Ever logged countless hours at the gym and still the scale won't budge? I've stared down that plateau before. For weeks, I couldn't figure out why I wasn't progressing, until I zeroed in on six easy-to-miss factors that prevented me from seeing results.
1. I zoned out
I love reading a magazine while peddling away on the elliptical, but I found myself more focused on the latest celebrity gossip than my actual workout. When I realized that 20 minutes had passed and I hadn't even broken a sweat, I knew it was time to change the way I exercised. Now, instead of zoning out, I incorporate intervals into my elliptical workout. I alternate between speeds and resistances. One of my favorite elliptical workouts changes the resistance on the machine every 1 to 2 minutes, which pushes me to work hard for the entire 30-minute duration. Similarly, when running on the treadmill, I pick up the pace by 1 mph during the commercials.
2. I planned my weekend (via text message)
I used to see the Stairmaster as the perfect place to work and play at the gym. I texted my friends and broke a sweat at the same time. If I put the machine at a slow and steady pace, my hands (and thumbs) were free to see what my friends were up to or plan out my weekend. Looking back on these workouts, I could have worked a lot harder if I had put down my phone! Now, I utilize my iPod to motivate myself through my workouts.
3. I chewed gum
I'm a big gum chewer, so I didn't see anything wrong with popping a piece before starting my cardio workout. I didn't realize that the act of chewing gum prevented me from moving faster. My brain couldn't seem to do both things simultaneously. When I stopped chewing gum during my workouts, I was able to put more of my energy into pushing myself to go faster and farther. And I cut down my risk of choking—an obvious plus.
4. I couldn't hear myself breathing
I exercised in the early morning before the gym got too crowded. I liked working out at this time of day—I had my choice of cardio machines and weights and it was fairly quiet. In fact, the quiet, early-morning hours made me realize that I probably wasn't working hard enough. The only thing I heard was the whirl of the cardio machines. If I was working as hard as possible, shouldn't I also hear my breathing? It's not like I needed to grunt like a tennis pro, but realizing that I wasn't breathing heavily made me want to pick up the pace!
5. I did the same routine
Looking back, it's no wonder I didn't make any progress in the gym. I did the same exact workout from week to week—I didn't increase my pace on the elliptical, I didn't run farther on the treadmill, and I didn't lift more weight or do more reps when strength training. My body got used to doing the same exercises over and over, so I didn't see any changes. Now, I like to switch things up every week. Plus, changing my routine keeps me motivated!
6. I spent too much time chatting with my workout buddy
Making a gym date with a friend is a great way to motivate yourself to work out. But when I spent most of my workout chatting with my buddy, I realized our gabfests distracted me from the real reason I was at the gym—to exercise! Now my friend and I head to a class together and keep quiet (we don't want to be shushed by the instructor) and we save our gossip session for the locker room.