by Matt Weik
We all make mistakes in life, that’s how we learn and grow. Well, the same principle can be used when it comes to our overall health and fitness progress. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or advanced exerciser, anyone can fall into a trap if they aren’t careful. If you don’t understand why your progress has come to a screeching halt, you’ll never figure out how to get back on track. There are plenty of ways that you could be killing your progress, and this article will cover many of them. If you find yourself falling under any of these, regroup and adjust so you can keep moving towards achieving your health and fitness goals.
1. Lackluster intensity
Are you trying to lose weight and burn off stubborn body fat? You’re not alone. But if you have seemed to hit a plateau or aren’t seeing the results that you once were, check your intensity. Many people fall into the trap of complacency. We get accustomed to doing the same thing day in and day out that we go through the movements without any real intensity. Your body isn’t going to drop fat because you’re in the gym. It doesn’t care where you are. It’s not going to give up holding onto your body fat simply because it sees you trying and putting in the effort. It’s going to take more than that. You need to up your intensity. Change things up a bit. If you were walking on the treadmill and getting good results, guess what? Your body is bored and has adjusted. It needs a new stimulus with some more intensity.
You can also apply this to your resistance workouts as well. Maybe throw in a workout where you aren’t going as heavy and during your rest periods you are utilizing some high intensity cardio through the use of a battle rope or quick agility drills through the use of an aerobics step. If you aren’t in the mood for cardio between your working sets, then try and keep your rest periods to a minimum which will keep your heart rate elevated.
2. A man without a plan
When you go to the gym, you should have already planned out in your head what you want to do. I see way too many people killing their progress because they stand around trying to figure out what to do next or they are aimlessly walking around the gym looking for motivation of some sort. Not having a plan will eat up time in the gym and have you wasting your own precious time. We are busy people, we don’t have time to be wasting. Have a game plan in place so you can walk through the doors ready to attack your workout. Better yet, get a workout journal and write down ahead of time what you want to complete for the day, the exercises, the sets and rep range, and how much cardio you want to end your workout with (if any at all depending on your goals). Then log all of your sets with the weight you used along with the reps completed. Use this log to plan your next workout for those specific body parts. Try to outdo what you did in the previous workout by either adding weight or completing more reps.
3. Pushing resistance training to the side when cutting
I’m of the mindset that the best way to preserve muscle is to exercise as if you’re trying to build it. Sure, you could increase the rep range of your workouts and lower the weight, but in all honesty, what guy wants to toss around lighter weights? After all, when we are building lean muscles, they help us burn calories and fat because they have a higher energy expenditure every day, even while at rest. So, keep pushing it hard with your weights even when cutting. Diet will be extremely important during this time, but don’t back off from your weight training, but at the same time, don’t try to overdo things if you are in a caloric deficit and can’t load up the bar like you were when your calories and carbs were higher. Listen to your body and be smart so you can prevent injuries.
4. Don’t turn into a mouse on an exercise wheel
We have all watched a mouse or hamster run on an exercise wheel in their cage. Look like fun? No, not even in the slightest. So, why would you want to spend tons of time on the cardio machines at your local gym? That sounds terrible to be honest. Heck, I don’t even like running as is. In fact, if you ever see me running, try and keep up because something is going down that I’m trying to get away from.
If weight loss is what you are after, then look at utilizing HIIT (high intensity interval training). This can be done on just about every piece of cardio equipment out there. You can do something like a sprint on the treadmill for 30 second with a 60 second rest phase following and continue that cycle for 10 rounds and you’ll be done with an insane cardio workout in 15 minutes. As you become more conditioned you can increase the rounds completed as well. If you get bored with the treadmill, next time you do cardio use the cardio rower. Use the same concept of high intensity for a 30 second duration, then follow it up with a 60 second low intensity phase of the movement. Utilizing HIIT will get you in and out extremely quickly so you don’t have to spend what feels like your entire day on a piece of cardio equipment when trying to shed body fat.
5. You can’t out-train a poor diet
If you haven’t heard this before, you’re… well… that would be a rarity—we’ll leave it at that. But honestly, 80% of your success is going to come from what you toss in your pie hole. If you spend an hour in the gym completely destroying the weights and wearing out the belts on the treadmills, but stop at McDonald’s for a Big Mac value meal with a Coke on the way home, you might as well just quit. At that rate, you consumed more calories in that one meal than you burned off in the gym. You’re all sorts of backwards with your thinking if you believe you’re on the right track to hit your weight loss goals. I wouldn’t even recommend that meal for guys who are bulking. Remember, your progress comes from how much work and effort you put into things. That means meal planning as well and figuring out what foods you should be eating and eliminating. Why would you want to spend an hour or so in the gym just to ruin it by sitting down for less than ten minutes and inhaling a McDonald’s value meal? Doesn’t seem to make much sense, right? So, don’t do it.
6. Not allowing for proper recovery
Muscles do not grow while in the gym. In fact, what you do in the gym plays a minor role in the grand scheme of things. It’s what you do after you leave the gym that can make or break you. If you are hitting the gym every day and hitting the exact same muscle groups, you aren’t allowing your body to fully recover from a given workout. You should not be hitting identical muscle groups on consecutive days. If you continually hit the gym and work the same muscles day in and day out, you don’t give your muscles enough time to build and repair the muscle fibers that you tore and broke down previously. Also, you need to be listening to your body. Your body will tell you and give you cues if it is not ready to undergo stress on a given muscle group. If you were planning on hitting a given muscle group but it is still sore from the previous workout a few days ago, then work a different group of muscles. Give the sore group more time to rest and recover.
In addition, not fueling your body with the right nutrients and giving it enough water for hydration can also kill your recovery progress. This all ties in with the next and final piece that could be killing your health and fitness progress—sleep.
7. Not getting enough sleep
Many people take sleep for granted and that they don’t need much to perform at a high level. Yet, on the other hand you have some people who think they are still in college and sleep in until noon. Both of these are terrible ideas. In order to recover properly and help further your health and fitness progress, you should be getting around 7-8 hours of sleep each night. That might mean closing out social media at night to get some rest rather than seeing what people you never talk to are doing on Facebook or Instagram. It means putting down the video games and turning off the idiot box (television). If you aren’t functioning optimally during the day at work and when you hit the gym, you’re only cutting your progress short. Sleep is an extremely important factor in all of this. When you sleep, you give your body the ability to recover, regenerate, and grow. With a good night’s sleep, you will wake up energized and ready to tackle the day ahead. Not getting enough sleep also puts you in a situation where your immune system can take a hit which opens the door for an illness to sneak in and completely knock you for a loop with your progress not only at work but in the gym. Close the blinds, set your alarm, and get some restful sleep each night.