anything fun planned for today?

Ashley signature



  1. Great tips, Ashley..especially about being a slave to cardio. While it’s definitely an important aspect of fitness, there’s a fine line between doing cardio & doing too much! One of the best fitness advices I’ve heard and also dole out is being consistent- one day of good eating/working out may not produce results but repeat that day after day and the results are bound to follow!

    1. Hi Khushboo, Yes, oh yes. Small steps in the right direction every day will lead you to where you want to be. So consistency (with cheats and rest days as needed) will help you to be healthy — I hate to see people go all out clean eating and hard in the gym then fall off completely because they couldn’t maintain something so strict. Thanks for weighing in! 🙂

  2. Such good advice, Ashley! You’re so right about all of these. Being consistent is the best piece of advice I’ve heard, I think. That’s when you see results!

    1. Hi Amy! Oh definitely is. You can’t expect one workout a week to get you in shape, you’ve got to make it part of your lifestyle. Thanks!! Have a great Thursday! 🙂

  3. Hey Ashley! These are awesome tips! I especially love not getting stuck in your routine and exploring more than just cardio. I was definitely one of those girls for a long time but once I started lifting, everything changed. Plus it’s more fun that just staring at a wall for 30 minutes and running on a machine. Happy Thursday!

    1. Hi Jenna, I did the same. I honestly don’t know how I made myself stay on the treadmill for more than 30 minutes at a time. But we grow and learn and try HIIT workouts and pick up weights and everything changes! And of course, Les Mills programs help a lot too!

  4. My number one pet peeve when I worked in a gym was people not eating breakfast in the morning. Mainly because I cannot tell you how many times I saw people faint or feel sick in the morning gym crowd. Every time when I would ask if they ate breakfast, the answer would be ‘no.’ It’s just such a simple way thing to do for your body, but so many people don’t.

    1. Hi Stacie! I know, I’ve never once skipped breakfast and I don’t know how people do it. That’s awful you’d see people faint. I’ve actually not encountered anything that drastic thank goodness. Hope you have a great day!! 🙂

    1. Hi Jessica! For sure, making sure you have rest days and some cheat-type food every week is the only way to maintain a good routine. You’ve got to live! 🙂

  5. Great post and awesome advice, per usual, Ashley! #1 was my biggest issue for so long. When I finally realized that hours upon hours on the treadmill and elliptical were not the best ways to get in shape, my body really changed. Incorporating weights and doing more intense, shorter cardio sessions have worked wonders.

    1. Hi Court! Oh we’ve all been there. I used to only run on the treadmill for years until I discovered BODYPUMP. Weights are key, and I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed them enough to buy your own weights at home. And yes, HIIT style cardio in shorter sessions packs as much punch as a longer treadmill run for sure. You go girl!! 🙂

  6. Great tips!! I definitely fell victim to doing only cardio years ago but quickly realized the benefits of doing weights. I think its very important to clear up some of the myths associated with weight lifting and you did a fabulous job! I also never understand how some people don’t eat breakfast. It’s my favourite meal of the day!!

    1. Hi Taca! It’s my favorite meal too. I go to sleep thinking about breakfast! And thanks, glad you enjoyed this post. Weight lifting is absolutely essential, even in the smallest degree. Hope you have a great day!

  7. Great post Ashley, and I have to admit that I’ve made ALL of these mistakes..even as recently as last year!! I joined a gym and have been adding some strength into my workouts. Can’t wait to see how that affects my race times! I also started making a point to bring breakfast to work every day- my favorite is a bagel thin, toasted, with a thin slice of provolone and smashed avocado with some sea salt. So easy to bring in and it’s delicious!

    1. Hi Gretchen, That’s SO awesome you’ve changed your routine to incorporate cross training for your runs, because as you’ve seen, it’s important. And your breakfast sounds yummy, protein from the cheese, healthy fats in the avocado and carbs from the bagel. Nice work! Hope you have a wonderful day!! 🙂

  8. I love this, Ashley! I used to be an elliptical slave (college days) and it got me nowhere. Then I discovered p90x, BODYPUMP and now CrosssFit. They have changed the look of my weekly workouts drastically! I also think adequate sleep is key!

    1. Me too, Katie! I didn’t life a weight until I was in the working world and was sooo amazed at the difference it made in my fitness levels. But yes, sleep is important too! Oh my gosh I haven’t been on an elliptical in years … 🙂 hehehe

  9. I agree with all of this! I was definitely skinny fat (ie. NO tone) until I started weight lifting (back in high school :P). That is what gives the fit appearance! It also sucks to see people being slaves to fitness trends with out getting basic good habits in place first. That is key!

    1. Hi Jill! I know, I think we’ve all gone through the cardio only phase. And of course, working out with bad form is awful, but that one didn’t make the list. Hope all is well with you, lady! 🙂

    1. Hi Shae, I’m with you. I never understand when people skip breakfast because they forgot or don’t think about it. I go to sleep thinking about breakfast. 🙂

    1. Hi Lora, I was for a long time too. And for runners, it’s easy to spend all your time working on your craft. But I think you probably will find you feel better when you incorporate a little strength training to cross train!! Thank you for stopping by and sharing. Have a great Thursday! 🙂

