8 reasons why your workouts aren’t working

You’ve done the difficult bit. You’ve established a regular exercise habit. Perhaps you even have your workouts scheduled.

When you started it was all good. You were seeing AND feeling results (there’s nothing like a bit of butt or abs ache to know you’ve worked hard). And you felt motivated.

But what if the results are dropping off and you feel a bit ‘meh’ about it all?

Lack of results is a sure fire way of sapping your motivation. So what are the main reasons that your workouts are no longer working?

1. You’ve hit a plateau.

In exercise terms this means your body has adapted to what you originally challenged it with. Far from being negative, this is great news. It means your workouts so far have been effective but now it’s time to take things up a gear.

FIX IT: You could beat plateau by increasing your workout intensity. This could be by adding an extra workout into your week; switching a steady state run for intervals or hill work; switching your afternoon resistance circuit for a morning, fasted circuit; or adding more challenge to your resistance training, such as swapping squats for split squats.*

*The progress and plateau stages of exercise workouts are the basis of programme periodisation. Which basically means you have a period of progress (often 4-6 weeks), then a little plateau phase. Then you go again. It keeps workouts fresh and ensures your body keeps progressing.

2. You’ve got fitter.

The upside of plateau is that it shows you how successful your workouts have been. You’ve adapted. Your body has got fitter. This is great news but if you want to keep reaping the rewards you’ll need to up the intensity.

FIX IT: You could increase the intensity of your workouts by running further, or running faster. Do make sure you are measuring your heart rate and speed during your workouts in order to measure your improvements in fitness.* You could also skip the rest from your resistance training circuits, or pop a new form of cardio fitness into your weekly workouts, such as a spin class or kickboxing.

  • If you need help with how to do this, consider a personal trainer who can monitor and measure your progress.

3. You’ve got stronger.

Just like fitness improvements, if your resistance training programme now seems a little easier, it’s probably because you are stronger and more capable of performing the exercises.  It’s time to progress.

FIX IT: You can increase the intensity of resistance training in a number of ways but how you progress will depend on your skill level, confidence and individual goals. You could increase the number of repetitions of an exercises, or you could slow it down (muscles adapt to time under tension as well as load). You could add resistance (more weight). You could also change the exercise or exercise order to make it more challenging. Performing a deadlift before a squat will make some of the leg muscles more tired (known as pre-fatiguing).

4. Your workouts lack variety.

This is usually the case with the runner who’s stopped getting runner’s high or the cyclist who’s got a sore back and tight hips. Whilst it’s great to have a type of exercise you love, your body needs balance. Any good Pilates or strength and conditioning programme is about balance. Your muscles push and pull. Your joints are designed to perform multi way movements. Over load on one and it’s the human equivalent of putting all your eggs in one, broken basket.

FIX IT: Do your workouts currently include cardio, resistance training (weights or body weight), mobility/flexibility and something which loads or stresses the joints? You could also add to this a workout which is specifically for your needs, for example exercises to combat knee problems or exercise in green space to balance out stress.

5. You aren’t  giving yourself enough recovery/rest.

Your body adapts to training during rest time, not during exercise time. This could be active rest (a gentle swim or walk) or it could be doing nothing. This is only likely to be the case if your workouts are intense. So interval training if it’s cardio based or resistance training to the point of fatigue.

FIX IT: This one will probably be fixed if you look at the balance in your workouts. If you’re a cardio bunny and can’t bear the thought of a slow workout day, get your motivation from knowing you are less likely to get injured if you take some time out.

6. You aren’t getting enough sleep.

Similar to rest but this is more about general sleep patterns. There’s little point getting up at 5am to run if it leaves you sleep deprived. The same is true for new parents. Sleep ALWAYS comes first. Motivation, appetite, hormones and mood will all be better when you get good quality shut eye.

FIX IT: Cut out alcohol before bed. Switch your cardio workouts to the morning (exercise raises your cortisol levels or stress hormone which should be higher in the morning) and switch of blue light an hour before bed.

7. You are eating too much.

If your workout goals are to lose fat – and you aren’t – it’s possible you are over-compensating with food. In order to lose body fat, you need calorie deficit. If you’ve run for 30 minutes that doesn’t warrant an extra sandwich snack.

FIX IT: Be honest with your food intake remembering that nuts, fruit and juices, whilst healthy are often heavy on the calories. And if you’re struggling with post workout hunger, bear in mind that it takes your body a little time to get used to using fat as fuel.

8. You sit down all day.

If you really want to get the most out of your workouts you need to up ALL of your activity.

FIX IT: Make excuses to be active. Suggest a walking meeting at work or walk the kids to school. Keep an activity journal or wear a steps tracker and if there are more sedentary days, look at ways to flip the balance.

If you need a little more accountability, we’re launching a new, week long fitness challenge on 15th October. The 300 Challenge. 300 minutes of activity in 7 days. It’s free to join.

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