So, what are they? And how do you know if you’re sabotaging yourself? If you’re identifying with one or more of the five set-backs below, it’s time to make a change.
1) Your abs are cut in the kitchen, not the gym. This adage is only partially true, since you do need to hit the gym to see results. Its truth lies in the kitchen factor – I’m plagued by non-rippling abs despite practicing pilates on a regular basis. What’s my issue? Over-consumption of certain foods.
I tend to go for the baked goods more often than “infrequently”, and the extra sugar and oil really puffs me up. If you’re going for a fitness competition or really want to sculpt those abs à la The Muscles From Brussels, try eating a cleaner diet. Cut preservatives and – if you love your baked goods as much as I do – try baking for yourself instead of picking up the mystery donut at your local corner store.
2) You hit it hard, once a week. Unfortunately, achieving your fitness goals is a matter of routine and not extremity. Maybe you work yourself to the bone every Wednesday to make up for the time you missed over the course of the week, but most people won’t get results that way.
Instead of busting your butt for 2 hours once a week, break it down into four 30 minute workouts. It might seem difficult to fit in a workout four times a week, but I’m sure most of us spend more than 30 minutes watching TV on any given day. Replace your TV time with a jog, a yoga class, a free-weight session or a body pump class. Regularity and dedication is the key to maintaining your fitness level or breaking through to your next goal.
3) You’re bored. Are you using the same workout routine given to you by a trainer 3 years ago? That’s going to be a set-back. Changing up the routine is your number one way to kick your body out of a fitness plateau.
Surprise your system with a kick boxing class after years of yoga, or start working a cycle fit class into your weekly routine. You’ll see results. Often, we forget that our bodies can bore just the same as our minds. If you feel bored at the gym or like you’re just going through the motions, it’s time to make a change. Try something new and you’ll be using new muscles in a new way, boosting your body out of its rut.
4) You aren’t sweating. If you’re not sweating, you’re not working hard enough. I’ve heard people say that they just don’t sweat at the gym, but that simply can’t be true. If you’re challenging your body, it will sweat.
The sad truth is we think we’re working hard even if we aren’t. We put the effort into being there and we’re doing the exercise but we aren’t really pushing ourselves. Maybe you need to mix it up and take the advice given in step 3, or maybe you just need to break past the misconception that you’re working as hard as you could be.
You’re at the gym, you’re doing the exercise, and now it’s time to really apply yourself and get that forehead damp. A simple rule to go by: If you aren’t sweating, you’re cheating yourself out of results.
5) You don’t feel it. At the gym, I see people pulling from the neck to complete a sit-up at lightning speed. I see people with arched backs, leaning forward to complete a squat. These people have seen the exercises done in the past and maybe they’ve even had a session with a trainer, but they don’t know what they’re supposed to feel during any given exercise. I had a friend recently tell me that she can’t feel her abs engaging during bicycle crunches – that’s a problem.
Take time to slow down and pay attention. No matter how advanced you are, if you’re engaged and focused, you will feel the exercise burn. Invest in a few personal training sessions with someone reputable and it will go a long way. There you’ll learn proper form and what you should be feeling with each exercise.
If you have proper form, take your time to complete the exercise, and truly engage your muscles, you’ll be amazed at the feeling. If you don’t have the funds for a personal trainer, you can find great videos on correcting your form here, with Fine Tune Pilates’ Fine Tune Your… Series.