Not Getting the Results You Want? Time for a Reality Check
So, you've been training for a few months, years, or decades. Have you achieved your goals? If you have, that’s good for you. Keep at it. If not, maybe it's time for a reality check.
Understand these two undisputable things:
- Your genetic endowment (body type, muscle fiber type, muscle belly size, tendon origins and insertions, and nervous system hook ups) can either help or hinder you.
- The more things change, the more they remain the same. You can implement all the new-wave exercises, programs, and nutritional supplements, but it all gets back to the basics of human physiology that have not changed in eons of years.
If you're disappointed in your results, it's time to shore up your training. Are you doing all the following things?
Are You Training Consistently?
To alter your body, you must expose it to an overload stimulus. You should be training at least two days per week, preferably three to four. Anything more might be okay depending upon your recovery ability, but remember ample recovery time must be allowed for adaptation to training stresses.
You must do this on a weekly basis. Training hard and consistently one week and then skipping a week or two will not cut it. Your body adapts slowly and surely, but only if you remain consistent over the long haul.
Look at it this way. All workouts are not going to be 100% perfect or done exactly according to schedule. Lack of sleep, sub-par dietary intake, family obligations, and experiencing a stressful day on the job can all affect the consistency and quality of training. If seven out of every ten of your training session are kick-ass, that’s something to hang your hat on.
Are You Training With Effort?
Are you just going through the motions or going all-out like you truly want it? As mentioned, to alter your body it must be exposed to a stress to which you're unaccustomed. If not, it will not change. If you're not getting results, it is time to turn up the burner.
Your workouts should be challenging. They should leave you exhausted whether it's fifteen or 45 minutes. By exhausted I mean, “Wow, that was borderline brutal." Seriously, that's what most people need.
Always remember you're attempting to change something. Productive workouts manifest themselves in temporary discomfort. Being uncomfortable is a good sign you did something right and are creating an environment for change.
Is Your Food Intake Reasonable?
I know there is a butt-load of nutritional information out there. Advocates of certain diets such as the Atkins, paleo, HCG, low-calorie, or high-fat will convince you to follow their yellow brick road. It's confounding. Who do you believe?
Start with where your food comes from. You cannot go wrong by consuming plant-based foods. If it naturally comes out of the garden, off a shrub, or from a tree, it's probably a good choice. If it comes out of a box, is microwavable, and is essentially manufactured, it's probably not the best option. Knowing that, it won't kill you if you eat processed foods occasionally. Gee whiz, the food manufacturers would be faced with gobs of litigation if it did.
My advice is to purchase the majority of your foods from the grocery store vegetable, fruit, and lean meat sections. Plenty of protein options are available via fresh poultry, red meat, seafood, and certain dairy products. Don't neglect beans and legumes, but avoid the breaded/processed meats and seafood.
In addition, minimize trips to the local fast food joints. They are tough places to find clean foods. And drink plain water on a regular basis. Most water is (relatively) free.
Regarding your training goals, you need to keep the nutrition component simple and reasonable. If you’re attempting to add muscle bulk, consume more calories and assure a protein source at each feeding. Shedding body fat? Eat fewer calories. Make your body go after stored adipose fat deposits. Are you training and competing in endurance sports? Eat! You need energy, so don’t forget the good carbs. Wanting to get stronger? Again, eat more and ingest that protein in on a regular basis.
Are You Doing the Right Things Based on Your Goals?
I know this may seem ridiculous to even mention it, but does your training plan parallel your goals? Believe it or not, many trainees screw up here. Here are a few reminders:
- Strength Gains - Use progressive resistance training. Force your muscles to do more over time. Work hard and do it consistently.
- Fat Loss - Use high-effort intervals, circuits, and other demanding protocols. Don't do an hour on a treadmill at a slow pace. It makes only a slight dent into your fat loss goal. Also, strength train to build or at least keep your metabolically active muscle.
- Endurance - Mix it up. Use longer and shorter runs and steady state and interval runs.
- Weight Gain - Hit the larger muscles of your body, such as the legs and back. Emphasizing only the arms and chest will not lend itself to adding muscle mass gains. Squats, deadlifts, leg presses, pulldowns, and rows will stimulate your larger muscle structures and thus better contribute to overall weight gain.
- Sport Skills - Practice, practice, and engage in more practice in the exact nature of what your sport requires. You need to be exact so you don’t create confusion for your nervous system. Simply stated, don’t shoot at a basketball goal if you want to be a better server in volleyball.
Are You Afraid to Do Proper Resistance Training?
This one really hits home for me. I've always been a resistance trainer even when not engaging in a running or cardio program. And guess what? I've never been obese, let alone looked like a fatty. And I'll admit my nutritional intake is not impeccable. Why, then, am I not an over-fat statistic?
I resistance train hard. I completely get after it like a hungry hiker visiting an all-you-can-eat buffet line. High-intensity work digs a deep calorie-demand hole that is important post-workout. And stimulating and building muscle is metabolically efficient. Building new muscle or replenishing existing muscle is energy dependent. All other factors being equal, a significant portion of your calorie intake goes to the recovery process of properly conducted strength training session, greater than needed for the recovery from a 45-minute treadmill run or four-mile park run.
Are You Relying on Potions From Magazines and Supplement Stores?
I'll keep this short. It's your prerogative to empty you wallet for the newest fat incinerators and muscle builders. But understand the nutritional supplement industry thrives on keen marketing techniques and convoluted research claims. It's much less expensive to shop your local supermarket for all the food your body needs.
If you truly believe you’ve been working hard and paying attention to details - or know you’ve been a slacker and give only a half-ass effort - and yet find yourself falling short of your goals, I hope the advice I gave can be a swift kick in the butt and get you back on track.
Photos 1,2, & 4 courtesy of Jorge Huerta Photography.
Photo 3 courtesy of Shutterstock.