8 Reasons Why Your Workout Isn’t Working


8 Reasons Why Your Workout Isn’t Working


It’s been almost one year since you made your fitness goals last January. Did you achieve what you set out to do? If you didn’t, you’re not alone. Everyone has excuses for why they couldn’t get to the gym, or shrink to a single-digit size , or increase their run-distance. But the reason your workouts didn’t work may not be so obvious. Even those who hit the gym everyday don’t always see change in their bodies. Let’s explore why.

The Basics

Chris Stevenson, fitness consultant and owner of Stevenson Fitness, in Oak Park, California, believes people see results by following a few key rules:

  1. Start your day with exercise. Studies show that those who exercise consistently tend to work out in the morning. If you wait until the evening, you’re more likely to skip a workout with the “I’m tired” or “I’m too busy with family responsibilities” excuses. Exercise takes time, so be reliable and show up. Your body is counting on you.
  2. Do cardio and weight training. Choosing one type of exercise is not as effective as combination training for overall fitness. Resistance training builds muscle so you burn calories at rest, while cardio exercises help keep the heart and lungs healthy.
  3. Don’t let your diet sabotage your workout. Your mantra should not be, “I exercise so I can eat whatever I want.” This is a big misperception. Food is not a reward for a good workout. When you start thinking about food as fuel, you’ll start making better, healthier choices.” Eating lean and green consistently leads to weight loss. The “I burned it, I earned it” attitude is counterproductive if you want to see change.

10,000 Steps vs. One Hour a Day

Don’t be a sedentary athlete. “Everyone is wearing their fitness trackers…and I love fitness trackers,” says Stevenson. “You should definitely get your 10,000 steps, but spread them out throughout your day.” Sitting at a desk with minimal movement for eight hours, and then going for a run after work, is not as beneficial to joints, muscles and organs as walking every hour. And the same goes for your gym time. The one hour you spend at the gym in the morning cannot outweigh the damage that eight hours in a chair does to your metabolism. The body is designed to move. Activity keeps the organ systems healthy.

Same Ol’ Same Ol’

Doing the same workout day in and day out does not lead to progress. Muscles have memory: they respond and then hit a plateau. That’s why it’s important to change your routine when things get easy.

Mix things up by doing a variety of exercises and cross-train. But stay with a workout long enough to advance at it. This usually takes four to six weeks. Also, remember that fitness consists of flexibility, strength, endurance and speed, so get creative by incorporating these targets.

  1. Instead of just running for cardiovascular exercise, try jumping rope, sprint-walk intervals, dancing, swimming or kickboxing. And if you absolutely love running, then try running in different environments: on mountain trails, on a track, at the beach or on grass (just be careful of gopher holes!). Vary your distance and set time-targets – race against yourself.
  2. If your goal is to build muscle (whether it’s muscle mass or lean muscle), don’t stick to machines or sculpting classes with 5-lb weights. Lift free weights; when it gets easy, increase the amount of weight you lift for each muscle group or bump up the number of reps. Use a variety of movements for the same muscle group; for example, for the biceps you can do preacher curls with a bar, pull-ups or chin-ups, and bicep curls with cables and weight stacks.
  3. Combination movements pack more punch per set. If you perform an overhead press with a squat, you use multiple muscle groups. This saves the time of doing separate sets for arms and then legs, and it burns more calories in a shorter amount of time. Combination moves demand focus, flexibility and coordination. You’ll get greater gains, faster!
  4. Yoga poses aren’t the only exercises that help you gain flexibility. Try walking lunge kicks or kickboxing on the bags to target tight hamstrings and weak hip flexors. Shoulder tightness can be remedied with swimming. Ballet increases spinal flexibility and improves awareness of alignment.


Working Hard or Hardly Working?

If you’re going to show up, then put in the work. Get sweaty. Get uncomfortable. The easiest way to do this is in planned intervals with targets. TABATA and Cross-Fit are effective because they demand the most effort in brief bursts. The fact that it’s brief makes it mentally accessible. Think about it: you can do/endure anything for 30 seconds. You’re already at the gym, so make it count.

Daily Focus

This leads to the idea of working out with intention. If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you may have heard the phrase, “Let’s start with setting our intention for today’s session.” It’s not always about clearing the mind or sending love into the universe (though these are great intentions); before you enter the gym or hit the track, take a minute to set a goal for the time you’re there. Increase your understanding of why you’re exercising by focusing on what you want to achieve every time. Athletes do this, as do yogis – so why not you?

When you accomplish your workout with a clear reason, you’re more likely to work harder. You’ve invested yourself in your regimen. For more information on how to set an intention, read Dr. Kate Haven’s article in the May/June 2016 issue of LA Sports & Fitness.


Sleep Deprivation & Overtraining

Sometimes people regularly work out to the point of illness and injury and that’s what keeps them from achieving their goals. Beware of overtraining. According to Alex Figueroa, PT and fitness instructor at Sports Club/LA in Boston, Mass., a workout should not leave you feeling completely drained, exhausted or sore so you can’t do anything else the rest of the day. “You need to be able to come back the next day ready to train again, without injury and without illness.” If you feel energized after you exercise, you’re more likely to look forward to the next session. If you’re sore, take the time to recover by avoiding working the same muscle group in back-to-back sessions.

At the end of a busy day, the mind and body are tired. During sleep, the body repairs muscles at the cellular level and regulates hormones, which control metabolism. Get to bed on schedule; don’t let the TV or a book dictate when you fall asleep. Dedicate your bedroom to sleep and your workout may get just the nudge you need toward achieving successful change.

Jodai Saremi

Jodai Saremi, DPM, BS , is a freelance writer, AFAA certified trainer, and fitness model. She has written for American Fitness, SPIN fitness, Your Health Connection magazines, and other online publications. Her articles have also been featured in textbooks. She enjoys an active lifestyle and lives in Ventura County, Calif. with her husband and two children.

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