We've all been at a point where we feel like we're really making some solid progress in the gym, then when it comes to hopping on the scales or taking that progress picture you get that crushing feeling of not seeing what you wanted to see despite your best efforts. It's REALLY annoying. Especially when you feel like you've really been pushing it over the last few months.
The problem is, even though you feel like you're ticking all the boxes and it FEELS like you're doing everything correctly, sometimes we just don't always get the essentials right.
I've trained countless people over the years, people of different abilities, with different goals and of different shapes and sizes - when a new client comes to me its usually because they're not seeing the results they want to see. After talking to them about what they've previously done in the gym I can usually figure out pretty fast where they've been going wrong. Like yourself these clients usually have the very best of intentions and want to see some results. BUT there's a few things holding them back. Here are some of the most common I've come across. Take a look, make sure you're not falling into any of these little traps and if you are go and fix them!
1. Not Progressing Your Workouts
OK so first of let me give you one big golden rule. If you want your body to change then you have to give it a reason too. It's a basic principle of how your body works. First of all lets imagine your goal is to build muscle. You're probably hitting the weights regularly BUT can you honestly say you are regularly increasing your weights? In order for your muscles to grow they need to be constantly challenged. So the first time you bench pressed that 40kg barbell your chest probably really felt it, maybe even the second time. BUT after a while of pressing that same 40kg bar your muscles have grown and adapted enough to deal with the demand of lifting that weight. That 40kg barbell is easy to lift and your muscles have absolutely no reason to grow and adapt anymore.
Let's look at the same principle for fat loss. First of all weights are a great way to lose fat, but I'm going to give you a cardio based example. So lets say you sprint 5 kilometres in 30 minutes. You might have really felt it the first time you did it, maybe a little less the second time, but by the fifth or sixth time guess what - it's a piece of cake! Because your body has adapted to running 5k in 30 minutes and it no longer needs to change to be able to do that.
So what I'm getting at is EVERY single session SOMETHING should change. This doesn't always have to be the weight however. Increase your reps, run an extra kilometre, reduce the time it took to cycle 10k, hold your plank a little longer, even improve your form - ANYTHING that means your body is constantly being challenged each and every time you set foot in the gym. And each time you change something in your workouts you should be tracking and recording it so you know where to start from next time. Which brings me onto point number 2....
2. Not Tracking Your Progress
The amount of times I've trained with someone and ask them what weight they are using for a certain exercise:
'erm about 20kg I think'
or even worse:
'I just go with whatever feels right'
That is a complete load of BALLS. If you are serious about seeing results you need to keep an accurate log of the weights and reps you are doing in each session. Or (for example) a record of how far you row and in what time. Seeing results means you NEED to be organised in your approach and there is no two ways around that. My online bootcamp clients all have access to my app which allows them to easily view, log, track and record every single workout, so that they (and me) can see exactly how they are progressing. It doesn't need to be as fancy as an app, use the notes in your phone or even a good old fashioned pad and paper. Basically it doesn't matter how you do it, but if you want to see results then you need to be organised.
3. Not Getting Your Nutrition Right
I will keep saying this until the day I die - YOU CAN NOT OUT TRAIN A BAD DIET. For me the gym is the fun part, I love working out and training. Nutrition is the necessary part, that doesn't mean it has to be boring but too many people see the gym as their number one resource for getting the body they want. When people start switching their mind frame to thinking more along the lines of the gym being something that compliments a good diet, things start to fall in place a little more. This applies for ANY goal. So please get your nutrition right. You need to find an approach you can maintain long term, something that fits in with your day to day life but still gets you to your goals. Check out the guides at the end of this article for more advice. More on this in point number 7.
