You feel like you’re working really hard, getting to the gym and eating better, but when you jump on the scales, nothing's changed. This is the point where most people will give in because they don’t see a point if they’re not getting anywhere, but not you. You're not giving up just yet. There will be a reason you’re not moving forward and it’s time to find it.
You can throw in the towel or you can use it to wipe the sweat off your face. Your choice.
Reason 1: You’re not training hard enough.
‘That’s a bit harsh, I’m trying my hardest’. I can hear your offence from here, but sometimes we have to be cruel to be kind. Breakdown your workout and think about what you actually do. How much of your time in the gym is getting changed, your trip to the loo, your water break, a quick catch up with a mate you bump into or a sneaky text mid-routine? It all cuts away at the actual amount of time you’ve spent exercising. That’s not to say you should turn into a social recluse when you're exercising nor are you expected to tie a knot in your bladder. The point is maybe you're not spending as long as you think you are burning fat. Try wearing a heart rate monitor to make sure you bring your heart rate back into fat burning zones even if you do have distractions, monitoring your heart rate can ensure you're pushing yourself hard enough as well as timing how long you’ve been working out for.
Reason 2: You’re only doing one type of training.
Your body is not only very clever, it’s lazy. The body is designed to optimise its performance in any given task so that it can be completed using as little energy as possible. Whilst this used to be a survival tactic, now it could be what’s holding you back. To keep your body as a calorie-torching furnace, you need to keep it guessing. For example, if all you're doing is cardio, it's time to start picking up some heavy stuff and switch to lifting weights. Repeating the same 30 minutes on the elliptical every other day, at the same intensity week in week out, will eventually see your results come to a stand still. Avoid plateauing by changing your workout intensity - perhaps you could give HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) a go, try a different duration or swap between weights and cardio.
Reason 3: You're not training often enough.
One session a week just won’t cut it. However intense that session may be, your training needs to take a regular spot in your diary if you expect to reap any of its benefits. NHS guidelines suggest we need 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, plus strength exercises on two or more days. As a Personal Trainer, I always tell my clients 3 - 5 training sessions a week, 3 one hour sessions being the minimum to see any results. This will usually consist of a muscle split such as chest and triceps, back and biceps, cardio and abs and legs. By splitting up our body parts, we are able to train one muscle group to exhaust and still train again the next day using alternative muscles whilst these repair, allowing for consecutive training days and consistent results.
Reason 4: You’re training too much.
‘Surely the more I train the better the results will be?’ Overtraining can lead to your results coming to a standstill because your body is never given a chance to recover. Every training session we do, we’re adding extra stress to the body, be it through a run or lifting weights. The bottom line is still the same, we are tearing muscles so they repair and grow stronger. If all you're doing is tearing and re-tearing muscles, the results will never come because there is no chance for them to repair. Signs of overtraining include, over-tiredness, increased illness, constant muscle aches and depression. A good night's sleep is vital for recovery and if you have been overtraining, try to make sure you get plenty of sleep and add some rest days to your training split to improve your results.
Reason 5: Your diet’s halting your progress.
They say ‘Abs are made in the kitchen’ for a reason. You can’t out-train a poor diet. Your body can’t perform at its best without the right fuel. A petrol car won’t run off diesel. Poor quality foods can leave us feeling sluggish and reluctant to train. A good diet will nourish your body and enhance its performance when training. Going to the gym to earn yourself a doughnut isn’t quite how it’s meant to be done. Sorry. A good way to keep track of your nutrition is to use a food tracker app such as MyFitnessPal or keep a food diary. Try and make healthy swaps, watch your portions and rate food for its satiety and energy providence. Remember calories in vs calories out. Even if it's the right foods, if you're eating more calories than you're burning, you are going to gain weight. Burn more calories than you eat and you're going to lose weight. Simple.
Reason 6: You’re expecting too much too soon.
Rome was not built in a day. When you first start a training programme it’s important to remember that these things take time. Even if you can’t see your body changing on the outside, every single effort is changing your body from the inside. Typically it takes 21 days to create a habit and about 4 weeks for that habit to create results. Try taking a before picture and then monthly progress updates, this way even if the number on the scale stays the same, you’ll be able to see physical changes in your appearance you wouldn’t normally notice because you stare at your reflection every day. Muscle weighs more than fat and weight isn’t always the best way to measure your results, take some starting measurements as well as your weight to get a fuller progress update. Don’t overdo it watching the scales, a weekly weigh-in is more than enough, remember your weight can fluctuate throughout the day so pick a time of day and then stick to it whenever you weigh yourself.
Reason 7: You’re comparing yourself to others.
‘Fitspiration’ can be a double-edged sword, whilst on the one hand it can be super motivating, on the flip-side it can cause you to feel really bad about yourself and even lead to fat-shaming. It’s important to remember that what you see on the internet is not necessarily what you would see in real life. Online we present our best self, who wouldn’t? The beauty of digital pictures means we can take 100’s before one finally makes the cut and even then it can be cropped, rotated and filtered until it’s prepped to perfection, by the time it’s internet ready, it’s a shadow of its former self. It’s important to remember the flurry of ‘before and after’ pictures and fitness models that greet us on social media have all been through this fine-tuned selection process. Fitness athletes go through rigorous training and dieting before they compete to achieve a toned and chiseled physique, but they don't maintain this year-round, it would be unhealthy. Similarly, try not to compare yourselves to celebrities. It seems a new celeb routine promises perfect abs in less and less time every month and the results they post online are phenomenal, but remember these celebrities are being paid to achieve these results, they probably have a personal trainer, nutritionist, and of course, photoshop. Try not to compare yourself to what you see online, there's a hidden story behind every photograph. Washboard abs are not necessarily the sign of perfect fitness nor a healthy lifestyle.
Reason 8: You may have an underlying health condition.
If you’ve taken a deep look at your training and really can’t find another reason for your results to be stalling, it may be time to contact your GP. Better safe than sorry. Underlying health conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Type 2 Diabetes or Thyroid issues can often impact your results and affect your weight. Although this may make things harder, it's not impossible. If this is the case you can adapt your programming accordingly and if it’s not, you know it's time to look deeper into other causes.
Training isn’t luck, it’s science. If you’re putting in the work, the results will come eventually. Stay with it, nothing worth having comes easy.