While our motto is “Keep Moving Forward,” one of the most frustrating things is expecting results from all your hard work in the gym and not seeing them. It is that dreaded feeling of stagnation.
The good news is, there are a lot of different combinations of ways to get the results you are looking for such as different nutrition strategies and different types of exercise programming. However the key to results comes from hard work. Regardless of your approach there are a few underlying characteristics that must be present in order to move the needle and keep it moving.
In our experience, these are the top three reasons most people have stopped yielding results from their workouts:
While it’s probably no surprise that this is one of the factors, we can not emphasize just how important consistency is in the kitchen and in the weight room. Working out 5 days this week, 2 days next week and no days the following week makes it difficult for the body to receive the message you’re trying to send. Think of your actions and movements as a form of communication with the body. When we exercise, we are telling our body that it needs to adapt to be able to perform the tasks we are asking of it. Usually, the response from the body will be to use stored fat as energy (which causes a loss in body fat) and to get stronger/ more conditioned.
The body thrives on consistency in all areas of our life, not JUST in our activity habits. Regular, consistent sleep patterns have been shown to increase mental acuity and contribute to an overall increase in well-being across our life span. We also find that when clients eat a consistent diet, they are significantly more likely to have success. Being consistent with your routine also allows us to minimize the amount of variables in your daily regiment. This makes it easy to monitor and make changes as we need. For example, If you’re eating different foods in different amounts, and different times of the day each day, it makes it much more challenging to make changes when a plateau does occur.
The truth is that one or two days “off” of your normal healthy routine every once in a while is fine and frankly, totally normal. We are human. This falls into the 20% when we refer to the 80/20 rule. However, if you are someone who is inconsistent with their healthy habits, meaning you regularly take weeks off of the gym at a time, the results will likely not be coming your way. Remember Newton’s first law; an object in motion tends to stay in motion.
Another way, consistency comes into play is with our exercise selection. We can’t just do random movements every workout and expect our body to know how and what to adapt to. Be somewhat consistent with your exercise selection in order to create a frame of reference for your improvements. For example, if you go for 2 mile run every Tuesday, you can start to compare how long it has taken you to finish. If it took your 21 minutes last week, we can strive for 20 minutes this week. Same goes for lifting. If you were able to squat 30lbs for 10 reps last Monday, this Monday try to squat 30lbs for 12 reps.
On a side note, don’t let injury interfere with your consistency. Although you may need to tweak the programming or avoid certain movements, doing something will always be better than doing nothing.
Needing More Effort
Unfortunately, just showing up to the gym doesn’t get you results. If only it was that easy. It’s what you do when you get there that matters. The word we are looking for here is EFFORT. While most know it is important, understanding why it's important is even more crucial.
Exercise and fitness are all about adaptation and one of the things that makes the human body so amazing is its relatively quick ability to adapt. In order for an adaptation to occur, a form of overload must come first. For example, if we bench press 100 lbs for 10 max effort reps, the body gets the message that it needs to get stronger to be able to move the 100lbs for 10 reps with less effort.
Some easy ways to keep the results coming with strength training is to either increase weight, reps, or time performing each set (time under tension). When it comes to cardio, you can increase the amount of time doing a cardiovascular exercise or the distance covered in the same amount of time as your last workout.
While not every workout needs to be the most challenging thing you have ever done, there needs to be challenging days in your weekly mix. If results are what you are after, going to the gym should never feel like it’s “getting easier.” You will feel like you are getting better at it but that doesn’t make it easier, it just means you should be doing harder stuff.
Staying in Your Comfort Zone
This one takes mental toughness. Naturally, most people will gravitate towards the path of least resistance. This often leads to picking the exercises or movements that take the least amount of work and ones that we are most comfortable with. Typically, the easier the exercise, the lower the metabolic demand. For example, you can imagine how a squat or deadlift require much more energy/effort output than a bicep curl -- yet here we are all standing in front of the mirror doing bicep curls. Bicep curls are great and we’re not advocating for you to remove them from your routine, but do the hard stuff too! Typically, at the Body Shop, we program larger muscle groups first and smaller muscle groups last. If you want to keep getting results, you’re going to have to continually raise the bar and work harder.
If your goals are general health/fitness improvements and weight loss, incorporating both cardiovascularly demanding and strength demanding workouts in your weekly workout routine is highly recommended. We often find that a client may be more comfortable in one area than the other. For example, someone may be most likely to show up to the gym and hit the elliptical and avoid the weight room, while someone else may only hit the weights and avoid anything that gets their heart rate up. The best way to get results is to step out of your comfort zone. If you never do “cardio,” adding in a run, walk or the stairmaster will yield great results. If you’ve never seriously invested time and effort in a strength training routine, you have a great opportunity to build lean muscle.
The saying, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you,” could not be more true when it comes to getting results. If you’re able to keep up a consistent effort and choose challenging activities, results are inevitable. Any great program is going to be built on these factors and yours should too. Do the hard stuff with everything you’ve got and do it constantly!