Not making progress?

Unfortunate but true: it’s quite unusual to find anyone at the gym who can genuinely say they’re happy with how they look or their current level of progress.

Even discounting the perfectionists amongst us, who if pushed, will admit to constantly evolving goals and ambitions; there are very few people who feel like they’re on-target.

While there are many circumstances and factors that contribute to everyone’s unique situation – limited resources and capabilities may naturally impact current potential – it’s typically the same old reasons that time and again are the culprits for such widespread disappointment.

For those of us who’ve devoted our lives to this subject: it’s both frustrating and upsetting to witness so much unrealised potential.

We would genuinely love everyone to be fitter, healthier and happier. It’s why most of us got into the industry and you’ll often find that the best coaches have undergone a profound transformation of their own – there’s nothing quite like experience!

Nevertheless, the thought of change can be a daunting prospect when you don’t have a plan to get you there or even a coping mechanism in place to deal with success – how many of us actually expect to get the body we want?

Let’s face it, the modern fitness and diet industry is practically built upon an expectation of failure. Yet, it really doesn’t have to be this way.

With the right approach, EVERYONE can dramatically improve their health and fitness. Genetic limitations aside, why shouldn’t you get what you want?

The answer, invariably, is self-sabotage due to one or more of the following reasons. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but represents a snapshot of the most frequent causes of dissatisfaction at the gym:

1.  You Only Have a Vague Notion of What You Want: How do you even begin crafting the best version of yourself when you have no clue what that may look like?

Many are afraid to dream or aspire to greatness, simply because it’s easier to avoid the pain of disappointment. That’s why the most commonly stated goal is usually a bland aim to:

Lose some fat and tone-up a bit.

Both modest and mediocre! Without intending to sound harsh: you really must think bigger and begin crafting a more complete vision of what you want to achieve and how that will positively impact your life. In other words: meaningful motivation.

A coach’s first job with any new client is to ignite the spark that allows their ambition to run free. From there, we’ll assess current resources and capabilities – including an assessment of physiology – and create a realistic plan to achieve Maximum Natural Potential.

Break Free & Think Big

Dare to dream! Because, thinking small leads to limited results. Restricting your vision will only succeed in stifling motivation and make any potential outcome feel less than inspiring. The opposite of what you need.

Start today by crafting a vision of what your future-self will look like and how much better your life will be when you achieve it.

2. You Have Unrealistic Expectations: Now, while I’ve just waxed lyrical about having ambition and thinking big: you must also be realistic.

We all have unique genetic potential: body-shape, bone structure, the type of fibres that are dominant within our muscles. Therefore, there will always be a certain limit to how much muscle we can naturally build or the minimum amount of body-fat we can maintain. In other words: how big or how lean we can be.

That’s not to say we can’t all achieve amazing results. It just means that we must identify what our own version of amazing will be.

As a coach, being faced with unrealistic expectations is not uncommon. Yes, we can help you get that beach-body; but it’s going to take longer than the 6 weeks you have left until this year’s vacation.

Personally, I’m not going to do anything that compromises someone’s health; and crash diets fall well within this category.

You also have to face the uncomfortable truth that you may need to make some drastic changes to current lifestyle-habits. You can’t out-train a crappy diet and you won’t develop those muscles – which includes ‘toning-up’ – without eating enough protein and training to the point of discomfort on a regular basis.

The single biggest gift you can give yourself when embarking upon a health-related goal is a realistic timeframe.

While it’s great to create a time-defined goal that helps keep you focussed. It absolutely must be realistic and achievable. Setting ambitious goals within crazy-short timelines is a sure-fire road to giving up early.

3. You’re Not Eating Enough: The diet industry deserves a lot of blame; as do the weight-loss reality-TV shows that propagate the notion that starvation and over-exercise are the key to a healthy and wealthy future.

Even though the science is clearly against them, they continue to successfully monetise a contrary paradigm that keeps people hooked on yo-yo dieting, dubious supplements and fads.

Put it this way, you cannot train 6 times a week or more on a thousand calories without creating an environment of chronic stress within your body. Hell, you could stay in bed 24 hours a day and a thousand calories wouldn’t be enough to meet your daily needs.

Calorie Deficits should only be temporary.

Whatever your goals: your body will only respond optimally when it is being adequately fuelled.

Technically, we throw it out of homeostasis/balance when we induce a caloric-deficit for fat-loss. However, your coach will recommend a realistic target and cycle this deficit to avoid adaptation. Caloric- deficits should never be maintained long-term.

Most people with a goal of fat-loss tend to consume too little protein. Simply eating the right amount and concentrating on nutrient-dense food choices can often be enough to get your calorie consumption up to an appropriate level.

