Friday, March 20, 2015

10 Reasons Why Working Out Isn't "Working Out" For You

It's almost April. Slowly but surely, I see the people who joined in January with the gung ho attitude and determination to get fit come through the gym doors less and less (and sometimes not at all.)

It's inevitable, it seems. 

It happens every year. People say, "This is the year that I'm going to (insert whatever fitness goal they might have latched onto)" and things start off really great. They are putting a lot of work in and maybe even getting into the habit of working out. But then, something happens: life gets in the way, they miss a few workouts and feel too embarrassed to come back, or they don't see the results they were looking for right away or at all. 

So, what's wrong??

Here are 10 reasons why working out might not be "working out" for you:


1. You Don't Have a Plan

If you don't have a plan, you're going to have a hard time getting to where you want to go. You can say you want to lose 100 pounds or you want to run a marathon, but unless you have the framework in place to get you there, you'll never make it. 

Before you start anything, you need to get a plan, on paper or not.  You need to know where you are now, where you want to go, and how you are going to get there.  It's okay if you have to modify the plan later, because this is going to be a learning process and you are not going to get it right the first time, especially if you are doing it alone. 

However, if you formulate a plan and go down that path, you'll make the necessary corrections when its time and you will come out the other side better for it. 


2. You Aren't Having Fun

Doing something you hate is not going to make you keep doing it. Sure, you might have strong willpower, but eventually you're going to look at that treadmill and say, "I hate you" and that'll be that. There are two ways to fix this problem of not having fun. The first one is really simple. 

Pick something you enjoy doing and do it! 

It's really that simple. Start with an activity that you enjoy, whether it's golf, martial arts, bowling, tennis, hiking, or dancing really fast to polka music. Once you find something active that you love doing, you'll have little difficulty finding the motivation to do it.  The second solution is a little more difficult and comes along later.

The second solution is this: Change your mindset about exercise, whatever the exercise is. I used to hate running-- until I made myself run. After a while, I learned about the intricacies of putting one foot in front of the other and began to appreciate the process. If you don't like a form of exercise in front of you, change how you look at it.  See the benefit of the exercise and really understand the process and you'll begin to see it in an entirely new (and possibly more enjoyable) light. 


3. You Aren't Making Exercise a Priority 

This is simple: Other things are more important to you than exercise. 

Work and familial responsibilities can certainly get in the way, but there are always ways to make exercise happen. If you work a lot, use your breaks to get some walking/jogging in or slam out some push-ups on the break room floor (you get weird looks, but whatever).

If you have a lot of family responsibilities, try to make the time you spend with your family active time. Go for a hike together, visit a giant trampoline park, or spend the day at the beach or pool. Eventually, if you're active with your family, you might even just do workouts together.

Sure, there will be times where there is just so much going on that you couldn't squeeze a workout in edgewise, but try to look at your schedule and see if that's really the case or if you're just making excuses. Oftentimes, saying "I don't have time" is really just saying, "This isn't a priority."


4. You Haven't Set Realistic Goals

Exercise is not a magic pill. You're not going to do 5 crunches and get a six-pack and you won't train for a week and be able to run a marathon.  Body changes take time. You apply a stimulus and the body adapts. You apply greater and greater stimulus over enough time and you have a complete bodily transformation.

Your goals should be SMART, which is to say:

  • Specific- Include as much information about the when, where, how, what, and why. Is it going to cost money? Are you going to have to travel anywhere? What is your goal-- 20 pounds lost or squatting 500#?  Don't just say-- I want to be stronger or I want to be leaner. Pick something to shoot for. 
  • Measurable- There should be some way for you to quantify your results. You should be able to look at your progress week by week and see that you are getting closer to your goal. 
  • Achievable- Is your goal something that you are capable of doing right now? Is it something you can put into action within the next few days? Make sure that your goal is something that you are in a position to even pursue, let alone attain. You may have to settle on accomplishing only a portion of your goal for the time being and waiting on the rest of it. 
  • Realistic- Is your goal physically possible? You need to set goals for yourself that are within the bounds of reason. It is not reasonable to say that you want to be the World Champion in three completely different sports, because you only have so much time to devote to each one and only so much energy to train for each. The goal of being a champion bodybuilder will be counter to the goal of being the best marathon/ultramarathon runner in the world. 
  • Time-Bound- You need to put constraints on yourself. How long will it take you to accomplish this goal (research as much as possible and realize that this may change in the future)? Where will you be in a month? Six months? A year? Five?  There should be specific goals along the way that, when attained, will add up to the larger goal. If you achieve each small goal along the way, the large goal is automatically achieved. 
Once you have realistic goals and a plan to get there, the task does not feel so daunting and you get the joy of attaining small goals along the way. 


5. You Aren't Eating Properly

This is the big one. You'll hear it spoken in many different ways:

  • You can't outrun your fork.
  • It's 20% fitness and 80% nutrition.
  • Abs are made in the kitchen
  • Food is anabolic
  • If it fits your macros
The common denominator between all of these things is that nutrition is so, so important. If you don't eat properly, you won't be able to work out effectively or recover effectively.  If you're eating too much or not eating the right things, all the stuff you do in the gym might yield less results or none at all.

