After a few weeks you may find that the progress is slowing down, or maybe you’re so distracted because your kid’s been vomiting Shrek goop for the last 3 weeks and don’t remember the last time you wore matching shoes. I get it. Life happens.
With that said, everyone that has ever involved themselves in a workout routine eventually agrees there’s something that sucks about it. And frankly, these are some reasons why your workout routine sucks:
1. “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” syndrome.
This old adage applies to most things in life; if there’s nothing wrong with it, don’t mess with it or it can go wrong. This is almost always true. But in the gym, this can be crap.
I don’t care if Rodney J. Fullofit down the road tells you to add upside-down skull-crusher reverse-supermans to your workout; if you’re making progress do not change it. I wholeheartedly agree that you shouldn’t change something if you’re making progress. Although this is true, most people fall into a rhythm and stay convinced that if it worked once, it will always work.
There will be some reason to change your workout. Sometimes your core is shot, or your knees ache, or your elbows need a break. Whatever the reason is, change doesn’t always have to be bad. Once you’ve reached the point where you’ve understood your current program is lagging, fix it. It’s like that time you cooked egg-whites for so long you don’t realize you’ve actually been eating dog-food for 6 weeks. Don’t let your workouts be dog-food.
2. Fixing it because you think it’s broken.
On the other hand, you may “fix” your workout too much. You’re the ADHD of workout plan gurus; you walk in telling yourself to do sprints and box-squats and end up curling and jumping rope on a bosu ball. Good on you for getting creative with your workouts, but let me ask you; did your legs grow when you did sprints and box-squats every Wednesday at 11 o’clock after eating canned tuna and Cheerios an hour before? Maybe you’re on to something. If your sodium-fueled fish and honey snack grew your legs, and has been doing it for weeks… why are you going to stop? That’s like winning at the Tour de France on a unicycle and thinking you should get on a Big-Wheel to finish the last lap.
Changing a little something here and there isn’t wholly bad; you know you’re hitting your triceps today, but you want to add a little rope-pushdown instead of flat-bar to break the monotony. Great! Do it. But if that flat-bar tricep pushdown was your milk and butter tricep exercise, don’t just toss it away because you’re bored. You change your intensity to match how important it is that your triceps grow! Monotony is the bane of intensity; don’t let that happen. Speaking of not letting things happen…
3. Avoiding something new because you’ve never done it.
We already talked about you eating dogfood, so your judgement probably isn’t too good right now. The same can be said about yourself if you avoid a great exercise because you’re unfamiliar with it. Hell, this can apply to anything in life. Even relationships. And if you’re eating dogfood, maybe stay away from relationships for a little while. No one likes puppy breath (unless you’re into that sort of thing.)
You’ve been leg-pressing and doing leg extensions for 3 sets of 10 for the last year and a half. It’s your old-faithful; it’s been there from the beginning and worked for a little while but now it feels comfortable so you just keep doing it anyway. It’s time for some new moves.
Do not get complacent. This can piggy-back off point one, but this one specifically targets the fear of trying something new. Instead of your 3 sets of 10 on the leg press and leg-extension, go learn how to squat and be embarrassed at how weak you are. While you’re at it, take your old-lady parasailing; we know you like watching Simpsons and Friends reruns on Tuesday nights with your “Class of ‘79” football shirt on, but spice things up every once in a while.
4. Allowing an injury to stop you completely.
I will not advocate exercise outside of known physical constraints. If you got a shoulder impingement fixed and decide you want to do behind-the-neck presses 2 weeks later, you’re an idiot and I’ll call you out on it.
Now that the disclaimer is over, I can say that you shouldn’t allow a bump in the road to stop you from exercising. So you got your ACL tear fixed; I don’t think a physical therapist would tell you not to do seated lateral raises and French presses. Of course you may say you don’t want your upper-body to outperform your lower body. I agree with you; I don’t want to look like Johnny Bravo either. But guess what? If you allow yourself to quit because of an injury you’ll use it as a crutch for the rest of your life.
We are human; we are amazing. You can, and most definitely will, come back from most issues given the right tools and priority. I’m not telling you to do jumping jacks and step-ups after your ACL surgery; I am telling you to continue your routine and stay in a rhythm. Let your physical therapist kick your ass. Learn from the experience and when it’s time to come back, be smart and hey! You’ve still been in the gym and aren’t entirely deconditioned. Well done.
Now, let’s say you’ve done everything right thus far; you’re motivated, outperform everyone else, you’re the strongest guy in there, you aren’t bored with your workouts… but your routine still sucks. Why?
5. You eat like shit.
You can have the fire of Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan combined and still not make progress. I’m saying you’ve been in the gym for months and you sprint harder and faster than everyone in there and by the time it’s all said and done you’re crying on the floor in a pool of your own sweat. I applaud your efforts and will never question your work ethic. However, you still feel like crap and haven’t gained or lost a pound in months and look relatively the same. You begin to spiral out of control and default into all the above issues when in reality? Your diet probably sucks.
65-70% of anything you want to accomplish with your body, on the field or in the gym, comes from what you do in the kitchen. 20-25% is rest. The 10-15% is the gym. Oh yeah, remember kids; there are 168 hours in a week; 5-10 of which you might spend in the gym, the rest you spend putting food in your mouth-hole and sleeping.
If you tell me you eat “clean” and you’re eating out twice a day with a home-made salad for lunch, you probably aren’t giving your body what it needs. Again, you’re eating dogfood.
When you have a constructive diet, you give your body enough energy to perform at the highest level and also give it the nutrients it needs to repair what you just broke down. You can be a workout fiend and never make progress because you’d rather lift more dumbbells instead of a spatula. There are many tools out there to help you eat constructively; hey, I can help you do it too. Check out my website http://www.freedomfitgym.com/personal-trainingnutrition.html
Remember, if you work out and eat constructively while retaining your passion for fitness, and not allowing complacency to set in, you’ll never stop making progress. And you can take that to the bank.