  10. My personal thoughts are that cardio more than 2-3x per week is actually overrated UNLESS you’re training for something specific (race, competition, etc.). Lifting weights develops your cardio very well, if you do it right (3-6 sets per exercise with less than a minute or even less than 10 seconds between sets for muscles which recover quickly, and then 1-2 minutes between exercises). My heart rate rarely drops below 160 when lifting and I’m always huffing and puffing. I still do about 1 cardio routine per week, but my focus is cardiovascular improvement through strength training.
    Breakfast… Love it so much, I eat 3 per day! Pre-workout. Post-workout. And again about 1.5 hours later. In total it’s 2 bananas, an apple, a serving of Greek yogurt (high fat kind), and 3 eggs or 6 turkey sausage. I also drink a pre and post workout drink. I’m also very hungry by lunch! Part of the reason for that is that weight lifting keeps your metabolism sky high for hours. I try and get the vast majority of my sugary (ie, fruit) carbs in before lunch. Lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner are composed of meats and veggies (fiber carbs). My body doesn’t agree with starchy foods (rice, pasta, potatoes, corn, wheat, etc) so I simply don’t eat them.
    As for water, a surprising amount comes from from eating food, which is how it’s actually supposed to be (fresh fruits, veggies, etc). The problem most people have is that instead of eating healthy foods which contain water, they eat prepared foods (which touches on your excellent point about eating from restaurants too often) which not only contain little water, but are also often loaded with salt.
    Great write up Ash! And I love how interactive you are with those who read and comment. Keep it up!

    1. Hi JB! Well that is a thorough comment, and I love it. Thank you so much for jumping into the conversation here, because it’s important to see and hear other people’s views. I LOVE that your into your strength training routine, and it sounds like you have a good thing going. I’m not much for pre-workouts (I find that they are all disgusting, so I’ve never actually used one), but I wish I did some times. And of course, post workout refueling is essential. You probably have no issues not eating starches at night since your wifey is GF of course. Keep up the awesome work with the healthy lifestyle. Are you back in a gym these days lifting or working out at home??

      1. I’m using Pre JYM pre-workout drink – the raspberry lemonade flavor – it’s not terrible – cold water helps! lol I follow that with the Post JYM post-workout drink – fruit punch.
        I’m working out at home. I’ve recently done P90X again and then followed that up with a program called Body Beast. It’s similar to P90X but the workouts are shorter and there’s less focus on cardio only routines – basically, I lift 5 days a week – a different muscle group each day, plus cardio one day. LOVE IT. As I mentioned before though, the minimal time between sets keeps my heart rate sky high so even on resistance days, I’m still getting a killer cardio workout.

  11. I’m the exact opposite of number 1 – I need more cardio in my routine but it’s so boring! I love yoga, pole, aerial hoop, and strength training, but put me on a treadmill and I’ll be looking for an excuse to end early. At least once spring comes along I’ll be able to go hiking and running outside again – way more fun than cardio at the gym!:)

    1. Hi Nina! Well that’s great you get a variety of movements in, and I’d imagine you get a little cardio benefit from things like pole and aerial hoop anyways! Thanks for sharing. I’d love to try pole dancing classes one day ehehe! 🙂

  12. “If you can do your workout routine without breaking a sweat because you’re so familiar with it, that’s a problem.” <— That's me in Body Pump! I only feel like it gives me a tough workout about 50% of the time, and I rarely break much of a sweat anymore. It FEELS hard, but I don't know that my body is reaping the benefits anymore. Can that be possible?!

    Thanks for sharing these — I definitely have eating breakfast covered ;)) but the rest are super helpful!

    1. Hi Emily … hmmm … a few things. Could you add weight to your bar in BODYPUMP? Do you make sure you always get to the bottom range of your squats and moves as best as possible with perfect form? I don’t always get drenched in BP, but I definitely sweat. I’m sure it’s still beneficial, but make sure you add weight on the bar every once in a while to keep challenging yourself. BODYPUMP is great, but you have to keep perfecting your form, increasing your range, and increasing your weight to see benefits ongoing. Does that help? 🙂

  13. This is such a great post! It’s all so true. I just joined class pass so I switch up my workouts. I find that I get into a routine where I just run and do cardio with some toning. I am hoping class pass keeps me motivated and I can try new work outs.

    1. Hi Mattie! ClassPass is great. Try and use it as much as possible and step out of your comfort zone. I loved using it here in SF! Let me know what your favorite class is!

  14. Legit on all accounts! I think that the “common” mistakes are repeated far too often, and mistakes like these get lost behind those initial mistakes. These are definitely major culprits as to why people feel as though they tried and failed.

    1. Exercising is vital to help people maintain long-term good health. A vigorous workout three or four times each week can help you tone muscles, increase your cardiovascular fitness and burn off excess calories. Whether you choose to work out in the comfort of your own home or head to the gym, you will need the right activewear. Proper clothing can make working out easier. The right pair of shorts or a short-sleeved shirt can also help you show off the results of your hard work.

  15. These tips are really great! I like how you pointed out health and fitness mistakes instead. It is easier to review our lifestyle and compare which stuff we are doing wrong. I agree with you about drinking lots of water! Throughout the day, we lose gallons and gallons of water, so in order to help our body recuperate, we must not deprive it of the water it needs.

    And to answer your posted questions! Here is my response! :))
    The best health advice that I ever got was: “Drink warm water upon waking up, before eating anything.” I’m telling you, it really helps with digestion and good bowel movement!

  16. Great Share….

    Mixing thing and then having them for losing weight purpose, this advice is quite new for me, yet it is quite interesting. I can’t stop myself from agreeing that your tips are really nice and motivating.

    I am not a fitness freak, but I want to stay healthy in the long run and for that I was been looking for some easy fitness way outs and that time I came across your post and trust me I want try all of these tips to get back to my original shape.

    Thank you for sharing such an educative post with us.

  17. I have trying different diets for a long time now and after reading your blog i think i know where i am going wrong. Thank you so much for highlighting this here it is a true guide for not only me but also a lot of other ladies like me who have been doing diet the wrong way! Loved it!

  18. Great advice! It’s so important to do some weights in addition to cardio. It’s good to do cardio every now and again but doing other workouts will help so much.

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