One other point: beware of using an APP or online calculator to set your calorie-target. Speak to a real person who knows what they’re doing.

4. You’re Not Doing the Most Productive Movements: I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you are never going to get rid of those bingo-wings by walking on the treadmill and slinging 4 kilo dumbbells.

Multi-joint movements bring quicker results.

Of-course, structured cardio sessions have a wonderful role to play in any fitness journey. They also represent just one component of a well-balanced program.

Put it this way: all that soft tissue at the back of the arm – and elsewhere for that matter – is typically a combination of fat and unconditioned muscle. To banish those ‘wings’ for good, it’s not going to be good enough focussing purely on fat-loss; you must also tax the muscles with progressively heavier weights.

Just to be clear: any movement is better than nothing. However, we’re talking here about boosting progress and the best way to do this is by working intelligently; performing exercises that activate numerous muscle-groups and allow for continued progression.

For example: a 4-kilo dumbbell curl that focusses purely on the biceps muscle, could be replaced by a 14-kilo dumbbell row that effectively works a range of back, shoulder and core muscles; as well as your biceps!

In addition to providing far greater returns and faster progress: bigger movements burn considerably more calories! Win, win!

5. You’re Not Working Hard Enough: We’ve all heard the mantra: No Pain, No Gain!

Well, it’s kinda true. The body will only improve to any real degree by a process of adaptation. Unfortunately, in order for it to be coerced into this state – the body is concerned with running efficiently and maintaining the status-quo – we must force it to perform tasks it hasn’t done before.

This involves both physical and mental effort on your part, requiring a degree of fortitude and determination.

There are many ways to increase the intensity of your workouts that force adaptation and boost progress. It’s not all about lifting heavier weights!

If you lack the motivation and/or you struggle to push yourself hard enough: hire a coach who’s not going to let you slack-off and who’ll help you get the most out of every workout.

Fear not: I’m not suggesting for one moment that you must destroy yourself during every session; leaving the gym a quivering wreck. Intelligent programming is the key with a caveat that a certain threshold of effort be met.

6. You’re Not Paying Attention to Recovery: Exercise and the pursuit of fitness can be addictive; especially when you start seeing real results.

There’s an enormous feel-good factor that accompanies every completed workout, and once results are evident it’s easy to become impatient; yearning for more and more.

Even the soreness in those muscles – a reminder of the awesome workout you had the night before – is regarded as a badge-of-honour. It also occurs for a reason; a reminder that you must allow time for recovery.

Getting the right balance between work and rest is essential to continued progress. Sleep, proper nutrition and time away from exercise, all play significant parts in this equation. Neglect just one component and you won’t reap the full benefit of all your efforts.

There’s another perspective here too:

When you’re new to the gym or when you’re charging after a goal: it’s easy to get swept-up by enthusiasm, and lack of motivation is rarely an issue. However, sustainable health and fitness is a longer journey that requires consistency and a degree of patience.

Your Central Nervous System will only tolerate so much abuse before it starts to shut down. Trust me, when this happens, you’ll damn-well know about it!

As strange as it may seem: the quickest road to results requires an appropriate amount of rest and recuperation. And if you’re really ramping-up the intensity, then you’re going to need even more rest:

More intensity + More rest = Greater results

This is a fantastic equation, as it demonstrates how you don’t have to be in the gym 24/7 to get your ideal body. This means that you can achieve balance while continuing to make health and fitness a viable, sustainable part of your life; never having to compromise other areas.

7. You Have No Idea What You’re Capable Of: Okay, so we’ve touched upon similar points here already, in terms of creating vision and following up with hard work.

At the same time: I don’t think our initial goals should ever remain fixed and ought to undergo a process of evolution as we learn about our personal strengths and weaknesses – I know my goals are now way beyond anything I would’ve once dreamed of.

Think about it this way: Imagine if Usain Bolt was a couch-potato who never exercised. He’d simply have been another guy with untapped potential, and no-one would’ve known or cared. He only became the fastest man alive (so far) because he got off his ass and trained.

Now obviously that’s an extreme example. My point is: how the hell do any of us know what we’re capable of unless we push ourselves to find out.

I believe this stands true both physically and intellectually.

Although I certainly don’t advocate making an arbitrary decision about going from couch-potato to world-class runner. I do believe that we all have the potential for so much more than we currently allow ourselves to experience.

Challenge yourself & keep an open mind.

It’s also true to say that once we get a sense of our strengths and weaknesses, our goals – which must always remain realistic and achievable – can be adapted accordingly. This flexibility allows for constant evolution and an approach that will take you way beyond what you currently believe you’re capable of.

8. You’re following the Wrong People on Instagram: It makes total sense, within this journey of yours, to find inspiration from a role model. In fact, I totally recommend finding people who resonate with you and whose journeys can provide inspiration.

