You look in the mirror, and there are no changes to be had. You’re at a loss. Whenever you go to the gym, you feel like you’re working harder than most of those gym rats in there, yet you don’t see any progress.
So what’s the deal?
I know that feeling, and it’s a sucky one. Fortunately, there’s hope! If the results aren’t showing up like you’ve been hoping for, by simply making a tweak or two, you will finally begin to see all your hard work pay off.
1) You’re Making Craptacular Food Choices
It doesn’t matter how much I can wish, going to the gym regularly does not make up for ending every day with a double burger, fries and a large soft drink (even if it’s a Diet Coke).
Nutrition is a huge part of the results equation. In order to see those gorgeous, toned muscles you’ve worked so hard for, your body needs to be properly fed in order to lose that layer of fat that have been holding your muscles hostage.
Tony DeSantis states in a Huffington Post article, a “diet rich in protein, vegetables, fruits and good fats are the way to go.”
But make sure those veggies aren’t swimming in a pool of garlic butter (even though vegetables go down a lot easier that way) and try to choose lean meat such as grilled chicken or turkey breast over a huge slice of prime rib.
2) You’re Polishing Off Big Ole Honkin’ Portions
Portion sizes are crucial when it comes to meeting your goals at the gym. You could be eating lean protein, along with lots of fruits and veggies, but if you’re serving yourself a helping that’s big enough to feed all the children on your kids soccer team, chances are you are not seeing the results you want.
In my post on proper portions, I suggest investing in a food scale. You can buy a fantastic one for around $30 and it takes all the guesswork out of how much you’re eating.
It’s also an excellent tool for letting you know how big actual portions sizes are. Measuring cups and spoons are another good method for gauging the amount of food you’re consuming.
3) Your Form is Funky
If you are working out with form that’s less than ideal, you won’t be getting the most out of your workout. What does “less than ideal” form, aka sloppy form, look or feel like? Well, doing repetitions and relying on momentum in order to complete your set would be a good example of poor form.
You aren’t letting the muscle(s) you are aiming to target do all the work, therefore over time, you won’t be reaping all the benefits of doing the exercise correctly.
Yet another prime example of sloppy form is when you’re performing a particular exercise, and simply not executing the move properly. When that happens, you will not fully work the muscle(s) the exercise was intended for, thus missing out on those bulging biceps you’ve been daydreaming about for months. 😉
4) You’re Killing It with Cardio
For you, a normal day at the health farm includes hopping on your favorite, loyal elliptical that’s always ready and willing for you to mark your territory with your sweat. Sixty minutes go by, sometimes fast, sometimes slower than it takes for a scab inside your nose to heal.
You finish up, stretch the bod, then peace out. No weights, no resistance bands, nada! Only cardio for you, my friend. Your thinking is if you use all your gym time focusing on cardio, you will shed that top blanket of fat quicker and expose the muscles underneath. But what muscles will you be exposing if you’re skipping strength training?
With strength training, not only will you be adding lean muscle, but one pound of muscle burns 50 times as many calories as one pound of fat. FIFTY TIMES! Put on a few pounds of muscle mass and you are a calorie burning machine just by sitting there staring off into space!
Lifting weights also gives you this great afterburn (e.g., if you’re vegging out in front of the boob tube post workout, you’ll be burning more calories an hour than you would if you never went to the gym in the first place). And did you know that from just one session of strength training, the afterburn can last for up to 36 hours?
Ok, wait a sec. Before you get too excited, the amount of calories you burn after one session isn’t enough for one to drop a dress size, but add all those calories up over time and you bet your sweet skin tags that the number on the scale will go down.
By incorporating 2-3 strength training sessions a week with your normal cardio schedule, you’ll be showing off those magnificent muscles in no time.
5) You’re Sticking to Strength Training
By only sticking to strength training, you won’t be able to see the muscles you’re building if you’re not doing something about the fat lurking on top. Granted, you are burning a decent amount of calories while lifting weights, and some people swear by using weights as their sole method of exercise.
However, if you are wanting results sooner rather than later, adding in a few cardio sessions throughout the week will bring those new and shiny muscles out of hiding.
It’s no secret cardio is a terrific way to burn calories and fat. And aside from the obvious benefits such as strengthening your heart and lungs, lowering your chances of heart disease and reducing the risk of some types of cancers, a good ole sweat session is also a great stress reliever.
It temporarily helps with anxiety and depression, bumps up your energy, and your sleep improves. On top of everything else, cardio is perfect “me” time.
You’d be kicking butt if you could fit in 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio (meaning you can still talk, but unable to belt it out like Kelly Clarkson) a week. Keep in mind though, some cardio definitely trumps zero.
