You’ve been lacing up your sneakers and heading to the gym at least 5 days a week, yet you’re frustrated with your lack of progress. Why doesn’t the scale show more weight loss? Why aren’t your muscles more defined and toned? Before you throw in the towel, here are 10 reasons to consider why your workout may not be working.
#1 – Overtraining
We all know that it takes a lot of hard work to shape up. But, if you’re in the gym for two or more hours, 5 to 6 days a week or taking boot camp classes, weight training and squeezing in extra cardio day after day, you’re likely over training.
Exercise is great for you but doing too much does not allow your body adequate time to recover. Pushing your body too hard leads to fatigue, strong cravings for carbohydrates and sugar (for a quick boost of energy), a weakened immune system and trouble sleeping.
Consider a two-day on, one day off routine to allow for better recovery. Instead of boot camp with weight training and cardio in a single day, break them up and perform those routines on separate days.
#2 – Skimping on Sleep
Many people don’t realize the importance of sleep for weight loss goals. During sleep is when the body recovers and repairs the tiny microscopic tears in the muscle fibers created from strength training. Over time, you wake up stronger.
Sleep deprivation tends to suppress our natural growth hormone, making it harder to build lean, sexy muscle. Skimping on sleep is also one of the fastest ways to derail your fitness plan. Your lack of energy will increase the potential to binge and overeat, so be sure to get your zzz’s!
#3 – Performing Cardio Only
It sure would be nice if we could simply hit the pavement day after day, log a few miles, and end up with the perky derriere that we’ve always dreamed of. The sad truth is, however, that without a combination of cardio and strength training, we will never win the war with gravity or manage to lift and tone anything!
If you have been avoiding the weights in fear of bulking up, you can rest easy knowing that a muscled-up physique takes years of training, along with consuming loads of calories.
#4 – Overestimating the Caloric Burn
For most anyone, the number of calories consumed versus the number of calories burned is nothing more than a best guess. Without a number of scientific measures in place, one can only estimate their daily caloric needs and how many calories they’ve burned. Once the daily caloric need is determined, the goal for many at that point is to create a deficit in order to lose weight and/or body fat.
The problem: many people rely on exercise equipment to determine the calories burned. These machines are generalized, and often inaccurate. If you’re really serious about working the numbers, your best bet is to keep a food journal and log every morsel that passes your lips. Without getting your nutrition in order, you could exercise until you are blue (or in this case, red) in the face, and the only result would be frustration.
#5 – Stale Workout Routines
Many of us are creatures of habit. We wake up, eat the same food for breakfast every morning, visit the same places for lunch, shop at the same clothing stores and often go to bed around the same time every night. A routine is comforting and when it comes to workouts, if you have been doing the same routine ad nauseum, your body has likely adapted to the stimulus.
You must shake things up and introduce new stimuli in order to keep making progress. Our bodies only change when they are forced to adapt. Consider trying a new workout at least every 3 to 4 weeks.
#6 – Going Too Easy
If you have a kid or have every carried a backpack in school, then you know that you are stronger than those 5 lb. dumbbells that you’re lifting. I’m willing to bet that even some of your purses weigh upwards of 10 lbs!
Don’t make the mistake of going too easy in the gym. Muscles only grow when they are forced to do work. Never sacrifice form to lift heavier weight, but don’t let heavier weight intimidate you. Try lifting a slightly heavier weight for a repetition or two, then drop down in weight to finish the set.
When doing cardio, instead of long sessions of steady-state cardio, try incorporating active rests between sets or high intensity sessions such as 30 second sprints (30 seconds on/30 seconds off) to kick up the intensity.
#7 – Eating Too Few Calories
Food is fuel, not the enemy. So many people make the mistake of cutting calories too low when trying to get in shape. Sure, you can cut calories and lose weight, but without adequate fuel you’ll be hard pressed to build muscle. It’s the muscle that raises your metabolism.
Constant restriction creates a vicious cycle as the metabolism slows down to preserve the energy it’s not getting from food. This will further stall weight loss and can lead to pounds creeping back on, in turn causing many people to up their cardio and calorie restriction even more.
Determine the calories you need, taking into consideration your activity level, (including exercise) and keep a food log to stay on track. It only takes a slight calorie deficit of 250 calories a day and 250 calories burned with exercise to lose up to 3500 calories or 1 lb. a week.
#8 – Too Many Cheat Meals
A dangling carrot can certainly be great motivation for your workouts, but when that “carrot” becomes the occasional cinnamon roll, alcoholic beverage or seven-layer chocolate cake, it’s a potential slippery slope.
An indulgence for a special occasion is certainly okay, and even encouraged to maintain sanity. Having a bite of something sinful every now and then won’t reverse all of the good you’ve done but be cautious of a weekly cheat meal. The cleaner the fuel (food) in your body, the leaner you’ll be. If you notice your body fat is starting to creep up, get real about managing those cheat meals.
#9 – Stress and Hormones
At times of stress it’s not uncommon for people to turn to food. Whether it’s eating to fill an emotional void or eating on the run because there never seems to be enough time in the day; a stressed-out lifestyle can lead to weight gain and hinder your workouts.
Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone because it is secreted in excess during times of stress. In small amounts, cortisol plays an important role in regulating blood pressure, blood sugar, the immune system, and even pain. If you are constantly stressed, your body pumps out insulin to convert glucose to quick energy as a fight or flight response. A constant demand for insulin can lead to insulin resistance, increased appetite and weight gain.
Chronically elevated cortisol can lead to heart disease and a suppressed immune system as well. The cortisol response to inflammation will help reduce it unless it stays high for too long. Elevated levels increase your risk of cancer and autoimmune diseases. They also constrict your blood vessels, increasing blood pressure, creating the ideal environment for a heart attack or stroke.
Not everyone is affected by stress and cortisol in the same way. Some handle it well, while others fall apart at the seams. If your workouts seem less productive and you often combat cravings, consider finding methods to reduce stress in your life.
#10 – Lack of Consistency
All too often people start an exercise program with the best of intentions, scheduling themselves up to 5 days a week. Don’t set yourself up for failure right out of the gate.
Before engaging in a regular workout routine, determine a realistic number of days that you will be able to commit to without fail. Consistency is paramount to your fitness success. Catching a workout every now and then is good for your overall health, but for those looking to make noticeable change, it’s going to take a regular routine and solid commitment.
If you can only go 3 days a week, be sure to hit every muscle group within those 3 days with enough intensity. Stay active the other days. Any amount of exercise is always encouraged, but it’s those who reframe their thinking to “training” and not just a workout who typically achieve greater success.