We all tend to do things that will hinder our progress in the gym in some way or another. It may be sneaking in an extra treat here and there, or deciding that your workout this afternoon would be best left until tomorrow. But there are other ways that you may be sabotaging your workouts with even knowing. What you eat and how often you exercise are not the only factors that determine the results you see. Your choices in other (seemingly unrelated) areas of life can also slow down your progress. In reality, you need a delicate balance of all lifestyle choices to see optimum results. These are easy to adjust once you’re aware of them, and you may even start to notice a world of difference from just simple lifestyle changes.
You don’t rest enough
You exercised today, yesterday and the day before. You’re on fire! Best to keep the ball rolling, right? Wrong. Although your natural instinct may be to slog it out in the gym everyday to speed up your progress, this will actually do the opposite of what you want. Rest days are just as important as your workouts because during this time your body gets the chance to rebuild and recover. Without this opportunity, you will keep breaking down your muscles and not allowing them to get stronger.
You eat too much beforehand
A snack to fuel up before a gym session is a great way to boost your workout, but an entire meal will weigh you down. During exercise, your body is working hard to circulate blood. If you’ve just eaten a big bowl of pasta, other systems like digestion will fight for blood flow, making it very difficult to perform at your peak. Not only will you be unable to put 100% into your workout, but you’ll probably end up feeling a bit queasy afterwards.
You don’t eat after
Living a healthy lifestyle and toning your body is not just about controlling what you eat, but managing when you eat as well. You may opt for a pre-workout snack, but post-workout is when you really need to refuel. Exercise uses up the body’s glycogen stores, sapping your energy. Having a nutritious meal after gym replenishes your glycogen levels. If you don’t do this, your body may naturally break down muscle cells to acquire energy and cancel out all of your hard work. You also need protein at this point to help start rebuilding your muscles, so ensure that your meal includes a quality source of lean meat or plant-based protein like tofu.
You’re sleep pattern is off
Life often gets in the way of getting a decent night’s sleep. Work may keep you up an extra hour or stress may have you tossing and turning. If you’re feeling especially tired, you may be better off skipping the gym altogether. Research has shown that your body struggles to repair muscle fibres when sleep deprived. On the other hand, too much sleep can also present problems. More shuteye than you need can actually leave you feeling even more sluggish! You may struggle to get your body moving and not perform at your best. If you snoozed through your alarm or your nap went a little longer than intended, try easing yourself into your workout rather than going in with all guns blazing. You’re bound to feel more awake by the end of it!
You’re sitting for too long
Whether we like it or not, many of us are stuck sitting down for most of the day: sitting down in the car, sitting down at your desk, sitting down on the couch. So it’s a bit of a shock to the body when you hit the gym and are suddenly exerting all of your energy. This can leave you more vulnerable to injuries, so warming up is crucial to get the blood flowing. Try getting a bit of movement in your day as well, whether it’s going for a walk during your lunch break or simply standing up and shaking out your limbs every few hours.
You’re doing cardio before weights
A common mistake that many people make is jumping on the treadmill before lifting weights. A brisk walk or light jog is fine for 5-10 minute warm up, but going for a 30 minute run will exhaust your muscles before you even begin! If you love running, it’s best to split up your workout routine and do cardio and weights on separate days to get the most out of both exercises.
As you may start to see, it’s not just lifting weights that makes you stronger. Many aspects of life are closely intertwined with how you perform in the gym and the results you see. But it’s not only these choices that make a difference, it’s also the way you think. Some mindsets are easy to fall into when you become focused on your health that will only drag you down, such as:
- Focusing only on weight loss: if you’re only driven by the desire to physically look better, you are unlikely to sustain this motivation long-term. Try focusing on improving your health and getting stronger instead. These results will be much more gratifying and keep your motivation alive.
- Thinking more is better: we’ve talked about why it’s important to have rest days, but working out too much can be mentally draining as well. It can easily become too overwhelming and you may end up bailing on your fitness journey altogether. No matter what your fitness level is, try to keep your workouts balanced and manageable.
- You’re not having fun: if you’re not having fun, you’re probably not going to stick to it. Whether you’re not doing the exercises you like, sticking to the same rigid routine or you hate going alone, you can change the way you approach your workouts to make them much more enjoyable. Life’s too short to dread what you do!
Whether it’s lifestyle changes you need to make or mental hurdles you have to jump, approaching your fitness from a holistic perspective will maximise your results, sustain your motivation and improve your overall health.