6) Your Workout Is Not Challenging Enough
Now I’m not saying you need to look like Rocky Balboa in one of his movie montages whenever you work out, however if you’re doing cardio as though somebody pressed your slo-mo button (growing up, we were told that was the belly button…no wait, mom said that was our off button…regardless, our buttons were apparently broken), you might wanna think about kicking it up a notch.
As I mentioned in #5, shoot for an intensity where you can still talk, although most likely taking a breath in the middle of a sentence (aka moderate intensity).
One way to do that is whether you’re on a cardio machine, walking outside, or even skating, pump those arms of yours! By bending your arms in at a 90° angle and swinging them front to back (aim for chest level when taking the arms forward), you can burn up to 15% more calories every session!
If a cardio machine is more your cup o’ tea, I know it’s tempting to hold on to the handles and/or rails throughout your workout, but try to keep your paws off! Of course, exercising on something like an elliptical with moving handles that engage your arms, thus enhancing your workout, by all means get your arms a-crankin’!
Interval training is another great way to give your body a challenge. This is where you alternate between bursts of high intensity and low intensity exercise.
An example would be walking for 2 minutes, followed by 1 minute of speed walking. Continue alternating between the two until you reach at least 15 minutes, but see if you can shoot for 20-30 minutes. And if you’re feeling good after that, keep on going!
So, all this going back and forth between hard core and less intense exercise actually has quite a few benefits. The online magazine, Living Well, explains that interval training burns more calories in less time, right along with up-ing the amount of calories your hot bod burns long after you’ve left the gym, which is…that’s right! Afterburn! Interval training can also keep you from getting bored with your workout, and not only does it build your stamina, interval training builds it faster than simply working out at the same level of intensity! Boo-ya!
7) You’re Consistently Inconsistent
Whether you’re going to the gym for health reasons or you’re just trying to get a little more toned, consistency is key. When starting a new exercise program, many times people start out super motivated and go full throttle for the first week or so, only to lose interest quickly.
The best way to go about starting a exercise program is to have a plan that sets you up for success and stick with it.
a) Research the different classes at your gym and in your area.
b) Jot down any class or workout that piques your interest. When you envision the class, it should be something you find fun, such as Zumba. Or naked yoga. A class where you’d rather get punched in the crotch than attend should not be anywhere on that list.
c) Narrow your list down to two or three classes/workouts that you think you will still be pumped to go to a couple months from now.
d) Once you decide on the workout, write the days and times in your calendar. Treat it like an appointment.
e) Go get ’em.
Ok, if you’re anything like me and tend to get bored easily, keep this list handy! Have a back up class ready just in case your first choice turns out to be a real snoozer.
Another great way to keep your new program going strong is to grab yourself a workout buddy. I bet you’ve read the tip about fitness pals before, but they work!
You hold each other accountable, so even when you roll out of bed cursing the day you ever agreed to start working out with a friend, remember it got your butt up and exercising.
Inconsistency also shows its purdy lil face when you go to class once a week for a couple weeks, then you skip a week. You come back the following week and hit up a few more classes, only to miss the next three weeks in a row.
A Workout Routine article shares that depending on your goals, “[People] should set their maximum total frequency between 3-5 times per week.” However, that needs to be for multiple weeks in a row to start seeing the results you want.
I suggest trying to find classes that are held in the morning so you get your workout. Out. Of. The. Way!
If you’re not crazy about exercising in the first place, it’s such a poopalicious feeling having a trip to the gym hanging over your head all day. So poopalicious in fact, that you put that trip off till tomorrow. Then that gym session gets put off again. And again. Until working out becomes nothing but a distant memory.
So just do yourself a favor and get it done in the morning!
Now, I’m sure you have all heard that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Well, even though studies are now saying it takes an average of 66 days to get that habit set in stone, I’d say once you make it to day 21, you are pretty darn close to habitville.
One trick I like to do when trying to fit something new into my day-to-day routine (e.g., a new ab workout, studying for a fitness certification, etc.) is instead of simply writing it down in my planner and crossing it off when it’s completed, I pull out my trusty post-it note pad.
I take 21 post-it notes, each one representing a day, and write the number 1 on the first post-it, 2 on the second, 3 on the third, and so on and so forth, until I reach 21. Then I stick them on a wall that I see on a regular basis.
Everyday I complete the to-be habit, it’s extremely satisfying to pull another number off the wall. Once I make it to day 21, I feel like a million bucks.
If you don’t see results happening overnight after integrating one or more of the above suggestions, be sure to go easy on yourself. It can take a few weeks before those changes start taking shape.
Keep the faith though. You can totally do this. And when you do see your body begin to transform, you’ll realize that you are totally doing this, which will kick that momentum into high gear and keep those changes a-comin’.
Have you ever tweaked something with your eating habits or fitness routine and it made all the difference? I’d love to hear about it!
*This post originally appeared on Blogher.
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