Why You Aren't Improving

One of the most frustrating things about fitness is that it can seem like you are doing everything right and still not making progress. There are some common mistakes that athletes often make- some are obvious, some are overlooked, but all are important to your athletic performance. Ignoring any of these would be equivalent of driving around with the emergency brake on… can you do it? Sure. Is it a great idea? Not so much.

Don’t get frustrated with your results if you’re cruising around with the E brake on… it’s time to figure out why you aren’t improving.

YOU AREN’T RECORDING YOUR WORKOUTS

This drives your coaches crazy: “I just don’t feel like my [squat, run, whatever] is improving”

OK, well what did you do last time? “I dunno.”

WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T KNOW!?!?!

Please explain to me how you can tell that you are or are not improving without know what you did 6 weeks ago in comparison to what you did today.

When you go to the doctor, does he/she look at you and say “I just don’t feel like your cholesterol levels are improving”? No! They draw blood and MEASURE your levels.

If you aren’t recording your workouts- if you aren’t measuring your work capacity, it is very very difficult, if not impossible to know whether or not you’re improving.

Everything you do needs to be recorded. Every warm up set, ever working set, every workout result, every scaling option, every prescribed workout needs to be written down. And you need to make notes… “The box jumps killed me”, “The push press was way too light”, “Wow do I need to work on my overhead squats”… whatever the case may be, your thoughts on the workout provide valuable information down the road.

Without recording your workouts, we’re just guessing at weights and improvements.

Don’t guess. Be sure. Measure and record everything.

YOU AREN’T COMING CONSISTENTLY

As obvious as this might seem, you’d be surprised at the number of people who are disappointed in their results after coming once or twice a week for a few months.

If you want to see improvements, you HAVE to make your workouts a priority. Maybe that means waking up an hour early, or skipping trivia night for the week. Whatever the case may be, whatever sacrifice you need to make, you have to show up in order to get better. If you can’t spare three to four hours a week for the sake of your health, it’s probably time to reexamine your priorities. 3-4 hours each week… that’s all it takes.

The best thing you can possibly do is make coming to class a habit- an unconscious routine that happens without you even thinking about it. When the drive to the box becomes as automatic as the drive to work, you’ve set yourself up for succes 

YOU HAVEN’T SET GOALS

If you’re just training to “get in better shape” that’s fine. But “getting in better shape” will only take you so far. We’ll get you in better shape, that’s for sure. Where are you going to go from there?

You need to set goals for yourself. Not some arbitrary, fuzzy, feel good goal like “I want to RX a workout” or “I want to lose weight.” Find some hard, tangible, measurable- “I want to add 30 lbs to my back squat” or “I want to do 3 kipping pull ups.”

Find something that you’ll have to work for, but also something that’s within reach. If you’re running a 32:00 5K right now, a sub 24:00 5K is not very realistic… and there are a lot of in between steps to get there- a sub 30:00 5K, a sub 28:00 5K, and so on. Talk to your coaches- they can help you figuring out some short term goals to get you where you want to be.

Once you’ve got your measurable, reasonable goal figured out, set a date for yourself. Put it on the calendar. Make yourself reminders that it’s coming. And work every day towards that goal.

Give your training purpose and direction. And celebrate when you achieve those goals.

YOU AREN’T GETTING ENOUGH RECOVERY

Recovery is often overlooked. Here’s the thing: everything you do during the day will affect your physical performance in some way. Stressed out over a project at work? Up all night with a newborn? Working 70 hours this week? All of these things require energy and tax your body, not to mention your mind.

Ask any athlete who takes regular rest days when they’re best workouts are- 9 times out of 10 they’ll fall after a rest day. Your body cannot sustain constant high performance and stress. It NEEDS rest and recovery. It needs time to build and repair muscle fibers, replenish energy stores, and prepare for the next challenge it might face.

If you’re doing all the right things in the gym and not seeing the results you expect, you need to look outside your training to examine how work and stress are impacting your energy levels. The more stress you have, the more rest you need. The more training you’re doing, the more rest you need.

Listen to your body. Take breaks. Recover.

YOU AREN’T PAYING ATTENTION TO YOUR NUTRITION

How you fuel your body has an enormous impact on your athletic performance.

Duh, we all know that.

But think about it like this- you want to do a pull up? What if you had to pull up 15 less pounds of body fat? How would it feel if you had less weight to push on a handstand pushup? Or on a 400 m run? How much sugar did you consume today? How many drinks did you have at the bar last night?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, think about how much easier a pull up would be if you had just one extra pound of lean muscle. Don’t be afraid of putting lean, tone muscle onto your body. Don’t worship the scale, pay attention to your performance. Are you taking in enough protein? How about fat? Is your fear of “bulking up” holding you back?

Does your diet line up with your fitness goals?

Be sure you have a plan, and assess your plan. If it isn’t working, let’s try something else.

YOU AREN’T GIVING 100%

How much are you willing to push? How high can you turn your intensity level? The answer isn’t to spend more time in the gym. The answer isn’t always to go heavier or to “RX” the workout. The answer is to go faster, harder, to give the workout every ounce of intensity you have. There aren’t any tricks or any shortcuts- giving your workout everything you have is the simplest way to improve.

Simple, but not easy.

It isn’t easy- going to that dark place in your head, ignoring that little voice begging you to stop is not easy. Finishing the set, the round, the workout while your lungs burn and your muscles scream for mercy is a difficult thing to do. But if you want it- if you want to improve, if you want to get better, you have to put your head down and keep going. Faster, faster, faster. Finish it.

If you are putting the time in, but not seeing the improvements, it’s time to take a look at areas where you might be undermining your own progress. Improving your fitness is hard work as it is- there’s no need to make things even harder on yourself.