I always wanted to be the girl that people saw, and they were like, “damn, that girl works out.” I wanted to have GI Jane arms and legs that could crush watermelons.
I just wanted something to show for the amount of work I was putting in at the gym. No matter what I did, I never could get there.
I remember getting home from the gym, standing in the mirror, and thinking to myself, “How is it that I’m working my ass off in the gym, but I don’t look any different?”
At that time, I could have gone down one of two roads. I could cry about it, play the “nothing works for me” victim card and give up on my goals completely…. Or figure it the heck out!
I knew I wasn’t special, and if I wasn’t getting the results I wanted, I must have been doing something wrong. I just didn’t know what yet. I committed myself to figure it out. I hired a coach, read numerous books and articles, and listened to a ton of podcasts.
Looking back now as a dietitian and transformation coach, the mistakes that I made are the same mistakes that most people are still making today.
One of the most common phrases I hear when chatting with potential clients is… “I’m in the gym all the time, but I feel like I don’t LOOK like I even workout.”
Here are 6 reasons why:
1. Your nutrition is off
You’re either not eating enough calories to build muscle OR you’re trying to lose fat and over-consuming calories. Unfortunately, your workouts alone will not be enough to change your body. Your nutrition must also match your goal.
What to do about it? Get clear on what your goal is. Track your food to see how much you are currently eating. Then, adjust your calories up or down depending on what you’re working towards. If you don’t know how to make these adjustments, consult with someone who does.
2. You have workout ADD
You don’t follow a program. You’re always doing random workouts and changing them up when bored. In doing so, you never allow yourself to improve and get stronger at the same exercises for weeks at a time. Random effort = Random results.
What to do about it? Pick a program and stick with it! Hopping from program to program is an easy way to kill your potential games. You don’t need to “confuse” your muscles. You simply just need to be consistent.
3. You don’t track your workouts
Progressive overload training is a type of strength training that gradually increases the intensity of workouts to avoid a plateau in muscle mass and strength. If you aren’t tracking your workouts, how do you know if you’re improving? If you are not progressing in your training, then you aren’t building new muscle.
Number 2 and 3 were the biggest mistakes I made. I would “mentally program” in my head and track my weights… whatever that means. Once I started following a well designed program and tracking my workouts, I made the most progress I ever have.
What to do about it? Tracking your workouts week-to-week provides important feedback and serves as another measurement of progress in your health and fitness journey. I track all of my workout sessions in a Google spreadsheet. I record the amount of weight I used for each exercise as well as the number of reps I performed. That way, when I revisit that workout the following week, I know exactly what I need to do to progress.
4. You don’t push yourself hard enough
It’s common for people to stick with weights that they can comfortably crank out reps like a robot.. But just because you are lifting weights doesn’t mean you are building muscle. If you always use the same weights, your body will eventually adapt to the stimulus provided by that load.
What to do about it? You are likely much stronger than you think. Don’t be afraid to kick it up a notch and really challenge yourself and your body. Next time you workout, I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and choose the next size dumbbells up or add a couple of pounds to the bar.
5. You think MORE is better
I struggled HARD with this one. More exercises, more training days… more, more, more! Between lifting and cardio, I was doing almost 20 hours a week! That’s a part-time job! I felt guilty taking a day off from the gym because I didn't understand just how important rest days were.
What to do about it? Understand that sometimes LESS is MORE. Schedule in your rest days and prioritize your recovery. This is where the gains happen. Days off are critical to changing your body composition.
6. You have no patience
You want it, and you want it now. When results don’t come fast enough, you give up completely or try something new. If it took you 5 years to get out of shape, don’t expect to be back in shape in 5 weeks. This stuff takes time.
What to do about it? Extend your timeline and meet yourself where you’re at. Remember, health and fitness is a forever thing. It doesn’t end after a 30-day challenge or a 6-week summer shred program. Understand that your dream goal is certainly possible, but it will likely take you much longer than you think. However, if you play the long game and commit to improving by 1% everyday… you will win.
There’s nothing more frustrating than busting your butt in the gym and following a healthy diet but still not getting any results. If you can relate to this, try to identify where your shortcomings might be and where you have opportunities for improvement.
Let my mistakes serve as a guide to help you move forward in your health and fitness journey and be one step closer to the person you’ve always wanted to be.