5 Mistakes I made in fitness
By Fahad Maniar
A lot of you guys already know my story. I was the fat kid that was bullied at school, last pick at everything with a low self esteem and girls never found me attractive (although it’s debatable that the latter has changed, at least my wife doesn’t agree!)
Back in 1997 when I would embark on a life changing journey of fitness, I had no idea what a personal trainer was and thought a gym was a place that only dudes that were in their 30’s with a lot of muscle and a lot of money went to.
Google hadn’t been invented yet and I wasn’t a big fan of news groups for wisdom. I knew two things though, eat less and exercise more and that was my mantra.
So yes, I lost a lot of weight, got incredibly fit, fought in the ring at a professional level winning national championships as well as being ranked in the top ten professional rankings at my weight class but along that journey, I made a lot of mistakes that I wish I hadn’t made.
I’m going to be brutally frank with you and come clean about these mistakes because some of them are mistakes that you’re probably making right now too and I want to save you the pain (both figuratively and literally)
Mistake #1 – Losing weight too fast
Out of all the mistakes I made, This is number one. The one that has scarred me for life! and I am going to admit something to you. Whilst everyone thinks I have a fairly decent physique, I personally don’t. Yup, I am a bit low on body confidence myself so I get it totally. I’m a lot better than I was mainly because I have rectified my training and diet over the past few years and have come to terms with the idea of progress vs perfection but I doubt I will ever be completely shredded. Even when at 8% body fat, I had trouble seeing my lower abs due to excess skin in that area. If I could go back in time and have a word with my younger self I would tell him to, “Take your time young man” – Just like mama used to say. Yeah I am impatient and my current mentors and coaches know that and it’s something I have been working on. Bottom line, Don’t expect miracles and aim for a safe weight loss of 2-3lbs per week.
Mistake #2 – Not eating enough
Yup, this one is linked to mistake #1 but back in the day, I made the rookie mistake of thinking if I cut my calories and lose a few lbs a week, then cutting them even more would result in faster weight loss. The result definitely was faster weight loss but i was weak I tell you. I must have lost a tonne of muscle along with the fat and whilst I was skinny, I wasn’t looking good. In fact people thought I was ill for the best part of my early 20’s. I had no energy to train and slogged through workouts and my metabolism was probably shot to pieces. The truth is, in order to become a fat burning machine, you need to eat! You need to find your calorie ceiling, that is to eat as many calories as you can whilst having a decent amount of weight loss (max 3lbs a week in my opinion). Not only will this keep you sane and healthy but ensure your metabolism is stoked up and you’re getting the energy and nutrients you need (the latter of course is providing you’re eating nutrient dense foods)
Mistake #3 – Not eating according to my goals
So, not only did I not eat enough food, I wasn’t eating for the goal. Maybe one of my problems was that I didn’t have a specific goal and wanted too many things, I wanted to be lean, have muscle and perform in sport. Remember I was talking about the lack of Google back in the day? Well before I got into the world of online forums and bulletin boards (Remember those?) – my bible were editions of Muscle and fiction… err sorry, fitness. I became over reliant on supplements because of the articles in the magazines. Yes, I now know that these magazines are made to sell supplements but back then, I took the advice for gospel. This is not to say that these magazines don’t have credible articles in them but for the most part, they need to be taken with a pinch of salt. More importantly though, they were aimed at body builders and I fashioned my diet around a body builder. And not just a body builder, I was trying to eat all the time as though I was about to step onto stage. My food was boring and bland, I wasn’t eating enough and I wasn’t really eating for my goals of performance for Kickboxing.
Mistake #4 – Over training
So, my OCD for doing what the pros do did not just extend to diet and nutrition, I started training like a pro too. I would look at training routines of top fighters, athletes and body builders and plan 6 training sessions per week. Sometimes, I’d train twice a day. I punished my body especially in the beginning with brutal workouts and stretching routines. Again, I was so impatient but I was also scared that if I rested, I’d lose what I gained. What I didn’t know back then is how important rest and recovery is to overall health, fitness, body composition and sport performance and this is a common mistake I see with many people. If your goal is to grow in size then you need to find the MINIMUM amount of training sessions you can do whilst facilitating growth. If fat loss is the goal, then keeping sessions short, sweet and intense is better for you than hours and hours of cardio every day. I attribute overtraining to me being incredibly injury prone and had I not been so injury prone, I believe I would have had a more promising fighitng career rather than having to rest with injury after most of my fights.
Mistake #5 – Not working with a coach
I knew nothing going into my journey in fitness. Further more, I had no idea that the profession of personal training even existed back in 1997! As I dove into my goals, I decided to do everything myself. It was arrogant and stupid of me but I am a control freak if I am honest and even in my business, outsourcing has always been difficult for me.
But here’s the truth of the matter, had I hired a coach in the beginning, Would I have made any of the above mistakes? Would I have achieved my goals faster and where would I be today?
I do wish I had invested in a good coach earlier in my career and even though I worked with some good coaches in the fight game, they’re very different to personal trainers and fitness coaches (And no disrespect to any of the coaches I worked with intended!) – The only coach I had who I would trust with my nutrition and exercise was my first coach and mentor, Marcus Kowal. I only wish I had worked with him more closely when I had the chance.
I would have been able to jump the queue, so to speak, and not bought into so much of the BS and Bro science I heard on and off line too but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I just hope this article will help you reading it avoid some of the mistakes I made or at least get you to think things through a bit more.
In conclusion, If I could summarise all of the above mistakes into one, It would have been to get out of my comfort zone more often!
So please, get out of your comfort zone, listen and take advice of experts that are known for getting results, do what works but only if it is backed up by science and have a blast!
Have an excellent day!