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For a very long, I worked out for hours at a time and saw no results. Not only was this frustrating, but I was actually gaining weight, low in energy, and hungry all the time. Not good. Since then I’ve learned how to work out smart and effectively, in half the time. I want to help you do the same, so here are my five reasons why your workouts might not be working.
1. Cardio. Are the majority of your workouts cardio based? For a very long time I simply had no idea what to do with a weight so instead of picking them up and learning, I opted for the elliptical, step classes, and the treadmill. This lead to a quick burnout and low muscle mass, which didn’t make me very happy considering all the hours I was putting in at the gym. Aim to make half of your workouts strength based and you’re bound to see results. Muscle at rest burns more calories than fat so even while sleeping your metabolism will be higher thanks to added muscle. Plus if you’re a woman, strength training lowers your risk of osteoporosis as you age. Functional strength training can even lower risk of injury and increase your speed and power when you do complete a cardio-based activity.
2. You’re “eating back” your calories. One of the things that drives me crazy as a nutrition coach are calorie counting apps and websites that have you add back in the calories you burned during your workout. Workouts are designed to create a caloric deficit and while you do need to refuel after a workout, unless you’re an Olympic athlete you likely don’t need 4,000 calories a day to do so. Another common trend is when we become active after a period of inactivity we tend to become hungrier since our metabolism begins to rise. This means that we snack throughout the day or have that cookie after dinner because hey, we worked out today. It’s these little indulgences that put progress at a standstill. Have you ever tried to row 300 calories on a rower? It’s not easy! Some highly processed protein bars can have upwards of 300 calories in them and you could probably eat them in 1 minute flat. See how easy it is to eat back those calories.
3. You are not recovering properly. I could go on for days about the importance of proper recovery but for now let’s focus on the essentials. Two minutes of stretching after your workout doesn’t cut it. Yes, flexibility is extremely important, and I do suggest you focus on flexibility and stretching before and after your workouts, but of similar importance is mobility. Now mobility is not to be confused with flexibility. Stretching elongates your muscles when they are tight, while mobility mobilizes, improves range of motion, and supports healthy tissue. Like stretching, mobility can be done before or after your workouts and is key to maintaining a healthy body. If you’re getting injured often, not performing as you’d like, or are incredibly sore all the time, start mobilizing. Mobilizing includes movements such as using a foam roller or a lacrosse ball. My favorite website for all things mobility is mobilitywod.com.
4. You’re overtraining. Are you taking rest days? Rest days are key in any exercise plan. Rest is when our bodies are actually able to recover and grow back stronger, so if you’re not giving yourself time to rest, your body never recovers, and you will never get the chance to become stronger. Some signs of overtraining include fatigue, weight gain, a lowered immune system, continual muscle soreness or pain, increased injuries, joint or ligament pain, lowered appetite and moodiness. Make sure you are taking at least one full rest day a week. Typically, I take an active rest day in the middle of the week, doing something light and low in intensity, and then take a full day off every Sunday. Experiment and see what works for you but whatever you do, take a day off!
5. They’re not varied. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you are doing this with your workouts it is certainly insanity. Our bodies need constant variety to adapt to and recover from or else they will become complacent. If you are doing the same bicep curls 3 times a week every week for a year you will likely start to develop some strength and then plateau. Why? Because your body is totally adapted to the movement of a bicep curl. It’s no longer challenged, interested, or motivated. Change up your workouts often. Not only will you challenge your physical self, but it will also help keep your mind motivated and excited, which will lead to you pushing yourself more, and training harder than you would on those 3X12 bicep curls.
So if you are still lacking results despite a dedicated workout schedule these are some things to consider and change. Stay persistent in your workout efforts. Do it right and it is sure to pay off.