Making progress towards your fitness goals means hard work and dedication, but it also means working smart and staying analytical of your routine. Every workout has a lot of moving parts, and your diet is going to play a big role in your overall success. Here are 5 hidden reasons why you’re struggling with your workout.
- You’re skipping days.
Consistency is key my friends. The Army Health Clinic reports that exercising consistently will provide much better results than sporadic exercise. With running, you will build up your cardiovascular endurance faster by doing it each day. While strength training, you will build muscle faster but not skipping days, though you do need to be careful about giving your muscles sufficient rest.
See consistency isn’t just about telling yourself you’re going to exercise every day. It’s about creating a workout plan that mixes cardio and strength training in a way that will allow you to meet your goals. It’s about finding a balanced schedule so that you are filling your weeks with activity, without burning out or injuring yourself.
To do this, build a workout plan that includes plenty of rest days. One these rest days, don’t just say on the couch. Work a different muscle group in the gym. Play a team sport. Go for a walk instead of your usual run. This will help you preserve your physical and mental momentum and keep you from getting hurt.
- Make your goals a little S.M.A.R.Ter
If you’ve been following a fitness plan so far, it likely includes goals for you to track your progress. Often times when people find themselves plateauing in their performance the issue is that their goals are no longer working for them. Either the goals you’ve been using haven’t been updated to reflect all of the amazing progress you’ve made, or they weren’t S.M.A.R.T in the first place.
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound goals are, well, goals that do all of those things I just said. The importance of setting SMART goals cannot be overstated. Fitness goals that aren’t measurable are hardly goals, and goals that are no longer relevant to where you’re at and where you want to go.
Sit down and tell yourself exactly what you are hoping to achieve by improving your fitness. Then, identify some exercises or behaviors you can adopt to get yourself there and come up with ways to measure them (number of reps, length of run). Next, compare that to what you were previously doing to make sure they are achievable. Conventional wisdom is that you shouldn’t increase your running distance by more than 10% each week, for example.
Finally, make sure the new goals you are setting are relevant for your body type, your lifestyle, and where you are trying to get to. Telling yourself you’re going to do something you know you don’t have time for is just going to set you up for failure and ensure you feel discouraged.
- You need to give your muscles some variety.
If you’ve been following the same routine for a while, you may have begun to have people tell you that you need to try muscle confusion. Muscle confusion is the idea that your muscles get used to doing the same types of exercises and essentially provide you diminishing returns if you keep training them in the same way.
While there is debate over whether or not this is a myth, it’s kind of beside the point. Having variety in your workout is going to work more of your muscles groups, especially some of the smaller muscles that help with larger lifts and endurance. Working on different muscle groups also allows you to continue burning calories and improving your heart health even on the days that are rest days for your other muscle groups.
- Your diet might not be right, even if it’s healthy.
Diet is the foundation for any fitness plan, and as such it carries an enormous amount of weight when we consider what needs to be fine-tuned. Most people who have been serious about fitness for an extended period of time have alright switched to a relatively healthy diet.
What you actually need to do is find the diet that is right for your goals. Someone who is training for a marathon, for example, is going to be doing a lot of distance running, and will likely need to eat more simple carbohydrates than someone who is training for a weightlifting competition.
- You’re not sleeping effectively.
One of the most important aspects to consider when training your body is how much rest and recovery you are giving it. If you do everything else on this list and neglect your sleep, you’re not going to get very far. Sleep is your body’s natural way of repairing the damage that is done to it throughout the day, something that’s going to happen more and more as you push yourself in the gym.
Sleeping effectively means sleeping for the recommended 7-9 hours per night, and doing that at consistent times each night. It also means making sure your workout isn’t getting in the way of your sleep. Monitor your sleep, regulate the times at which it happens, and you are going to be optimizing your body’s repair process and progressing at a much faster rate.
Hopefully, that has given you a better idea of what might be holding you back in your workouts. Unfortunately, there is no instant-fix or cure-all available to you. Just keep monitoring your progress, evaluating the things I mentioned, and stay focused on your goals.
Written by Laurie Larson