A well-balanced diet, focusing on whole foods is paramount to your success. Stay away from foods that are overly processed. Eat a variety of foods from many different sources. Eat to sustain yourself and your activity. Food is fuel and, while it can be enjoyable, its primary job is to make sure that you don't die and that your body is nourished in whatever way it requires. Refined sugars have very little place in your diet.  Now, please understand, I'm not saying no to certain foods. What I'm saying is that you need to eat certain foods in moderation or rarely. You CAN eat anything you want. Your choices, however, will be what helps determine your success in physical transformation or athletic performance. 

To put it bluntly, if you put sugar in the tank of a car, that car is gonna die. If you put enough sugar into your tank, SO WILL YOU! 


6. You Only Work Out When You "Feel Like It"

Your training schedule is your training schedule and, outside of being legitimately ill or on the verge of being ill, you should strive to meet every workout on that schedule head on, whether its 20 minutes of recovery yoga or 2 hours in the gym f*@#ing sh*t up.

If you depend on your feelings or your emotions to determine if you are going into the gym or not, you'll soon find yourself acquiescing to more and more and, soon, the gym will get pushed further on down the list. I can tell you that, counter-intuitively, some of the best days I've had in the gym have been the days I just didn't feel like going or felt like I was going to be weak. You never know until you step up to the bench or the mat or the road and decide to push ahead.

What you do when you "don't feel like it" determines your level of commitment.


7. You Aren't Strength Training

At the very beginning of your journey, it's not as big a deal if you aren't strength training, because you'll be learning so many new things and getting used to activity in general that you'll often get stronger just doing whatever activity you've chosen to do.

There will come a day, though, that your chosen activity will no longer be enough for you to continue to get better at that activity and stay injury free. At that time (and it comes relatively early in the process) you will need to begin some form of strength training, either in the form of weightlifting or bodyweight exercises. This training can start off light, but it needs to be progressive, meaning that the weight and reps are going up or the movements are becoming more difficult (one-legged squats opposed to two, for example).

If you choose not to strength train, you it is very likely that you will run into a wall in your fitness goals somewhere, either in the form of decreased results or injury due to repetitive use. As far as injury goes, being sidelined with an injury makes your motivation sag and your habit of exercise turn into a habit of laying around and doing nothing. Coming back from injury is difficult, so it is in your best interest to not get injured in the first place.

Strength training builds and helps retain muscle mass that is essential to your performance in whatever you choose to do. It enables you to become more efficient in movements and teaches your muscles how to recruit more fibers more effectively.

Long story short-- Do strength training.


8. You Aren't Working Hard Enough

If you are not improving in the gym, i.e.- if your weights, reps, distances, times, or what-have-yous are not increasing, then there is no growth. If these markers are not moving, there is no path to any kind of transformation. Doing the same weight (especially the same weight!) for the same number of reps and sets week in and week out will get you nowhere.

You need to be getting better. If you aren't getting better, you're getting worse. There is no maintenance. There is improvement or no improvement.  If you are improving, you are headed toward a goal. Push yourself in the gym. Do better. Do one more rep. Add one more pound. Do one more set.

You need to sweat. You need to be sore. You need to feel uncomfortable. (Notice I did not say you need to be in pain.) You need easier days, but the stimulus for your growth are the hard days. If your program is not challenging you, it is not changing you. Up your intensity-- more weight (as you progress), more speed, more power.  It might be slow-going at first, but once you add the intensity to your program, you'll find that your results soon follow.


9. You're Working Too Hard (You're Not Recovering Enough)

This is the flipside to the last point. If you are busting your ass every single day for weeks on end without a rest day, deload, or time for appropriate recovery, you'll soon find yourself sitting on the doorstep of stagnation, decreased performance, and injury. There's no way around it. You provide the stimulus for strength and increased performance with your training, but you actually get those things when you rest and recover properly.

You need to eat well to fuel training and recovery and you need to SLEEP! Sleep is where all the magic happens. You train hard on 3 hours of sleep for a week or two and you'll see exactly what I mean. You'll be so messed up you won't know what to do with yourself. If you aren't sleeping, you aren't recovering.

If you provide enough time and building blocks for recovery, you can beat your own ass in your workouts on a regular basis and probably be fine. Skip your recovery, however... and you're gonna have a bad time.


10. You Don't Even Know Where to Start (AKA: You Don't Have a Plan)

Okay. You want to get fit. You want to get strong. You want to lean out... but where do you even begin?  There are so many things you could do and so many machines and exercises and programs and everything else,  you might feel like you are losing your mind.

That's normal.

Anything new is going to feel scary and a task such as getting fit can feel very daunting indeed. However, if you need some help getting started, I recommend finding a professional and have a conversation about what you're trying to do. Talk to a Certified Personal Trainer or a Nutritionist and work on the previous 9 points and I promise-- this time you can make it work.

If you're having some trouble or you need some help, always feel free to email me at realanimetraining@gmail.com or if you would like a program to help your reach your goals, consider a Personalized Training Program or Online Personal Training to help you get started or get back on track.


That's all for today! Until next time, good luck and train hard!
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