Did Your Workout Stop Working--Or Did YOU?
Albert Einstein is believed to have defined insanity as, "doing the same thing over, and over again, but expecting different results." While it might not actually make you insane, it can drive you crazy when you feel like you have established a solid fitness routine but your body isn't changing. In fact, one of the most common questions I am asked is, "Why has my workout stopped working?" The honest answer? It might not be your workout that has stopped working--it might be you. "But I go to your cycle class three times a week, I run every day, I strength train twice a week..." I know, I know, I know. But are you showing up TO the workout, or are you showing up FOR the workout? Is there a difference? You bet there is, and that difference can be what's tripping you up.
Showing up TO your workout means you are checking the box. You have found a workout you like and you are a regular participant --and that is GREAT! Never underestimate the importance of consistency---but you must also realize that it is only half the battle. Once you've shown up TO the workout, you have to show up FOR the workout. You have to go all in. How? By placing demands on your body and making little tweaks here and there as your body adapts to the changes. In short, if you can complete your entire fitness class without breaking a sweat, or do all of the prescribed reps in a strength training set without a struggle--you are not working hard enough. At no time should you feel like you have "mastered" a class. If you do, it's time to change something. Add more resistance to the bike. Throw sprint intervals into your run. Pick up a heavier pair of dumbells. Take it to the next level and become a beginner again.
I recently started substituting Pilates reformer classes in place of one of my strength training days--and let me tell you I felt like the most uncoordinated dork the first few times, not to mention I had to keep resting my shaking legs. But I stuck it out and I love the way it is changing my body. Don't be afraid to change things up, y'all!
There is a common misconception that struggle equates to weakness. On the contrary, struggle equates to strength and growth, which equates to RESULTS! Put the ego aside and stop worrying about whether or not anyone in the gym or in your class is judging you because (1) chances are they are too busy watching themselves to worry about you and (2) if they are, those aren't the kind of people you want to hang out with anyway so don't sweat it. Let your results speak for themselves.
If you are going all-in with your workouts and you still aren't seeing changes, there's another area that you might want to explore and that is what you are doing OUTSIDE of the gym. Are you leaving your morning class and driving through Starbucks for a big sugary coffee drink? Are you celebrating your successes by rewarding yourself with sweets? Are you hitting the bar after your barre class and tossing down a few cocktails? What about those "healthy" granola bars, acai bowls, or protein bars? Have you looked at the labels? You might be surprised to find that they aren't as "healthy" as you think. Or that giant salad you enjoy at lunch---are you drowning it in a calorie-laden dressing? I'm all about balance and try to follow an 80/20 diet, but as I've gotten older I've had to make it more like 90/10 as my metabolism began to slow down and foods that I could once enjoy guilt-free suddenly were affecting me differently. Reading labels and being mindful of serving sizes, calories, and sugars was key for me, along with food tracking. I personally like My Fitness Pal for tracking, but it only works if you do--you have to be honest about what you are putting in your body. On the opposite side of the spectrum, make sure you are eating ENOUGH of the proper foods to support the activities you are doing. Cutting out entire food groups, or drastically reducing calories can affect your performance and create a whole host of other problems, including your body hanging on to unwanted fat.
If you've got the workout piece down AND your diet is on track--there is one other component to consider---rest. Are you hitting it hard every day and not giving your body time to recover? Are you plowing through your days on less than adequate or quality sleep? Your body NEEDS to rest in order to work properly. While we sleep, our bodies are busy doing important things like repairing muscle tissues and regulating hormones including cortisol which is the hormone responsible for keeping your appetite in check. Schedule those rest days into your fitness routine so that your body can repair and come back strong. It is also a good idea to create a bedtime routine that includes things like hot herbal tea, a warm bath, and powering down your electronics an hour before bed so that you can power down more easily too.
Making adjustments to one or all of these areas can help you get that scale moving in the right direction again and set you back on the path to achieving your goals. But remember, our bodies are works in progress. As they age, they change. We can get to a level we like and maintain it for a while, but eventually, something will require your attention and you will need to readjust. The most important thing is to avoid becoming complacent. Be an active participant in your health and fitness and take care of your body so that it will take care of you for years to come.