At one point or another, most of us have been here before: you’re exercising almost every day, being more conscious about your food choices and spending what free time you might have scrolling through funny listicles about going to the gym on BuzzFeed.
Yet despite your best efforts and no matter how many times you read up about “how to get six packs abs,” you can't seem to figure out why you’re not seeing the results you we’re hoping for.
According to personal trainers Russell Wynter and Crystal Reeves, the number one reason why many people struggle to achieve the weight loss and fitness results they set out to achieve is because they fail to specifically define what they want to accomplish in the first place.
Wynter and Reeves are both NASM certified personal trainers and co-owners of MadSweat personal training services.
“They don’t define their goals or have an effective plan to achieve those goals,” Wynter explains. “You need to go beyond the typical, ‘I want to lose weight, I want to get in shape,’ and also make an effective game plan for how you are going to reach your goal.”
To help you pinpoint your fitness goals and start out on a successful road towards reaching them, Wynter and Reeves rounded up the following list of seven common mistakes that prevent people from seeing the results that they want.
-7 Reasons Your Weight Loss Goals Are Failing-
1. You didn’t define your goal.
As mentioned above, both trainers agree that this is the number one reason why you won’t achieve the results you’re after. Basically, if you only have a general idea of where you want to go (lose weight, build muscle, get abs) not only will you basically be wandering around aimlessly, but you won’t be able to make a plan to help you get there.
When it comes to setting goals, Reeves offered the following advice.
“Initially you should come up with a long-term goal,” she said. “For example, who do you want to be and why this is important to you?”
To start, she suggests that you ask yourself the following questions:
— What do I want to accomplish in six months?
— What do I want to accomplish in the next year?
— What do I want to accomplish in the next five years?
— What is my dream accomplishment?
Reeves says that the next step involves creating a plan for your most short-term goal. This can be something as simple as losing two pounds in two weeks or aiming to sustain a running pace on the treadmill for a total of 20-minutes by the end of four weeks. The key is to make sure that you clearly define tangible parameters for your goal and also provide a realistic time period for when you want to achieve it by.
“Short-term goals give you something to focus your attention on now,” says Reeves. “It’s really important to set short-term goals to help keep you focused.”
She suggests using the “SMART” acronym when setting goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
Reeves explains in detail:
— Specific: A goal that is clearly defined. What will it look like? How will you feel when you accomplish it?
— Measurable: Have ways to assess your progress. For example, I want to lose 2% body fat in six weeks.
— Attainable: Your goal should be challenging but not to the extreme.
— Realistic: It has to be a goal that you're not only willing to work towards but that you’re able to achieve. Your goals are only realistic if you're determined to work towards it.
— Timely: You should always have a specific date to complete your goal. Set a realistic time frame not too far off in the future.
2. You don't plan your workouts.
“Schedule yourself an appointment to go to the gym and go in knowing what you are going to do that day,” says Wynter. “Write your workouts in advance. What will your sets, reps and weight be? Keep a log so you can see what you’ve done, what has worked and what hasn’t so you can modify it as you progress.”
3. You’re constantly training at the same intensity or repeating the same steady state cardio workouts.
“The human body is a great machine and has the unique ability to adapt or adjust its functional capacity to meet the need,” Reeves explains. “The body wants to be in a state of homeostasis or balance, so by doing the same thing over and over with little or no change to the stressor, you will see little change,” she said. “So use the FITTE principal and change things up. The ‘F’ stands for frequency, how often you exercise. The ‘I’ stands for intensity, how hard. The ‘T’ stands for time, how long you do the exercise. The second ‘T’ stands for type of exercise you use. And the ‘E’ is for enjoyment.”
All of these variables should be switched around on a regular basis. (Read more about periodizing your workouts: Strength Training 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Sets, Reps and Rest Periods)
4. You race through your reps.
“When strength training, the speed in which each repetition is performed is an important variable that can be manipulated to achieve specific training objectives,” says Wynter. “To get the most appropriate results from training you should choose an appropriate speed. Muscular endurance and stabilization is best developed with a slower repetition tempo, while hypertrophy, or muscle gain is best achieved with a moderate tempo and maximal strength, and power is better achieved with a fast or explosive tempo.”
5. You only do one type of exercise.
“Choosing a variety of exercises will allow for optimal achievement of your desired results,” says Reeves. “Because the human movement system is so highly adaptable, exercise should be specific to the training goal and changed approximately every four weeks.”
6. You’re trying to “spot reduce.”
“The bottom line is, we cannot reduce fat in any one particular area of the body through exercise alone,” says Wynter. “The idea of doing more ab work to decrease abdominal fat has pervaded fitness for years, yet no matter how many crunches you do, that stubborn fat remains. To lose fat, you have to burn more calories than consumed. In order to burn one pound of fat, you must be in a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories per week, or approximately a 500 calorie deficit per day.”
“This will result in one pound lost per week. According to ACSM guidelines, the body can safely burn 1 to 2 pounds of fat per week. However, your genetics will determine where the fat stores will be depleted first. If stubborn fat in areas such as the arms, thighs, butt and abs does not seem to go away, addressing areas such as diet and nutrition, cardiovascular training and resistance training is important.”
7. You’re inactive outside of the gym.
“All too often people get stuck in a gym routine and eventually burn out,” says Reeves. “Don't make the gym your only form of exercise. Add things that you consider fun, like hiking, playing basketball, golf or playing with your kids… Anything that gets you moving will burn calories and that's the ultimate goal. Be a kid again and have some fun.”
In addition to the above, Wynter and Reeves also offered the following pieces of advice:
— “Have a plan or seek out the help of a professional,” says Wynter. “A professional can help make sure that you don’t fall into any bad habits from the beginning, they can customize a training plan and ensure you get the most out of your efforts in the gym and take the guesswork out of ‘working out’. Some trainers may even have advanced specialization’s and may be able to give you tips on proper diet, which is an equally important part of weight loss and fitness.”
— “To lose fat- you don't have to make insane changes to your life,” says Reeves. “Making small decreases in the amount of food you eat, especially highly processed foods that contain a lot of calories, and the extra calories you take in from beverages like soda, juice and alcohol make a huge difference. These are all empty calories and do very little to provide satiety.”
— “It’s difficult to lose the last five or ten pounds. Our bodies actually get used to a certain weight over a long period of time and can actually resist losing that last little bit,” says Wynter. “So in essence, what we're trying to do is reset our body's comfort weight, and that can take a while. In setting a goal weight, having a good idea of what your lowest sustained weight as an adult has been can be used as a guide to set a realistic goal.”