Are You Getting Results From Your Workouts?

Black woman stretching and listening to mp3 player
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Once a million years ago, give or take, I did a poll, asking my readers to vote on the number one reason they skip their workouts.  Want to know the answer?  Lack of results.

If you're like a lot of these people, you may be experiencing this frustrating lack of results, but are you really not getting any results?  That's an important question to answer because the key to figuring this out is known if you need to change what you're doing or, perhaps, change how you're thinking.

  I know. Mind. Blown.

First Off, What Are Your Goals?

The first thing to do is ask yourself: what is my goal? This seems silly and you're probably like, "Well, of course, my goal is to lose weight!" Or, "Duh!  Of course, I want to look like a cross between Taylor Swift and George Clooney's wife!"

Sure, those goals are fine, but they're not specific enough.  How much weight do you want to lose and in what period of time?  How can you get that mythical celebrity body?  If you don't know exactly what your goal is, how do you know whether the results you're seeing are reasonable or not?

Many people go into weight loss with a vague goal of losing a certain amount of weight (e.g., 20 or 30 pounds) but without a specific plan of how they'll lose the weight or even how much weight they'll lose on a weekly basis.

If you don't have a specific goal, a reasonable time frame and a plan to reach that goal you'll never know whether you're actually making progress or not.

If this sounds familiar, use the following resources to help you set the right goals:

Exercise...It's Not Just for Weight Loss Anymore!

And, remember, weight loss isn't the only goal there is! In fact, you may be seeing and even feeling great results but, because you're only looking at the scale, they might be passing you right by.

In fact, you can completely forget about weight loss and focus on something else - Completing a program to get ready for a race, for example, or just focusing on getting a certain number of workouts in each week. 

Okay, I'm Seeing Something But It's Not Fast Enough!

One of the most obvious ways we determine exercise success is by tracking our weight. If we see the scale go down, we feel we're on the right track. If the scale doesn't move or, worse, goes up, we feel like failures.

But a scale doesn't always tell you everything you need to know and, similarly, safe weight loss will almost always be slower than you think it should be.

But, one thing to look at if you feel your weight loss is too slow is your calories in vs. calories out. At it's most basic, weight loss is a numbers less and burn more, you'll lose weight, right? Obviously, there are other factors involved, but, for the most part, controlling your eating and activity should lead to some kind of weight loss. So, with that in mind, what do your numbers look like? And is your weight loss too slow or is it right on track?

Why Weight Loss is Hard

Experts recommend we try to lose about .5 to 2 lbs each week, which sounds pretty reasonable.

This means that you need to burn an EXTRA 1750 - 7000 calories each week (with either diet, exercise or both) in order to lose that weight. But, let's look a bit closer at this weight loss thing and see why it's not as easy as it looks. The following steps describe what you need to do to see steady weight loss:

  1. Plan exactly how much weight you want to lose. You can use the steps in How to Set Weight Loss Goals but, for our purposes here, let's assume you want to lose four pounds in four weeks.
  2. Plan exactly how you'll meet that goal. To lose a pound a week, you would have to burn an extra 500 calories a day, every day through diet or exercise or both. If you want to burn half with exercise and half from your diet, that means determining the activity you'd need to do to burn about 250 calories as well as how you can cut 250 calories from your diet.
  1. Never stray from your plan. If you really want to lose four pounds in four weeks, you need to follow your plan every single day. If you schedule a rest day and don't burn any calories with exercise, you need to offset that by cutting more calories from your diet. Similarly, if you have a cheat day and eat more calories, you would need to exercise enough to offset all those extra calories.

This is why weight loss is a lot harder than you think it is. If you really want to lose that weight you can either never stray from your diet and exercise plan or you must plan meticulously for those strays in order to offset the exercise you're missing or the extra calories you're eating. And you have to do this every single day.

Which is just not realistic, right?

Are You Taking Cheat Days?

Looking at what I was talking about, and how perfect we have to be to lose one eensy little pound a week, maybe you can cut yourself some slack for not getting faster results.  Even just one cheat day slows your progress, but that doesn't mean you have to give them up.  It just means you need to account for them.

It's silly to think that you'll never go out to dinner, never have an extra glass of wine, never miss a workout day. So, again, it comes down to you. If you really want to see these results, are you willing to do what it takes? It's okay if you aren't, but if that's what you decide, then you also must decide to adjust your goals. If you want a splurge day or a rest day, realize that even if you kept to your exercise/eating program every other day, that splurge or rest is going to slow your progress. You're either willing to stick with a strict regimen or stick with a less strict weight loss goal.

Okay, I'm Losing Weight, But In the Wrong Places

Yet another result that some would see as failure is losing weight from areas we'd like to keep the way they are. Most of us would love to be able to lose weight in one place without affecting any other part of the body. Unfortunately, our bodies don't work that way. The body works as a whole and, therefore, it loses weight as a whole too. It just isn't possible to decide you want to lose weight in your thighs, but not your arms.

If this is the situation you're experiencing, you have some options. One is to continue with your exercise and healthy diet and let your body respond to that while enjoying all the other good things you might be feeling. Another option is to quit exercising. I think you know which option I recommend.

Okay, I'm Losing but Not in the Right Places

Just like you can't preserve areas of your body from losing fat, you also can't choose where the fat comes off. Again, this fat loss thing really is up to your body and your genetics (among other things). That's one reason spot training just doesn't work: Adding more leg lifts to get rid of saddlebags or doing more crunches to get rid of belly fat won't work.

Here again, you have some options. One, you could keep exercising and see what happens. Maybe you're not seeing that fat melt away from your belly or thighs but it's possible that, over time, you'll see those stubborn areas change for the better.   You can also work on your body image and learn to accept your body, flaws and all.

Another option is to just give up. If all you're really after is a perfect, flawless body, you probably won't get it from any exercise or diet program--none of us will! Of course, there is a final option and that is some kind of plastic surgery. Again...I think you know which option I would suggest.

The Time Factor

One more thing to look at when it comes to results is the timeframe you're working in. Many people expect to see major changes after only a few weeks of exercise and healthy eating. The truth is, it really does take time for the body to respond to what you're doing and a few weeks just isn't enough. For most people, it may take months or years to see significant changes, so take that into account and ask yourself - have I given my body time to make these changes? Am I expecting too much, too soon?

Are You Really Not Getting Results?

Whether you're successful is determined by the goals you set for yourself and the plan you come up with to reach those goals. If your exercise goal is to feel more energetic, you'll probably feel that immediately after a workout. If your goal is to simply complete your workouts for the week, there again you have tangible results. If you did it, you succeeded. If you didn't, you failed. If you expected to lose a couple of pounds in one week but didn't complete your workouts or ate out more times than you planned, you now know why that goal didn't happen.

The truth is, if we don't see the results we want, it's almost always because our expectations are too high or because we're not doing everything we should be doing to see the results we want to see. Even if the scale isn't moving, does that mean you're not getting results? Are you feeling better about yourself? Do you have more energy? Are you stronger and fitter than you were before? Are you lowering your blood pressure or cholesterol? If so, aren't those results too?