The road to fitness can be a long and arduous one. It's rarely without pitfalls, problems and self-doubt, even for the most focussed mind. With any training regime that can soon become all encompassing, there are things that will slow down your progress, especially if you're not aware of them. Here are the top 10 things that may be slowing down your progress.
1) Bad Nutrition
I've said it many times: nutrition is intrinsically linked to your fitness. That applies whether it's good, balanced nutrition, but is equally valid to bad. What you eat must support what you're trying to achieve. If it doesn't, then it's only going to slow you down when it comes to reaching your goals.
It's not an exact science, but nutrition accounts for about 70% of your results. Think about that for a minute. 70%! You can do all the work you want in the gym, but if your nutrition doesn't help and support you, it's not going to make much of a difference. Be wise to what you eat and you'll go so much further.
2) Low Exercise Intensity
When we talk about intensity, it's important to realise that 'health' and 'fitness' can be two very different things. If you're solely focussed on getting healthy, i.e. losing weight, lowering your blood pressure or reducing the risk of heart disease then that is quite different to looking to become physically fitter by increasing muscle size or lowering your body fat percentage.
If you're looking for an improvement in your physique, then intense exercise has been proven to do that, time and time again. For people like sprinters and bodybuilders, intense exercise is part and parcel of their training regime. Whether that's intense cardio or weight-training, the intensity is what puts a strain on your body that allows it to repair and come back bigger and better than before. If you're not putting that pressure on your body, then it's not going to be given the chance to develop. Push yourself and turn up the intensity of your exercise, it'll be worth every bead of sweat you draw.
3) Not Including Resistance Training
Resistance training sometimes gets a bad reputation and is often overlooked, but it plays an essential part in the best training plans. Using resistance to muscular contraction helps to build muscle, anaerobic endurance and strength. It works on the basis that muscles will overcome a resistant force when they need to. The more they need to, the bigger and stronger they become.
Any well-rounded program should include resistance training. It helps you to build muscle, but also helps bone and joint function, bone density as well as strengthening your tendons and ligaments. It's important to mix up your resistance training over time, every 6-8 weeks to help maintain the improvements you're making. This not only includes the exercises themselves, but the number of sets / reps, the weights used and the rest time between them.
4) No Plan
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. It's a commonly used phrase, but it's very true when it comes to training. For those of us for whom training plays a huge part in our lives, we need to have a vision in our mind. A structured goal to aim at. The thing is, everybody needs that to some degree. Not having a plan to drive towards can stop you in your tracks without even realising it.
When you go to the gym, do you know what you're going to do? Do you know why you're there? What you're trying to achieve? For many people, the answer is no. That's why everyone needs a plan. It doesn't have to involve you running through brick walls or end up with your bench pressing the heaviest weights. It can be as simple as having a destination to aim on your journey towards a healthier and fitter you. When you know where you're going, there's less chance of getting lost.
5) Lack of Variety
The human body is an incredible feat of biological engineering. It can adapt to countless situations and can achieve so much of what is asked of it. With that in mind, one of the most common problems people comes across that slows their progress is a lack of variety.
Doing the same weight for the same reps and sets time and time again not only slows your progress, it can be demotivating. What works one day won't always be the case, if you're reaching the point where even you're starting to get bored with your training, it might be time to mix it up a little. Take a look at everything that is associated with it; the number of sets, the repetitions, the environment you work out in, the time of day, the rest periods between sets. All of these will help reduce stagnation and renew your enthusiasm for what you're trying to achieve.
6) The Write Stuff
The next step along from a having a plan, is following it. As you start on your journey, get into the habit of writing down and documenting your workouts. It's one thing to know the end result, but it's equally important to follow your journey. It can be disheartening at first, especially when results aren't as obvious or as rapid as you might like, but over time, logging your efforts will show you just how far you've come.
Record everything associated with your training including the reps / sets you do, the food you eat, the duration and intensity of your cardio workouts, etc. The more you can track, the better you're workouts will become. It will also let you see where you might be going wrong, if you aren't getting the results you're expecting.
7) Lack of Fun
There's no denying that exercising, particularly intensive workouts, can be an exhausting experience. Pushing your body physically and yourself mentally can be tough, but it should also be fun. You should be enjoying it, even through a veil of blood, sweat and tears, you should leave the gym with a smile on your face, knowing you've done all you can that day to reach your goal.
If you're exercising for the wrong reasons or haven't identified the reasons at all, chances are you won't be enjoying your training and we can't have that! Exercise should be fun, despite all the stresses and strains it brings. If your regime doesn't put a smile on your face, it might work against you in the long run.
8) Time's Up
You might want to spend every waking hour in the gym. You might think the longer you're training, the better the results will be. I'm here to tell you that's not the case, as much as you want it to be. The key to making the best use of your time is to understand and be honest about your own behaviour. Do you spend too long checking your phone, admiring yourself in the mirror or analysing other people in between your own sets? Be honest. Are you taking 3 hours to do a 90 minute workout?
Everyone has different goals in the gym, but to reach yours you need to spend more quality time on your training and less time on those things that aren't helping you get there. Only you will know what those things are. Time to take stock!
9) Sleep Yourself Better
The work you do in the gym is only half the story. You might be lifting more, running further or feeling better than ever, but part of that story is down to the rest you're having between sessions. Rest, particularly sleep, is a vital part of any fitness regime.
The part of your body, i.e. the hormones, that allow your muscles to repair and grow and to burn fat are only active when you're asleep. Staying up late to watch movies or not getting enough quality sleep can hamper any progress you make whilst in the gym. Rest up to build up.
10) Mind Over Matter...Matters
I started this by talking about the problems people can come up against that will slow down their progress. This includes those who are totally focussed on what they want to achieve. You might not be one of those people, and that might be part of the problem. Do you have the right mindset? Is your mentality correctly set towards your goals? If not, you might be making it even harder for yourself.
One of the biggest mental barriers I find people have is that they underestimate their own ability. They look at the biggest weights and are daunted by them. They see the distances people are clocking up on the treadmills and are scared by the numbers or wince at the sets others are racking up. If that's you, then stop. Don't make a judgement on your own ability by comparing it to other people. You may not be as strong as them, as fast as them or as built as them, but that's ok. You might not want to be, need to be or have to be. Just concentrate on you and don't worry about anything else.