10 Reasons Why Working Out Isn't "Working Out"
It's almost August. And to no surprise, the people who were all gung-ho about training in January have mostly forgotten about their resolve and their dreams.
It's inevitable, it seems.
It happens every year. People say, "This is the year that I'm going to [insert whatever fitness goal they might have latched onto]” and things start off really great. They put in a lot of work in and maybe even got into the habit of working out. But eventually, something always happens: life gets in the way, they miss a few workouts and feel too embarrassed to come back, or they don't see the results they were looking for right away or at all.
So, what's wrong? There are a number of reasons why this happens to people. If you are one of these people failing to meet their goals, I would wager you are making one of the following mistakes.
Mistake #1: You Don't Have A Plan (At Least, Not A Realistic One...)
If you want to get to the Grand Canyon, you could very easily get in your car and start driving in the direction you think the Grand Canyon is in. You’ll probably end up in various cities along the way, have to turn around a few times, and maybe even spend a good deal of time just plain-out lost… and you might get there eventually. However, you also might end up broken down on the side of the road wondering how you got there.
It would be much better if you pulled out a map and charted a course ahead of time so that you knew exactly where you ought to go and so that you can estimate how long it will take you to get there… or just use a GPS and have it calculate all of that for you.
Fitness is very much the same way. You figure out what your goals are and you build a path to get there with as much information as you have access to OR you hire someone to do all of that work for you and give you the plan of attack.
If you don't have a plan, you're going to have a hard time getting to where you want to go. You can say you want to lose 100 pounds or you want to run a marathon, but unless you have the framework in place to get you there, you'll never make it.
Before you start anything, you need to get a plan, on paper or not. You need to know where you are now, where you want to go, and how you are going to get there. It's okay if you have to modify the plan later, because this is going to be a learning process and you are not going to get it right the first time, especially if you are doing it alone.
However, if you formulate a plan and go down that path, you'll make the necessary corrections when its time and you will come out the other side better for it.
Exercise is not a magic pill. You're not going to do 5 crunches and get a six-pack and you won't train for a week and be able to run a marathon. Body changes take time. You apply a stimulus and the body adapts. You apply greater and greater stimulus over enough time and you have a complete bodily transformation.
Your goals should be SMART, which is to say:
This means that you need to know exactly what you want to do. Do you want to get in shape? What does that mean? It might mean that you want to lift a certain amount of weight. It might mean you want to run without having to stop for some distance. It could be a lot of things, but the point is that you need to know what you’re going after. Even if your goals change six weeks in, having a goal to start off with will allow you to start moving forward. You also need to know why you want this goal in the first place, as it will serve as motivation for you to continue your training later on.
For instance (as a huge example), if your goal was to be the strongest in the world, you’d have to define what that meant, because you might be able to be the strongest at one single lift, but certainly not at all of them. Do you mean you want to be the #1 powerlifter, Olympic Weightlifter, or the World’s Strongest Man?
You need to be able to chart your progress. If your goal is not measurable, there will be no way for you to determine if you’ve reached it.
Once you’ve determined the metric that you will be measuring to determine how successful you are, you can more effectively chart your training and your progress. So, whether you’re looking to gain muscle, gain speed, or lose fat, you need to measure that out ahead of time.
You should actually be able to reach your goal. You shouldn’t select a goal that is physically impossible, because you’re going to get discouraged and most likely stop your training when you realize it. Picking smaller goals and chasing those down one at a time will feed your motivation and allow you to build toward larger goals down the road. Don’t start with aiming to perform a 315-lb. deadlift if you’ve never touched a bar before. Just focus on working towards a 135-lb. Deadlift. After that you can set a heavier goal. And then eventually, you can aim for the original, massive goal.
Is this goal relevant to your life? Why do you want to attain it? Will it help you in your life or is it just something to satisfy your own ego? (That’s fine as long as you are aware of it.) If you know the answers to those questions, it can help you decide if those goals are the ones you should be chasing. Just make sure your reasons for training are sturdy enough to stand against the inevitable periods of doubt and discouragement. When you start thinking about quitting, it’s these reasons that will keep you going.
This goal should not be open-ended. You should have a general idea of how long it’s going to take you, with smaller goals along the way to chart your progress. Even if you’re a little off, you should have some idea of the length of time that this is going to take you before you embark on this journey. You don’t want to get into something thinking that it’s only going to take you 6 months and find out it’s going to take you 5 years. However, you don’t want to be too strict either. You will probably shift your timeline during your journey, but that’s perfectly fine, as long as you are paying attention to it and charting it as you go.
Mistake #2: You Don't Know Where To Start
Okay. You want to get fit. You want to get strong. You want to lean out... but where do you even begin? There are so many things you could do and so many machines and exercises and programs and everything else, you might feel like you are losing your mind.
Anything new is going to feel scary and a task such as getting fit can feel very daunting indeed. However, if you need some help getting started, I recommend finding a professional and have a conversation about what you're trying to do. Talk to a Certified Personal Trainer or a Nutritionist.
