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Wellness Wednesday: How to Get Over the Fitness Hump

As a personal trainer, I receive numerous questions from clients on a daily basis. Yesterday morning, a text appeared on my phone. It read, “I’m discouraged because I feel like I’ve been working really hard and am not seeing any change in my physique. Ugh!”. This text is a very common message that I receive from many people. I then ask the individual a variety of questions. Typically, there are three very common reasons as to why they are not seeing progress. When you do not see progress, it becomes very stressful. As a matter of fact, it is frustrating enough that you probably find yourself pulling your hair out.

Regardless of your goal, you are in the gym day in and day out. You have probably even cut out a particular amount of calories and eliminated a particular weakness of yours (e.g., soda, sweets, and so forth). Yet, you are still unable to achieve your personal fitness goals. After several months pass by, you raise your white flag in defeat.

If this sounds familiar to you, you are not alone. This is especially common at the beginning of the year when individuals create New Year’s resolutions. The other is about this time as individuals prepare to slim down for the beach life. Either way, you want to be your very best.

With that being said, here are 3 common reasons as to why you are not seeing progress:

1. Lack of Tracking

Whether it be your fitness or nutrition, you are just not tracking. When I received the above mentioned text, I immediately asked how they were tracking their progress. Their answer is probably very similar to yours - the scale. The problem with the scale is that it does not tell you everything. It does not tell you if you are losing fat. It does not tell you if you are gaining muscle. It does not tell you where you are losing or gaining mass. 

Progress can be tracked in a variety of ways. Try some of the following:

Photos: Snap photos of yourself on Day 1 from the front, side, and back. Maintain good posture, have good lighting, and wear what you would wear to the beach. Snapping photos of yourself will allow you to monitor differences which you cannot see overtime. Looking at yourself in the mirror on a daily basis is one thing, but looking at photos of yourself can be more revealing. The best testimony of this is when I had a client message me and state that she had “lost a fat roll”. I was puzzled when I heard this. It sounded bizarre, but she was right! The scale read the same, but the photos, the way her clothes fit, and the way she felt said it all. Note: Remember to take photos in the same setting and with the same amount of lighting each time.

Measurements: I track measurements religiously and believe it is one of the very best ways to track progress. Grab a tape measure from the fabric or health section at your local store. When performing initial measurements, I typically track the following circumferences: right bicep flexed and not flexed, chest at nipple line, just below the chest at the narrowest point, the stomach just below the belly button, the widest point of the hips, and the right calf. When taking quick measurements, I hit the main areas: scale, stomach and hips. Note: Remember to be consistent when measuring a specific area. In addition, take note that muscle takes up less room than fat.

Fitness and Nutrition Log: This is imperative to tracking and making progress. I keep a fitness log for each of my clients so that I may monitor what weight and piece of equipment they are using, how many sets and repetitions he or she is performing, how much time is needed for rest between sets, what exercise they like or what may be bothersome to a particular joint, how they feel when they arrive, and so forth. It may sound tedious, but it is beneficial. This helps monitor the client’s progress in regard to strength gains, how little rest they need in between sets, and how much better they are feeling over time. So, when they begin to panic because they are not seeing results based on what the scale says, I can show them their progress with use of the above mentioned components.

Tracking nutrition is just as important as tracking fitness. When we do not track how much or what we are consuming, we have no idea just how much we are consuming. Many do not even realize how frequently they eat out. When speaking to clients, many under report how much they are really eating in the beginning! They skip tracking the dessert they had at dinner or the plethora of alcohol they may have had over the weekend. It is what it is, just be sure to track it so that we can see where we need to make changes. If it is sweets you are craving, then let’s figure out how you can get a sweet in while being in a caloric deficiency.

Just remember that when you are not getting in the proper nutrients to fuel your body, your body will not be able to work efficiently to build muscle and burn fat. I mean, would you fill up a Ferrari on the poorest quality gasoline? Probably not! Once a client figures out how to track their calories properly, the progress afterward is phenomenal. Note: Don’t worry, there is an app for that. Download the MyFitnessPal app or visit their website. There are plenty of free products out there to track.

Miscellaneous: Lastly, how do your clothes fit? How are you feeling during your workouts? Are your performances improving? If your goal is to run a 5k, is your endurance and speed improving? Are you sleeping better? How’s your mood throughout the day?

2. Lack of Consistency

Consistency. Consistency. Consistency. It is a key to optimal progress. If I were to hand you the world’s best fitness and nutrition program, you would be ecstatic. Right? You have the best program in the world in your very hands. You complete week 1 and 2 of the program. You miss one day during week three and two days during weeks four and five. Business meetings, family obligations, friend’s birthdays, church events and so forth. 

Taking a day off here and there is completely okay. When you take days off for weeks? Now, that is a different story.

3. Lack of Intensity

Much of the time, individuals go to the gym, hop on the same piece of cardio equipment and watch a movie. Their heart rate doesn’t reach a level high enough for results to occur. If they visit the weights, they perform the same workout with the same weights, same sets, and same repetitions workout after workout.

In order to progress, your muscles and body must reach an optimal stressing point. So, when you perform the same workout every day at the gym, then your muscles begin to adapt to the workout. This means that they (your muscles) do not feel the need to change.

When working with clients, I alter the program every four weeks. This means that if they are able to perform a body weight exercise, they will now use a kettlebell, barbell or some other implement to incorporate strength. Other ways to alter the intensity of the program, is to increase the weight, alter the set and repetition scheme, decreasing the amount of rest in between sets, or simply working faster throughout the workout.

Lastly, what happened yesterday is in the past. Today is today! Track your progress, be consistent, and monitor your intensity. Just remember to be your best and keep that Ferrari of yours running efficiently.

Joshua Reed is a Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and is the owner of Reed’s Wellness and Fitness Training. He currently operates a small space in Ludlow, Kentucky and travels to see clients in the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area. He offers both personal, online, and small group training from his location, the client’s home, and/or outdoors. He is a 2012 graduate of Eastern Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Adult Fitness and Wellness Management. Joshua currently attends the University of Kentucky’s, where he is earning a Master’s degree in Biomechanics with a concentration in running mechanics and injury prevention. You can reach Joshua via e-mail at [email protected] or on Facebook.

Photo: Courtesy of Fit Tip Daily