Why Am I Not Making Progress in My Fitness Levels? (Part 1)

Lack of progress is something everyone struggles with from time to time. It can be incredibly frustrating to put all your effort towards reaching your goals yet seem to make little to no headway in actually achieving them. This was something I struggled to understand for the first several years of my workout history. Why wasn’t I making progress in the way that I wanted to? What was I doing wrong?

I started regularly working out in my mid-twenties doing Jazzercise 2—3 times per week with one of my closest friends. I eventually switched to a different gym for a greater variety of classes to choose from, particularly those that would help me build a bit of muscle and gain strength. You would NEVER catch me out on the weight room floor, outside the comfort of the four walls of the group fitness studio where I had someone telling me what to do. My favorite classes back then were mainly cardio-based classes, many of which used hand weights. These were great, challenging classes to take, and they definitely have a place in a fitness program, but if my goal was to build muscle and strength, were cardio-based classes all I should have been doing to meet those goals?

Eventually, I found myself frustrated after several years of faithful attendance. I remember thinking to myself during class one day, “I’ve been taking these classes for years, so why can I still only use the 10 pound weights? Why am I not getting stronger?” It wasn’t until I found a class dedicated to just strength did I FINALLY see some of the results I was looking for. Within one year, I went from using the 8 and 10 pound weights to using 20 and 22.5 pound weights. I was sold! It was then that I finally started realizing how mis-matched my workouts were with my goals, and that I needed to incorporate classes dedicated to strength along with my cardio-based classes.

If you feel stuck like I did, here are the first two reasons as to why you may not be progressing and what to do about it.

You Are Doing Too Much

  • Do you feel like you did not have a good workout unless you are completely spent at the end of it?
  • Do you participate in several taxing workouts each week?
  • Are you always sore and wear soreness like a badge of honor?
  • Do you feel like you should be seeing more change or progress in your fitness given the amount of effort you are putting into your workouts?

If you answered “yes” to any of the following, you may be doing too much. While the body responds extremely well to frequent workouts, it does not respond well to abuse.  I am not opposed to challenging workouts, but the key is to balance frequent workouts with the right amount of intensity and volume that will also allow for the right amount of rest and recovery.

What does this look like? As stated above, the body responds well to frequency but not to abuse. Let’s say you work out hard four times per week for one hour, and you feel completely spent at the end of each workout. Instead, it would be much more beneficial for you to work out six days per week for 40 minutes and be able to walk away from your workouts feeling like you still have some gas in the tank. Incorporating frequent, shorter workouts that leave you feeling strong and energized will elicit better and greater results than several long, taxing workouts each week that leave you in a puddle of mush on the floor. Your body will not improve and get stronger if it is in a constant state of recovery.

You Aren’t Doing Enough

  • Do you only workout 1—2 days per week?
  • Do you always do the same thing for your workouts?
  • Do you always keep the intensity of your workouts at the same level?
  • Are you not gradually increasing your work load or progressively challenging yourself?

A “yes” answer to any of these questions may mean you are not doing enough. The frequency principle applies here as well. Just as you would improve your Spanish by studying it more often but for shorter lengths of time, the body will respond better to four, 30 minute workouts rather than two, one hour workouts.

The body also responds best when a different stimulus is periodically introduced. The body/brain usually adapts to a workout/stimulus within 6—12 weeks. What this means is that if you are not changing your workouts in some way, your progress will eventually stall. What’s amazing though is that it doesn’t have to be a big change. Some examples might be:

  • Increasing the incline on the treadmill by a few degrees.
  • Changing from 10 pound to 12 pound dumbbells.
  • Instead of running on the treadmill, take a spin class.
  • Instead of squats with dumbbells change to kettlebells, or change the tempo (like adding a pause at the bottom of your squat, or slowing your decent).

Small, regular changes often can result in significant progress.

Next time, I’ll cover three other reasons why you may not be progressing in your health and fitness efforts.



The information found on this blog is based on my own personal thoughts and opinions. I am not a doctor or registered dietician. Please be sure to consult your health care professional before starting or changing any fitness or nutrition program.

Copyright: bialasiewicz / 123RF Stock Photo

Copyright: akz / 123RF Stock Photo

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