Listen to those who have the knowledge and skills. Listen to those who have gone on before you. Your coaches, your teachers, your instructors, your opponents and your friends (who are knowledgeable) are your help in becoming the person you want to be. You may eventually outgrow them and that’s okay, but use them while you have them and let them help you become what you’re trying to become. Don’t assume that you know more than the black belts, the Olympians, the Doctors, the Coaches, and the Trainers, for they’ve walked paths you haven’t. Don’t rely on what you think you know. Instead, rely on them. You’ll thank yourself later.
That being said, it’s not enough to just do absolutely everything that someone else tells you, however. You need to learn your own body and your own mind. You need to absorb as much information about your topics of study (and even outside) as possible. The more you know, the more you can make informed decisions about how you want to grow as an athlete, a martial artist, and a person. Seek knowledge from a variety of sources and don’t be afraid to try some things that people think are stupid. There is not only one way to accomplish things.
Failing to educate yourself can end in a lack of results or just flat-out injury. It’s not worth it to just blindly charge on ahead without proper knowledge.
Mistake #3: You Aren't Having Fun
Doing something you hate is not going to make you keep doing it. Sure, you might have strong willpower, but eventually you're going to look at that treadmill and say, "I hate you" and that'll be that. There are two ways to fix this problem of not having fun. The first one is really simple.
Pick something you enjoy doing and do it!
It's really that simple. Start with an activity that you enjoy, whether it's golf, martial arts, bowling, tennis, hiking, or dancing really fast to polka music. Once you find something active that you love doing, you'll have little difficulty finding the motivation to do it. The second solution is a little more difficult and comes along later.
The second solution is this: Change your mindset about exercise, whatever the exercise is. I used to hate running-- until I made myself run. After a while, I learned about the intricacies of putting one foot in front of the other and began to appreciate the process. If you don't like a form of exercise in front of you, change how you look at it. See the benefit of the exercise and really understand the process and you'll begin to see it in an entirely new (and possibly more enjoyable) light.
Mistake #4: You Aren't Strength Training
At the very beginning of your journey, it's not as big a deal if you aren't strength training, because you'll be learning so many new things and getting used to activity in general that you'll often get stronger just doing whatever activity you've chosen to do.
There will come a day, though, that your chosen activity will no longer be enough for you to continue to get better at that activity and stay injury free. At that time (and it comes relatively early in the process) you will need to begin some form of strength training, either in the form of weightlifting or bodyweight exercises. This training can start off light, but it needs to be progressive, meaning that the weight and reps are going up or the movements are becoming more difficult (one-legged squats opposed to two, for example).
If you choose not to strength train, it is very likely that you will run into a wall in your fitness goals somewhere, either in the form of decreased results or injury due to repetitive use. As far as injury goes, being sidelined with an injury makes your motivation sag and your habit of exercise turn into a habit of laying around and doing nothing. Coming back from injury is difficult, so it is in your best interest to not get injured in the first place.
Strength training builds and helps retain muscle mass that is essential to your performance in whatever you choose to do. It enables you to become more efficient in movements and teaches your muscles how to recruit more fibers more effectively.
Long story short-- Do strength training.
Mistake #5: You Aren't Working Hard Enough
If you are not improving in the gym, i.e.- if your weights, reps, distances, times, or what-have-yous are not increasing, then there is no growth. If these markers are not moving, there is no path to any kind of transformation. Doing the same weight (especially the same weight!) for the same number of reps and sets week in and week out will get you nowhere.
You need to be getting better. If you aren't getting better, you're getting worse. There is no maintenance. There is improvement or no improvement. If you are improving, you are headed toward a goal. Push yourself in the gym. Do better. Do one more rep. Add one more pound. Do one more set.
You need to sweat. You need to be sore. You need to feel uncomfortable. (Notice I did not say you need to be in pain.) You need easier days, but the stimulus for your growth are the hard days. If your program is not challenging you, it is not changing you. Up your intensity-- more weight (as you progress), more speed, more power. It might be slow-going at first, but once you add the intensity to your program, you'll find that your results soon follow.
Mistake #6: You're Working TOO Hard!
This is the flip-side to the last point. If you are busting your ass every single day for weeks on end without a rest day, deload, or time for appropriate recovery, you'll soon find yourself sitting on the doorstep of stagnation, decreased performance, and injury. There's no way around it. You provide the stimulus for strength and increased performance with your training, but you actually get those things when you rest and recover properly.
You need to eat well to fuel training and recovery and you need to SLEEP! Sleep is where all the magic happens. You train hard on 3 hours of sleep for a week or two and you'll see exactly what I mean. You'll be so messed up you won't know what to do with yourself. If you aren't sleeping, you aren't recovering.
If you provide enough time and building blocks for recovery, you can beat your own ass in your workouts on a regular basis and probably be fine. Skip your recovery, however... and you're gonna have a bad time.
Mistake #7: You Think You Can Do It On Your Own
Human beings are social animals. Not only do we constantly seek out other people for connections, we also draw habits, mannerisms, and motivation from the people with whom we choose to interact and surround ourselves. Yes, this includes the introverts out there as well. Therefore, it is in our best interest that we do the best we can to become a part of a community of like-minded people or (even better) people who have goals that are similar to our own, because not only will you motivate one another, but you can learn from each other’s journeys. You can also keep each other accountable, so if someone is slipping up (and it could be you), there is someone there to pick the other person back up and put them on the right path again.