4. Not Training In The Correct Way
If you're pretty new to the gym a natural reaction is to just hop on the treadmill and spend your whole 45 minute gym session doing a brisk walk with a slight incline. It's safe, easy and comfortable. You can't really go wrong with it so you leave the gym feeling happy and like you've achieved something. That's all really lovely but the problem is it's probably doing absolutely nothing to get you to where you want to be. When you decide to pursue a goal, wether that goal is weight loss, muscle gain, general fitness or something else, every goal requires a different approach. Before you start in the gym educate yourself a little and find out HOW you need to be training to reach your goal. There is tonnes of free resources out there, which can be good and bad as it can often get a bit overwhelming. So if possible ask someone in the know, don't be afraid to ask one of the instructors in your gym for some advice. Or if you really want a guaranteed way of making sure you're doing the right thing in the gym take a look at my online bootcamps at the end of this article.
5. Not Being Patient
I'd say this is possibly one of the most important ones. You need to give this kind of thing time. In fact you need to kind of commit to it for life. When a new client comes to me and says they are going to really smash it for the next 3 months, I start to die inside a little. By saying that, they already have an end date in their head. First of all you need to accept that no mater what your goal is, you probably won't see results in your first month, maybe not even in your second. You will also have ups and downs where you'll see less progress than you did the month before. The best piece of advice I can give you is not to think of this as a short term fix. It's something you need to embrace as part of your everyday life. Work that little bit harder and maintain your physique all year round. Don't be one of those people who constantly stops and starts and NEVER really gets to where they want to be.
6. Training TOO LITTLE or TOO MUCH
Training frequency plays a big role in the results we see and getting it right is important. Saying that it's not particularly difficult to find the balance on this one.
If you go to the gym once a week lets be honest, you're not going to get the results you want to see. To be honest even twice a week isn't going to make a major difference. For me the magic number has and always will be three times a week, for between 45 minutes to an hour. That doesn't mean to say however you can't go more often, but if you want to see results you need to hit the gym at least three times in a week. Those three sessions make up less than 2% of your week so there really is no excuse.
On the flip side, training too often can have a negative impact on the results you see. We call this overtraining and whilst it's normally something associated with weight training it can hit anybody regardless of how or what they train. It occurs when the amount of rest and recovery we are getting is simply not enough to deal with the volume of training that is taking place. Keep in mind our rest time is when our body changes and grows stronger, so if we don't give it time to do that overtraining can happen and the results stop showing. Everyone is different with this one and it is hard to give an answer as to how much is too much. But listen to your body, you know when things don't feel right. If you constantly feel tired, sore and aren't making much progress, there is a strong chance you could be overtraining.
7. Eating TOO MUCH or TOO LITTLE For Your Particular Goal
As mentioned before nutrition is important for ANY goal but there is ONE basic rule that will ALWAYS apply wether you are new to the gym or a seasoned veteran. It's the simple principle of energy in versus energy out:
If your goal is to LOSE WEIGHT you need to be in a calorie deficit - you need to eat less calories than you burn every day.
If your goal is to GAIN WEIGHT you need to be in a calorie surplus - you need to eat more calories than you burn every day
Work your calories out using a calorie calculator and then I'd recommend tracking everything for at least one full week to get an idea of where you currently stand. After that aim to track 2 or 3 days a week to make sure you are keeping yourself on track.
8. You Don't Actually DO Anything In The Gym
Hear me out on this one as I know it sounds majorly obvious. But think about that last workout and what you actually did. Maybe you did spend an entire hour in the gym but how much of that honestly made up part of a decent workout. Once you had got changed, had a chat with your mate in the locker room, untangled your headphones, picked a playlist to listen too, filled up your water, chatted to another mate, checked Instagram, took a selfie, text your mum, refilled your water bottle and so on - how much time did you ACTUALLY spend working out?
And for those of you that can hand on heart say you spend your full hour in the gym working out, ask yourself this question - DID YOU PUSH YOURSELF? So many people go to the gym and lift the same weights for the same amount of reps time and time again. It's not challenging them and it's certainly not helping you make progress. But what people tend to do is get into a mentality where by purely GOING to the gym they justify to themselves that they are at least doing something and are still making progress - even when these workouts are actually doing very little. Do not become complacent - train with purpose!!