Although any kind of physical activity is better than nothing, some workout plans are better than others in terms of overall effectiveness. While you may think youâre getting a good workout by spending an hour reading a magazine on the stationary bike, the truth is, if youâre leaving the gym with your make-up still perfectly intact, you're probably not working hard enough.
But a fresh face isnât the only way to tell you arenât getting in a good gym session. If your workout isn't working any more, one of these five reasons could be to blame.
Youâre not monitoring your heart rate
Whether youâre on a cardio machine or doing some high-intensity interval training (HIIT), your heart rate should fluctuate between 75% of your maximum when youâre just starting out, eventually building to 100%. (To roughly determine your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220). An easy way to track this is by using a heart-rate monitor that will let you know, in real time, where your heart is at. Some people mistake sweating to be the only indicator of working out hard enough, when in reality some people may just be more prone to sweating than others. A heart-rate monitor is simply the most effective way to gauge your intensity level. These days they're easy to come by and definitely worth the investment. But if you donât have one, go old school and stop to check your pulse halfway through your workout.
You can hold a conversation
A leisurely stroll with a friend is a nice way to pass the time, but not if you expect that activity to help you lose weight. To put it simply, if you can hold a conversation during your workout, youâre just not working hard enough. Short phrases, perhaps, but if youâre able to belt out Taylor Swift while jogging, you need to reassess your workout plan (and maybe your level of shamelessness).
Youâre not even a little sore the next day
No pain, no gain. A good way to tell how hard you worked out is to wait 24 hours and see how you feel. When you exercise, you cause microscopic damage to your muscles. The muscles then adapt, repair themselves, and grow stronger. Basically, you should feel moderate soreness after a workout; if not, you probably didn't stimulate your muscle enough to get results. (But not so sore that you can't go about your regular routine.) Give yourself a day in between to rest and rebuild those sore muscle groups while you work another, alternating days so you donât overwork one particular group.
You work out at the same intensity all the time
Once youâve been on a workout plan for a while and aren't becoming as sore or tired, it might be time to up the intensity. If you want to gain lean muscle mass and definition, start adding more weight; if youâre using lighter weights to tone up, add some extra repetitions (Instead of 10-15 reps, try 25). If youâre doing cardio, try going a little faster or start incorporating more interval training into the mix. Because your body is constantly adapting, if you do the same thing over and over again, your body wonât be challenged enough to make a change. Be mindful that the more you work out, the more effort you'll have to expend to keep making progress.
Youâre not cross-training
Not only do you need to change the intensity of your workout, but also the variety of what youâre doing. Get creative. Fit people donât stick to one regimen, they cross train. If youâre doing the same set of squats and bicep curls day in and day out, youâre probably creating imbalances in your body (not to mention itâs just plain boring). Donât be afraid to mix it up. Force yourself to be uncomfortable. If youâre a runner, add some free weights. If you only lift weights, try adding some yoga or Pilates into your routine to balance out your bodyâs ratio of strength and flexibility. You donât have to do everything all at once, but start by challenging your body to do something itâs not used to doing.
Youâre not seeing physical changes
That's not to say if you donât see results after a week you should give up. After all, how long did it take for your body to get to where it is now? But if youâve been consistently working out and eating healthfully for more than a few months and you havenât noticed even a slight physical changeâbe it a number on the scale or inches lost depending on your fitness goalsâthen you might need to reassess your routine. It should be a slow progression if youâre doing it the right way, but a progression nonetheless.
To learn more about what you could be doing wrong, check out The 4 Biggest Myths About Fat Burning.
Jennifer Cohen is a leading fitness authority, TV personality, entrepreneur and best-selling author of the new book, Strong is the New Skinny. With her signature, straight-talking approach to wellness, Jennifer was the featured trainer on The CWâs Shedding for the Wedding, mentoring the contestantsâ to lose hundreds of pounds before their big day, and she appears regularly on NBCâs Today Show, Extra, The Doctors and Good Morning America. Connect with Jennifer onÂ Facebook, Twitter, G+ and on Pinterest.