Gather allies and storm the enemy’s base together, instead of trying to assault the walls that separate you and your goals all by yourself.
Mistake #8: You Only Work Out When You Feel Like It
Your training schedule is your training schedule and, outside of being legitimately ill or on the verge of being ill, you should strive to meet every workout on that schedule head on, whether its 20 minutes of recovery yoga or 2 hours in the gym showing everyone else how it's done!
If you depend on your feelings or your emotions to determine if you are going into the gym or not, you'll soon find yourself acquiescing to more and more and, soon, the gym will get pushed further on down the list. I can tell you that, counter-intuitively, some of the best days I've had in the gym have been the days I just didn't feel like going or felt like I was going to be weak. You never know until you step up to the bench or the mat or the road and decide to push ahead.
What you do when you "don't feel like it" determines your level of commitment. Consistency is the name of the game.
One of the most important things in your training is whether or not you are consistent in it. Going to the gym every day for a week and then not setting foot in it again for several months will be less beneficial to you than going once a week and focusing on progressing the best that you can. The body changes over time, requiring consistent, gradual work. Eating nothing but grilled chicken salads for a month will not turn a 400-pound man into a 200-pound adonis. It will - probably - do him some good. But real results require consistent action. Strong muscles are built by repeatedly tearing your muscles, letting them heal, and then tearing them again. Each time your muscles heal, they get just a little bit stronger. But if you stop training for a long period of time, those muscles gradually weaken.
Mistake #9: Poor Eating Habits
This is the big one. You'll hear it spoken in many different ways:
- You can't outrun your fork.
- It's 20% training and 80% nutrition.
- Abs are made in the kitchen
- Food is anabolic
- If it fits your macros
The common denominator between all of these things is that nutrition is vitally important. If you don't eat properly, you won't be able to work out effectively or recover effectively. If you're eating too much or not eating the right things, all the stuff you do in the gym might yield less results or none at all.
A well-balanced diet, focusing on whole foods is paramount to your success. Stay away from foods that are overly processed. Eat a variety of foods from many different sources. Eat to sustain yourself and your activity. Food is fuel and, while it can be enjoyable, its primary job is to make sure that you don't die and that your body is nourished in whatever way it requires. Refined sugars have very little place in your diet. Now, please understand, I'm not saying no to certain foods. What I'm saying is that you need to eat certain foods in moderation or rarely. You CAN eat anything you want. Your choices, however, will be what helps determine your success in physical transformation or athletic performance.
To put it bluntly, if you put sugar in the tank of a car, that car is gonna die. If you put enough sugar into your tank, SO WILL YOU!
Mistake #10: Procrastination
Don’t decide to do this on the New Year. Not next month. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Make a change today, even if it’s a small one. If you put off changing, it’s very easy for the days to pile up until weeks, months, or even years pass.
If you start today, in a year, think about how far you’ll be, instead of wondering a year from now where you would be if you’d just went ahead and started. The earlier you start - even if it’s just once a week in the beginning - the sooner you’ll reach your goals.
You CAN Avoid These Mistakes
Do not be discouraged. These mistakes can indeed be avoided. That said, avoiding them will be hard. Trying to establish a smart plan for yourself should be a simple enough task. But then, trying to educate yourself means avoiding the pitfalls of misinformation online and the myths that perpetuate throughout society. You might be able to find supportive friends, but we all have at least one friend or family member who doesn't understand why we're taking this path, or why you can't have "just one slice of cake." And the friends that do want to be supportive may very well not know how to be supportive. And when you just don't feel like training, when a wind blows the delicious smells from the fried food place down the road, it's easy to embrace inconsistency and poor food. And you'll just think "I can start tomorrow."
You can avoid these mistakes. But it will be hard without help.
That's why we've created Real Anime Training Plus. It's an exclusive membership site that covers your butt on nearly every one of these mistakes. With different workout courses for people with different starting points and goals, you'll be able to find a workout program that meshes with your plan. We have hundreds of videos that serve to educate you on proper form for various exercises and on the finer points of health, fitness, and training. It's all been written by an actual professional trainer (me.) And in one fell swoop, we've handled the the social, consistency, and bad food problems. Our forums are filled with people like you who have the same access to the same education and drive that you have. Inside, our members are helping each other by sharing their stories, asking for help, and gaining accountability partners. So, the next time you feel like taking a few days off, or going off diet more often than you should, you can have an ally checking up on you and holding you accountable to yourself.
That final mistake, procrastination, is actually not something we can help you with. It's up to you not to put this off. You can start training today. You can make that plan, find some well-meaning friends, and Google whatever you don't know. If that's the route you choose to take, then we wish you good luck. You'll always be welcome to check out the workouts posted on the Real Anime Training blog and on our YouTube channel.
But if you recognize the seriousness of the situation, and you don't want to risk wasting your time, you can check out what we have to offer. There's a 14-day free trial, so you can try it before you buy it.