You consistently work out, you try to eat right, and you get as much sleep as your schedule allows. So, why aren’t you seeing any results from your efforts? The truth is, getting in shape is a journey, not a sprint. You won’t see results in a day or two, or even a week. It requires sustained effort for a long period of time. And though it’s difficult, the hard work eventually does pay off.
Unless it doesn’t — then it’s hard to imagine anything more frustrating. So, how can you tell where you’re going wrong? Here are seven mistakes you might be making that are stopping you from reaching your fitness goals.
1. Long rest periods
You need to recover between sets and workouts, but make sure you’re not taking too long. While resting between sets is important, resting too much can have the opposite effect. If you’re taking breaks that are too long, your heart rate lowers, which stops your body from refueling your muscles. Aim to rest anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds in between each of your sets. Again — this will maximize the amount of calories you’re burning and the amount of muscle you’re building.
2. Your pace is wrong
Nobody wants to spend hours in the gym, so instead of working out at a leisurely pace, crank the intensity up to 11. Make sure to maximize your time, CNN says. Slow and steady is not a pace you should be using when it comes to your workouts. Forgo an hour long workout and instead opt for 30 minutes of high-intensity, nonstop exercise. You’ll burn more calories and build more muscle as a result.
3. Grabbing the treadmill
This may not be an issue for you, but if you’re an avid runner and treadmill user, grabbing onto the sides of the machine — or even the handles in front of you for support — can end up hurting you. Some people use the machine’s physical structure as a sort of crutch, supporting their weight to make it a little easier. Don’t do it. You’re only hurting your workout. Keep your hands away from the machine, and run as you would on the street or track.
4. Find the right number of reps
This is one of the trickiest parts of designing a workout: finding the right amount of reps and sets. Essentially, if you’re hoping to get toned, aim for a weight you can lift six to 10 times, rather than doing sets of 20 or more. If you can’t get through at least six reps or so, you’re probably trying to lift too much — whereas if you’re easily able to go for 10 or more, you’re lifting too little. Of course, it will depend on what lift you’re doing as well. Fiddle with your set/rep mix, and see how you feel post-workout.
5. Avoid repetition
If you’re familiar with the term muscle memory, then you know it can set you back. Basically, it works like this: You know how if you do the same thing over and over, you can get bored? Your body is the same way. If it gets into a routine where it’s doing the same exercises repeatedly, it becomes easier and gets used to it. Let’s say you really enjoy the elliptical. After doing it frequently, it’s no longer challenging and your body is using less energy while you’re working out.
This is why variety is key. Mix up your exercises, and try different lifts. Your body needs to be surprised to keep building muscle and getting stronger.
6. Eat more
Let’s quickly review the equation for weight loss: Calories consumed need to be less than calories burned over the course of the day. And if you want to gain mass and build muscle? It should be the opposite. You need to consume more calories than you’re burning off. For serious athletes, that means eating insane amounts of food. If you want to make sure you’re building muscle, you need to dial your equation in and carefully take note of what you’re eating. Funny as it may seem, you might not be eating enough.
7. Use machines properly
If you’re going to make the effort to get to the gym and do the reps and sets needed to build muscle and get in shape, you’ll want to make sure you’re actually doing the exercises correctly. It’s one thing to do lifts with barbells and dumbbells — but machines can add a whole new layer of complexity to your trip to the fitness center. Read the instructions, ask the staff, or watch how other people use the machines. And, perhaps most importantly, adjust the machine to your dimensions.