You’ve been giving this whole “workout thing” a try for the past few months now, or maybe even longer, but you still aren’t seeing physical results. You may have seen results initially but everything's come to a half and now you're at a plateau. What gives??
There are so many factors that come into play to make or break your progress, whether your specific goal is weight loss, gaining lean muscle, getting stronger, or whatever else you want to get out of the gym. The plateau is when I see most people quite. I mean, what’s the point of trading Taco Tuesday plans for a grueling sweat sesh at the gym and protein shake waiting for ya at home if you're not seeing results, am I right?
Over the last four years, many of my clients have found me after they tried to work out on their own with little to none or stalled progress.
I always analyze a person’s current gym routine, eating and sleeping habits, medications, and stress levels to see what could be hindering them from getting some results. Based on what I’ve seen in the last few years, here are 3 habits that could be keeping you from results in the gym.
- Your gym routine involves a high cardio to resistance training ratio. I see it time and time again… Especially when someone’s goal is weight loss, their primary activity is a long aerobic cardio session (also known as LISS) most days of the week, with maybe a few bicep curls, crunches and squats thrown in there after they hop off the treadmill. Of course, it’s great to be moving your body in any way you can, and you will probably even see some initial results by doing long cardio sessions at first. But a month or two into this, your body will most likely plateau and any muscle mass you already had will have dwindled away (say goodbye to those booty gains). Instead of low-intensity steady-state cardio 5 days a week with a couple of exercises thrown in there, try this:
3-6 days a week of weight lifting (dedicating different days to different muscle groups) with 3-6 days of cardio (a mix of HIIT or high-intensity interval training and LISS or low-intensity steady-state). This means multiple days out of the week you may be performing both weight lifting AND cardio. My tip for you is for HIIT training days, just do a weight lifting circuit at a high enough intensity to count it as cardio too. ;) Much more efficient!
2. You are still lifting the same amount of weight and doing the same routine as when you first started. If you’re still doing the exact same lower body, upper body, and cardio routine as when you first joined a gym, it’s no doubt that you 1. lack motivation to workout because you’re bored AF, and 2. are stalling your progress by not constantly making your body adapt to imposed demands. The gym sessions you have that include doing the same exercises, the more your muscles become used to it. The same goes for your heart during your cardio routine. If you hit the same RPM and use the same gears during each and every spin class, your body is going to get used to this and will eventually stop progressing.
Now, when it comes to lifting the same amount of weight over and over again… I know I know, you’re just trying to “tone”. Not a day goes by at the gym that I don’t hear someone describe their goals using that word. Not that it’s a bad word, it’s just that everyone has used it to justify not lifting heavy. “Heavy” is a subjective term, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re going to turn into a female bodybuilder overnight from lifting heavier than you’re used to. Here’s a tip I give all my clients:
Tune in to the last two repetitions of your lift. If you can complete those last two reps with ease or just a slight struggle, it’s time to move up in weight.
There is this principle in exercise physiology called Progressive Overload. This basically means that unless you are constantly increasing the demands being placed on your body, it will stay exactly the same. If you are not increasing the number of reps you do or the weight you lift on an exercise every few weeks or so, your body will cease to progress.
If you are not pushing yourself to run just a little bit faster or longer every other time you run sprints, your body will – once again - cease to progress, AKA plateau. One of my favorite sayings that couldn’t be more relevant to this topic is “great things never came from comfort zones.” Moral of the story: next time you’re about to pick up your usual 8-pound dumbbells, try grabbing the 10’s.
3. Your workouts are kick-a**, but your idea of a healthy diet is getting the small order of fries instead of the large. If you are killing it in the gym (and following my tips above), but aren’t practicing portion control, or are drinking the majority of your calories (this could be either alcohol OR those yummy PSL’s for all my basics out there) it’s unlikely you will get where you want to be physical if your goal is to lean out. You will start to see and feel a change in your body once you focus on consuming “clean” foods (AKA whole foods vs. processed foods) the majority of the time, and not trying to satisfy your cravings for sweets with “diet” foods that contain artificial sweeteners – just go for the real thing when the time comes for you to treat yourself!
Try eating what your body needs to perform well in the gym, and seeing food more as nourishment versus satisfaction - you just might naturally see a difference in your eating habits without even needing to try counting calories or tracking macros!
Inspiring a happy, active, healthy life.