It’s the third week of January.
Congratulations! You’ve been sticking to your new year’s goal of exercising regularly and cleaning up your diet. Three to 4 quality workouts a week and lots of veggies, fruits, lean protein and healthy fats.
Yet why, when you look in the mirror, do you see the very same body that you saw before Christmas staring back at you?
Why are you not getting results in the gym?
1. You haven’t been on your program long enough. It’s simply too soon. You’ve only been working on a new program for 2 or 3 weeks. While you’re probably feeling stronger and most likely lifting heavier weights, you have yet to see that muscle definition you crave and the scale hasn’t budged.
Relax and stay the course. Don’t expect to see bigger guns, tighter glutes or a smaller belly until you’ve been consistently and progressively training for at least 4 to 6 weeks.
2. You’ve been on your program too long. Although this is unlikely to be true for those of you just getting going (see point number 1), if you’ve been exercising regularly for awhile and haven’t changed your routine in a couple of months, you’ve probably stopped seeing results and may even be losing ground.
To continue to make progress, your body needs a change. New exercises, a new ordering of the old exercises, a different body part split, or at the very least, making the old program more challenging. Bodies are inherently efficient (or lazy, as it were), doing as little as they can in an attempt to protect and minimize energy expended.
3. You’re on the wrong program. Enrolling in a zumba class won’t help you build upper body strength. Single joint exercises performed with light weights won’t significantly contribute to weight loss. Matching the program to your individual fitness goals is key to getting the results you want in a reasonable amount of time.
Don’t know where to start? Hire a personal trainer to create a program specifically designed for YOU. (Why not try online personal training?)
4. You’re not lifting heavy enough. If you want to build a stronger, leaner body, you must lift heavy. Not HEAVY, heavy, but HEAVIER than you think. The only way to stimulate muscle growth (and a leaner physique) is to work with loads that are heavier than your body is used to. Hint, if your handbag weighs 10 pounds, bicep curling with 5′s isn’t gonna build muscle.
5. You’re not lifting often enough. You need to train each body part at least once per week to see results. Any less and you’ll be hard pressed to increase the weight on any particular exercise. Weight training is based on the principle of progressive resistance; you need to keep making things more challenging to see changes in your physique. Most beginning lifters find that 3-4 days of strength training per week is ideal.
6. You’re lifting too often. Beware, when it comes to weight training, there IS too much of a good thing. Muscle fibres need time to rest and repair between workouts. That’s when growth occurs. Train too often and you risk injury, fatigue, failure to progress and sometimes even losing ground in the weight room. Overtraining is to be avoided.
7. You’re not eating the right food. Food is fuel, and as such, not all fuels are created equal. You’ve all heard the phrase ‘you can’t out train a bad diet’. It’s true. Your body needs lean protein, healthy fats, lots of vitamins, minerals and fibre and a bit of starchy carbohydrate to function well while you’re training as well as to translate that training into physical change.
8. You’re eating too much food. Even if your diet is ‘clean’, you may still be eating too much. Excess calories are stored as fat, regardless of whether they come from chicken breasts or donuts. Pay attention to portion control and resist the urge to use exercise to rationalize overeating.
9. You’re not eating enough food. It may sound counter-intuitive, but eating too little can be just as detrimental to your fitness goals as eating too much. Your body requires a certain number of calories each day just to carry out it’s basic functions. For most women, this number will be in the 1200-1400 calorie range. Eat less than this, for too long and your body will do everything it can to hold onto those energy stores. Starvation mode is to be avoided.
10. You’re paying attention to the wrong metrics. While the bathroom scale can give you a general indication of your health and fitness level, it is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to measuring progress in the gym. Why? Body weight can fluctuate by up to 5 pounds within a day, depending on when and what you’ve eaten, as well as how hydrated you are and what day of your cycle it is (why do we all jump on the scales first thing in the morning? It’s when we weigh the least!).
Better indicators of progress towards your goals include circumference measurements (abdomen, hips, thighs), body fat estimates, the fit of your clothes (use your favourite skinny jeans!), the weight you’re lifting in the gym, how many good form pushups you can do and how long you can go on the elliptical.
Have you stopped getting results in the gym?
Do any of the items on my list sound like they could be the culprit?