You’ve made the commitment to improving your health. You’re exercising regularly, and invested both time and money to make that happen. But after some initial improvements, something’s wrong. You’re not losing any weight. You don’t feel any better. You’ve held up your end of the deal, but now you feel cheated. What happened?
Nobody likes doing work and getting no results. These common mistakes may be stopping your progress:
You may be surprised to know that exercising too much can stop progress. Whether due to peer pressure, guilt, an over-amped nervous system, or something else, overdoing it will catch up with you sooner or later. You may be experiencing this if you have chronic injuries, depression, insomnia, or pain in general. A young adult’s body may be more forgiving, but the rest of us don’t have the luxury of exercise self-punishment without harsh consequences.
There are many complex ways of dealing with overtraining, but the simplest tip is: if your muscles are sore, rest them until you have at least one pain-free day off, then resume exercise. If you have several symptoms, a doctor visit and significant rest may be needed.
Groucho Marx: Does it hurt when you do that? Then don’t do that.
Afraid to get sweaty at all? Not overtraining? Another temptation is going to the opposite extreme. Didn’t someone once say that less is more? Yes, but zero isn’t.
Dolly Parton: I have exercise videos. I like watching them while eating my cookies.
If you’re lifting weights that are too light, this can happen. Ladies, if you’re worried about getting muscles that are too big, don’t be. To make your muscles really big and ripped, you’d have to do a tremendous amount of work, and most likely follow a special diet. You can be strong, fit, and look great while easily avoiding the bodybuilder look.
Another undertraining example is strolling along on the treadmill while chatting, and having that be your whole workout. Sociable, and some stress relief, but certainly not challenging enough to make any significant improvement. It’s much better as a cooldown after a real workout.
Rule of thumb: if you want serious exercise with a treadmill or stairstepper, you won’t be able to talk while doing it.
Groundhog Day! The Exact Same Exercise Routine Forever
Have you fallen into this trap? It sounds like a prison sentence, doesn’t it? Maybe you just didn’t get any instruction, or if you did, you learned one routine and settled for that. I do this a little myself when I stick to a routine just a little too long.
When you start a new exercise routine, at first you make quick progress, and that’s exciting – your body scrambles to compensate and get strong. But after awhile improvement slows down to a crawl. The body adjusts to the exercise, and adapts to the point where it doesn’t need to grow anymore. It just seems to say, eh, I can do that, is that the best you’ve got?
New stimulation needed! The solution may be to hire a trainer. A good one will adjust your routine over time, and that can move you ahead a lot faster. It does cost real money, of course. If you’re on a tight budget, very self-motivated, and can learn from videos, books, and other sources, you may be able to break through the plateau for a lower fee. In simple terms, you want to regularly challenge your body with new exercises.
I’m Sorry, We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties
New gym members are often unsure where to start. They walk in, look around, find some gear that looks interesting, and try it out. The dead giveaway is their poor form, which ranges from ineffective to downright dangerous. There’s nothing wrong with safely experimenting and sampling, but many exercisers don’t figure out how to exercise well. Examples:
- Jerking your whole body when doing dumbbell curls. The rotten form winner, and still champion. I know, guys, we feel manly using more weight and staring at that mirror. But you’re not really exercising your biceps much at all. Try standing with your back against the wall, then do your curls. You’ll find out what you can actually lift, and get real arm work. Less chance of injury, too. By the way, guys doing body-flailing dumbbell raises have the same problem (and look even funnier).
- Doing upright rows, period. It’s one of the best ways I know of to injure your shoulder joints. Do bent-over dumbbell rows instead. Way safer! A bonus is getting some back work, too. Having your shirt off is optional.
- Doing only a partial rep on pushups, pullups, squats, leg press, etc. A “rep” is one repetition of an exercise. For example, if you’re barely bending your knees and calling that a squat, it’s not a full rep. I know, it’s easier, and you can handle more weight (woo hoo!), but just like Dumbbell Curly above, you’re getting a fraction of the work you will do when using full reps. Exercising with a full range of motion is the way to build strength.
Irresistible Force Meets Immovable Object: Exercise Vs. Eating
Using good exercise habits, but still losing no weight? Many people hope that exercise can take the place of dreaded dieting. Sadly, that’s not always the case. Depending on your metabolism, if you really eat a lot, or eat bad foods, you could nullify the good exercise that you’re doing, and even continue to gain weight. You may have seen this on the show, The Biggest Loser.
But consider this – if you’re building muscle while getting fitter, muscle weighs more than fat. So you may be getting healthier while not putting up big weight loss numbers. Also, if you’re eating a well-chosen diet, you can usually eat more food while losing weight than someone on a junk food diet.
I would argue that weight loss alone is not the only important goal for exercise. For example, some people try to lose too much weight too fast. Other people carry some extra weight while exercising and being fit. When in doubt about appropriate weight loss, consult a professional, such as a doctor, sports nutritionist, or dietician.
Are you exercising but not getting anywhere? Tell us about it in the comments.