It’s great to consider the perspectives of people who’ve already been-there-done-that and obtained a good degree of success. Just keep in mind that you can never fully know the circumstances of their situation and journey, and the fact that money and product placement can play a very large part in what certain ‘personalities’ present.

Always remember that you are an individual and what works for them may not work for you.

Social media is bursting at the seems with gym-bunnies and training gurus, all vying for your attention. Sometimes the most suitable and honest role-model is someone less obvious; a person who’s circumstances reflect your own, rather than a vision of perfection complete with airbrushed photos.

While many are great to look at, they’re generally too good to be completely true. Comparing yourself to what you may perceive as perfection is unfair to yourself and totally unrealistic.

I believe it’s wonderful to be inspired by a person’s drive, energy and success; so long as you avoid too much comparison with their physicality. Everyone’s set of capabilities and available resources are going to vary. Therefore, set your own standards, discover your own capabilities, keep an open mind and see where it takes you.

Allow yourself to create your own version of excellence.

9. You’re Not Committed: We all know the old saying: Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Well, neither is the ideal body. Fat-loss, done in a healthy, sustainable way, takes time. Body-recomposition is a larger goal that takes more effort and will naturally take longer.

There is no quick fix, full-stop!

When we get right down to it: the formula is pretty straight forward. Yet, we continue to make things complicated for ourselves; our need for fast results and instant gratification gets the better of us and prevents us from committing to one path.

I find it quite strange: we seem to have no trouble committing years of our lives flitting from one fad to another in the hope of finding a short-cut. Whereas if we just knuckled-down and committed to a tried-and-tested route, albeit a longer one, we’d get to our chosen destination so much sooner.

Your transformation will take hard work. Just accept this and get on with it.

Perhaps it’s that other universal law at play: nothing good ever comes easy! Maybe it’s the case that whatever takes the most effort has the greatest value.

That being said, getting into fabulous shape and reaping the rewards of a healthy lifestyle, doesn’t have to be a negative journey full of sacrifice and suffering. On the contrary: approach it from the right mindset and the whole thing can be an absolute blast; enjoyable from start to finish.

Committing to the process from a realistic perspective and resolving to enjoy the journey will set you on a path to lasting success.  

10. You Don’t Really Believe that Change is Possible: Out of all the reasons why you’re not making progress, this is the most insidious. Where once you bounded in through the gym entrance, full of drive and optimism: now you’re just going through the motions with no real direction.

What happened?

Rationally, you know that the results you want will take a combination of good quality exercise and nutrition, plus time.

And yet, it’s almost as if we’re pre-conditioned to accept that success only ever happens to other people. That we’re somehow unworthy.

If you never truly believe that you’re going to get the body you want, then why waste the effort?

Except, you do keep on going to the gym and make half-assed attempts at healthy eating. Somewhere within, there’s a part of you that is still holding out hope.

Sadly, this is the very part that’s most vulnerable to the charlatan’s sales pitch, and the reason that fads and quick-fix solutions remain in vogue: they really are too good to be true, but what if?

If it’s possible to suspend common-sense and scepticism long enough to spend money and time on something you know deep-down is sketchy; why is it so difficult to believe that maybe, just maybe, you can reach your goals the old-fashioned way?

Taking the longer route may feel like a pain in the ass: these days we’re accustomed to getting what we want at the click of a button.

While sculpting your dream body will take time, the only thing that’s holding you back is yourself. The great thing is that once you get what you want, keeping it is much easier than you might think. That’s right, maintenance is a doddle by comparison!

Resolve, right now, to change your mind-set for success:

  • Spend time clarifying what you want to achieve and what it will mean to your life
  • Consider your current (known) capabilities and your available resources
  • Cast aside any notion of a quick-fix solution
  • Think in terms of a life-plan rather than a short-term quest
  • Be patient and consistent in your routine
  • Stay open-minded to your own potential

Of-course, I wouldn’t expect you to experience a sudden eureka-moment and miraculously be able to join the dots. Fortunately, there are professionals who’ve already been where you are, who understand the journey you’re embarking upon and the frustration you feel.

My advice: find yourself a good coach and hit the ground running. While this won’t provide a short-cut as such, it will ensure that you don’t waste any more time and can genuinely expect steady and regular progress.

A Coach will maximise results and potential.

Before you do hire someone, give them a grilling and ensure that they understand your situation, your struggles and your journey thus far.

Ask plenty of questions and get a sense of who they are and what they know: don’t part with any cash or sign on the dotted line until you’re confident that this person knows their stuff:

A really great coach will hear you, make time to answer all your questions and work WITH you to reach your goals. What are you waiting for?

Read more:

10 Reasons to Work With a Health Coach

5 Reasons Diets Fail

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