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9 reasons you may not be getting results from your workouts

It can be incredibly frustrating to put time, money and energy into your workouts only to see little to no results. So, what’s going on? Terrence Friend, ACSM, EP-C, EIM2, a Piedmont exercise physiologist, shares nine questions to ask yourself – and what to do if your current plan isn’t working.

1. Is your workout reflective of your goals?

If you’re doing all the right things (like eating well, exercising consistently, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep), you may need different programming.

“A lot of people get a gym membership or follow workout videos online and wonder why their body isn’t responding the same way as someone else’s body,” says Friend. “It could be because those exercises aren’t geared toward their individual needs.”

2. How is your diet and sleep?

Drinking plenty of water, eating nutritious meals and getting enough sleep are important factors in reaching your fitness goals.

3. Are you challenging yourself?

While exercise should be fun and feel good, you may not see the weight loss or muscle tone you want if you’re not pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, he explains.

“The same workout will equal the same results,” says Friend. “You must increase your load for new physical adaptations to occur.”

You can do this by increasing the number of reps you perform or the amount of weight you lift.

4. Are you using the proper techniques?

Form is the key to getting the most from your fitness routine. For example, if you don’t have the correct form during a glute exercise, you may activate your hamstrings instead, which won’t give you the results you’re after.

5. Are you burned out? 

“Find something you like to do that is also physically challenging,” says Friend.

If you push yourself too hard, you might start to resent and dread your workouts.

Instead, start slowly. If you haven’t gone for a run in a year, don’t lace up your shoes and run five miles on the first day. Doing so could set you up for injury and burnout.

6. Is your goal realistic? 

Friend recommends giving your routine at least two months to see results. Healthy weight loss is typically only one to two pounds per week, while healthy weight gain (putting on muscle) is usually about one pound a week. 

“Set small, specific, process-related goals that help get you to your end goal,” says Friend.

So, instead of setting a goal to lose 10 pounds, you could set a goal to exercise for 30 minutes four days a week or cook a healthy dinner five nights a week.

7. Are you fueling your body?

“You have to have the right combination of diet and exercise,” he explains. “Some people aren’t consuming the right amount or type of energy.”

If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll need to take in fewer calories than you’re expending. That can mean cutting down portion sizes or doing more physical activity. To gain muscle, you need to eat more of the right types of calories. This can be a good time to consult with a professional, like a dietitian or nutritionist.

Balance and moderation are the keys to sustainability.

“If you eat healthily and don’t overindulge all the time, but also don’t restrict yourself, that’s the sweet spot,” says Friend. “You’ll have a better chance of sustaining your healthy lifestyle.”

8. Are you acknowledging your genetic ceiling?

“You can be as healthy and physically fit as possible and your body still may not look how you want,” says Friend. “Focus on being healthier and well instead. That will give you better results in the long run because you won’t be discouraged after a month. You’ll feel better, so you’ll give yourself more time for those adaptations to occur.”

9. Are you comparing yourself to others?

“It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap and wonder why you don’t look like the trainer on Instagram,” says Friend. “But you aren’t seeing what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s their job to look that way. They may work out for hours a day, have a private chef or access to expensive personal trainers and facilities. These are socioeconomic benefits the regular person doesn’t have.”

He adds, “If you’re picturing anyone besides yourself as your end goal, then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.”

How to get better workout results

If you’re not reaching your goals after months of hard work, it can be helpful to get advice from an exercise physiologist or certified personal trainer. Check with your employer or benefits provider to see if you can be reimbursed for fitness and wellness services.

Investing in just one session to learn proper form and the right routine for your goals can set you up for success.

He also advises wearing the proper attire for your chosen activity.

“We went to school for this and can determine the right program to get you to your goals based on science and human anatomy,” says Friend. “My job as a fitness professional is to help people get healthy and happy.”

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