Why Your Workout Isn’t Working


I had to call uncle and join a gym.

I couldn’t seem to find the “just right” place to run here in Texas. My home-on-wheels is not steady enough to do high-intensity boot-camp type routines which involve jumping moves like jacks and burpees.

I can’t function properly without regular exercise, and walking everyday doesn’t quite fulfill the need for me.

What’s an old fitness junkie to do?

I did some research and found a terrific community center-based gym near our winter home in Portland. This is only the second gym I have ever paid to join in my 20+ years of  professional fitness/wellness training. It has proved a nice change of pace from my previous routine.
I have worked in a fair share of fitness facilities. Some were budget fitness centers, some were high-end. All of them had one thing in common. I was reminded of this today while people-watching  during my training session.

Here’s the common denominator:

A whole bunch of people who show up regularly, but can’t seem to get the results they are looking for.

If this describes you, check out my list of common fitness mistakes that may be standing in your way whether you are an at-home exerciser or a gym-rat type.

  1. You lack a plan– this person shows up religiously, does a quick warm up, or not, wanders into the weight room randomly picking up weights, does a set of bicep curls, a couple squats, a few chest presses, and out the door they go. Dude, you forgot most of your major muscle groups. No sense training those biceps if you are gonna ignore your triceps. They work as a team. Working only your biceps is going to set you up for a muscle imbalance. This is the case for most major muscle groups. Go armed with your action plan, so you don’t leave areas of your body out of the fun. Don’t forget to stretch!

    Always go in with a plan to avoid downtime

  2. Too much idle time– This is a big pet peeve of mine. You get to the gym, chat up the front desk person, wander to the locker room, get dressed, flip around the TV in the cardio room. By the time you start your warm-up you have already eaten into 15 minutes of time. You get off the machine of choice, mosey to the weight room hit a set of bicep curls, check your phone, perform another set of bicep curls, check your look in the mirror, crank out one more set and grab a leisurely drink of water. Too much downtime. You are here to work out. Get on it already! Get in, get dressed, and don’t forget your plan. Be efficient, in between bicep sets, get after some jumping jacks or alternate it with your leg or core work. I love doing upper body, lower body, core sets. No time is wasted while you rest the part you just worked. If you take a break, keep it a break, NOT a vacation.
  3. Machine leaning- pet peeve #2. If you have to lean on the treadmill or hang on to it for dear life, you are working beyond your current capabilities. SLOW DOWN. If balance is an issue, perhaps a walking around the track or a riding stationary bike may be a better idea for you until your balance and stamina improve.

    Too much incline damages your form. Walk tall and proud

    If you have to hang on you lose 20% of your results. Swing those arms!

  4. Your form sucks- exercises are designed to work a certain area, and to target the muscle group correctly you must have proper form. The mirror is there for reasons other than checking out your spiffy new gym outfit, check that form!  And quit lifting at warp speed. A steady 2 counts up 2 counts down or even slower will achieve the effect you are after. Save the speed for the cardio room. If you are unsure of proper form you can take a class from a certified group fitness instructor or schedule a few sessions with a personal trainer, who can also help you create a balanced plan, and get your form straightened out.
  5. Your trainer or group exercise instructor has no nationally recognized certification-Just being a long-term gym rat or attending a week long training program focused on mainly sales techniques does not a CERTIFIED trainer or instructor make. Certified trainers, such as myself, have studied very hard to become familiar with the human body and the effect fitness has on it. We are trained to do assessments and create balanced programs which get results. The exams are not easy, and we are required to take continuing education credits and CPR classes every two years to renew our certifications. Independent contractors, like me, carry professional liability insurance, something an uncertified trainer cannot obtain. Ask your trainer for proof of certification. You wouldn’t go to a doctor without any credentials, and the same rules should apply to your trainer. Most states do not require fitness instructors or personal trainers to be certified. Do not assume just because your gym has trainers, they are certified.

    Double certified I am, and proud of it!

  6. You are inconsistent-You can’t just show up every 6 days one week and one the next week. You must be consistent. Exercise must be regular to be effective. You can store fat, but not fitness. Make a plan of action and stick to it.
  7. You are too consistent– if you only do cardio or only do weight-training, you are doing your body a disservice. A balanced program needs 4 components; cardio, strength, flexibility, and balance. Yoga is a great workout for flexibility, strength, and balance, but lacks cardio. Weight training can cover strength, balance, and even cardio if you stay on it, but lacks flexibility. Walking and running are great, but only for cardio benefits. A good group exercise class will generally cover all these aspects. Slogging through same workout day after day is boring and stalls result. Nothing will kill a plan quicker than boredom.
  8. Your diet sucks- there is not a trainer around who doesn’t deal with this issue on a daily basis. You lie to us about what you eat and drink. You lie to yourself about what you eat and drink. And yet you wonder why you are not achieving results. Keep a food (and drink) log if you expect to see change. Most of us underestimate the amount of food we consume, as well as overestimate how many calories we burn while exercising. Do not believe your device. Or exercise infomercials which claim to burn 1000 calories. If it sounds too good to be true, it certainly is. Some of us like to reward our hard workout with a special treat. Or we get so wrapped up in protein shakes and supplements we forget to enjoy a whole food, clean diet. Or we eat decently during the week, then totally blow it up on the weekend with food and booze. (Hey, me too!) Losing weight and maintaining weight are 70% food-related and 30% exercise-related. And don’t forget to hydrate with plain old water. Most of us are not working out long or hard enough to require a sports drink.

    Lots of produce and lots of water=a healthy you

  9. No scheduled rest days– even professional athletes need to give their bodies a break. You are no different. I prefer active rest days, I crave movement most days, so my rest days are usually spent taking a walk and doing light stretching. But certainly feel free to take a full rest day and delight in how your body is responding to those previous workouts. And then you can really get it on when your next workout day arrives, feeling fresh and rested.
  10. You don’t like working out– I know, I am a oddball, I adore working out. Almost nothing I’d rather do. It’s probably why I am quite successful in this business. I will try any class. And if I really like it, I will train to teach it. I know many of you do not feel this way. You simply must find a form of exercise you enjoy. Exercise should not feel like torture, it should be fun! There are numerous forms of fitness from yoga, dance fitness like Zumba and barre classes, boot camps utilizing all the fun gym equipment like bosus and brightly colored fitness bands. Old school stuff like aerobics and calisthenics are making a comeback. The options are endless, and there is a workout that is perfect for you. Many of my regular class participants, claim they hate exercise (hey Denise and Judy!) but they love the relationships they have developed and it helps to keep them motivated when I enthusiastically announce yet another set of glute-lifters, and they collectively groan and roll their eyes. You don’t have to love the movements, but find something that keeps you coming back. And when you try a class new to you, let the instructor know. She or he can fill you in on what’s about to happen and offer modifications where needed.

    IMG_0754

    Power Hour Participants. Almost 20 years strong. Make it fun and they will return!

So there’s a bit of free advice straight from the trainer’s mind. Do you find yourself making any of these common mistakes? By making some simple changes you will begin achieving the results you deserve.

Work it baby, and work it right!

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