You’re hitting the gym regularly, watching what you eat and have an end goal in mind. However, you don’t seem to be getting any closer to it. This scenario is a common one, but it’s tough. Feeling like you’re not making any progress in your fitness journey can be extremely demotivating, and is one of the main reasons that people give up.
But before you cancel your gym membership, it’s a good idea to look into why this is happening. Whatever your goal is – be it weight loss, muscle definition, or performance-based – there are numerous reasons why you might not be seeing progress. We’ve outlined some of the most common causes below, so read on to find out whether one of these things could be hindering your progress – and how to fix it if so.
You’re Training Without a Plan
It may sound obvious, but it’s going to be impossible to spot your progression if you don’t know what you’re progressing towards. Goals are essential before starting on any kind of workout plan, as they give you something measurable that you can work at. These can include long-term goals – for example, losing 5% body fat – as well as short-term goals, such as increasing the amount you bench press.
Once you know what your goals are, you can create a plan on how you’re going to get there. This doesn’t have to be overly complex or professional (though a personal trainer could definitely help put this together for you); something as simple as knowing how many sessions you’re going to do per week and what you’re training in each session is enough to give your workouts a structure.
Your Diet’s Letting You Down
As the saying goes, you can’t out-train a bad diet. You could be smashing gym sessions multiple times a week, but if you’re filling your body with the wrong types of food you could be undoing all of your hard work.
One way that your diet could be getting in the way of your progress is if you’re continuing to eat too many calories and not reaching the deficit you need to lose weight. Another could be a diet that hasn’t got the right balance of macronutrients for your goals. For example, if you’re not getting enough protein then you’re unlikely to see the progression in your muscles that you would like to.
Make sure you’re complementing the hard work you’re putting in at the gym by fuelling the body with the right nutrients too. Our blog posts on healthy snack ideas before a workout and supplements for weight training can help you learn what you need for your specific goals.
You’re Not Pushing Yourself Enough
Not every workout you do needs to leave you sweating and gasping for breath. However, if you’re never breaking a sweat or struggling to complete a set then you’re likely not pushing yourself hard enough. And in turn, this means that you won’t see any progress. By only sticking to exercises you’re comfortable with, you’ll likely only maintain your current weight and fitness level.
Muscles only grow once they’ve gone through the tearing and repairing process, and your cardio fitness will only get better the harder your system gets used to working. To see progress, you need to make sure you’re increasing the intensity of your workout regularly. This can be done by adding extra reps, increasing your weights, adding another kilometre to your run, trying to beat your fastest time – whatever makes your workout that bit harder, make sure you’re constantly adding it in.
… Or You’re Pushing Yourself Too Far
On the flipside to the above, you need to be careful not to push yourself so far that you cause more harm than good. By jumping in to an exercise you’re not ready for, you risk hindering your progress in a worse way.
For example, if you try to squat with a weight you’re not ready for, you’ll likely find that you lose good form as you strain to bring yourself up. Not only is this a waste of a workout as you’re not hitting the correct muscle groups, but you could also risk injuring yourself and keeping yourself out of the gym while you recover.
While it’s important to keep progressing with your weights or times, keep increases small and manageable.
You Haven’t Found the Right Exercise Style For You
We’re all built differently, and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. A big part of this can be mental, as progression often relies on staying motivated and enjoying what you’re doing. If you find cardio boring, then you’re unlikely to put the time in that you need to progress and lose weight. You may find strength training more enjoyable, and therefore stick to a routine better with that.
This can also be physical. There is some evidence to suggest that some of us may be ‘non-responders’ – meaning our fitness simply doesn’t improve with particular exercise styles. Studies into non-responders found that while a third of people saw no benefit from cycling, they did see improvements when they switched to interval training. Similarly, people whose fitness didn’t improve from interval training did respond better to cycling. If you feel you’re not making any progress in the programme you’re currently on, try a new class to see whether you would benefit from a different type of training.
You’re Not Doing Enough NEAT
If your goal is to lose weight then you likely know the importance of a calorie deficit. However, if you’re hitting the gym three times a week but have a sedentary lifestyle for the other four days, you may still struggle to hit your weekly calorie goals.
An easy change you can make to improve your progress is by adding in more NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis). This is the energy you use through normal, day-to-day activity. Adding in more of these activities on your rest days can ensure you’re still burning calories when you’re not in the gym.
Things such as walking to the shop rather than driving, taking the stairs rather than the lift and giving your house a spring clean can all help use up excess energy.
Your Expectations Are Too High
Finally, one reason you might not be seeing progress from your efforts is because you’re simply expecting too much, too soon. Changing your body or your fitness does take time, and you won’t see results overnight. Train yourself to spot small signs of progression, such as being able to add an extra rep or shave 30 seconds off your running time. These small wins will keep you motivated until you start to see the physical results of your hard work.
Similarly, it’s a good idea to use various metrics to measure your progress. A lot of people feel disappointed when the scales don’t show they’re losing pounds, but there can be numerous reasons for your weight not changing. Instead, taking measurements or photos can be a better way to monitor how your body is changing.
Ultimately, it’s important to trust the process. Know that as long as you’re eating right, pushing yourself physically and staying consistent then you will see results eventually.
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