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What to do when your workout isn't working

August 13, 2015 14:46 IST

Not getting the desired results from your exercise routine? Here’s why and what you can do about it.

Photograph: Louish Pixel/Creative Commons

If your exercise programme is not giving you the results you hoped for, it's time for quality check.

The most common culprit is being on the exact same routine for months -- running at the same speed for the same amount of time; lifting the same amount of weight for the same number of repetitions and sets.

The body gets used to the exercise and the fat stops burning further, muscles don't grow anymore; and so on.

In some cases, the reverse is the problem. Constantly changing your workout doesn't give the body a chance to adapt and master the exercise, thus making the workout ineffective.

And, very often the selection of the exercise form is not appropriate to the goal you want to achieve.

For instance, weight training for weight loss, Pilates to burn fat off the tummy; are incorrect solutions.

Irregular workout pattern is another very common reason for not seeing results. Your body needs regular activity to see changes.

Your diet will largely affect your results. If your intake is higher than your output, you will not lose weight.

Or if you do not have sufficient protein in your body, you won't be able to build muscles.

Though this may seem too small a reason, it can dampen your workout -- lack of mental focus.

There is a strong mind-body connection. If your mind is distracted, it will not put in the right amount of effort, leading to lower gains.

Photograph: TipsTimesAdmin/Creative Commons

How to get it right?

1. First and foremost, have you picked the correct workout for your goal? Here's a guideline for the very common goals:

Weight loss and fat burn: Cardiovascular exercise like walking, running, swimming, cycling, aerobics, Zumba, high intensity interval training (HIIT) like Tabata, intense active sport like tennis, football (not slow sports like golf or cricket).

Muscle Gain: Weight training

Staying Fit: Combination of any cardio activity, weight training and stretching.

Burn Tummy Fat: Cardio activity to burn the fat and resistance training for the tummy and back muscles to tone and tighten the mid section.

2. Frequency, Duration and Intensity

Being regular with your exercise programme is very important. Your body is learning the physical skill slowly. With every session, it adapts and gradually masters the exercise. This is why it is crucial to not miss your sessions.

The duration of your workout, especially cardio is going to affect how much fat you burn depending on your choice of exercise.

The intensity must be challenging. The exercise should feel slightly difficult.

3. Repetition. It is important to learn, apply and master an exercise routine, but there will come a point (it is usually after a month or so), that the body will stop changing further.

For continuing results, you must vary either of these 4 components -- frequency (add another day), duration (increase time of exercise) intensity (increase speed, incline, volume of weight and resistance) exercise (switch to cycling instead of walking, or do a push up on a ball instead of a bench press)

4. Do not alter your workouts every other day.

Give the body enough time to learn, apply and master the exercise and then repeat it over another few sessions. THEN bring in a change.

When the body is put through too many forms of exercise, it does not get the chance to master it, which makes the performance inadequate and ineffective.

5. Be mentally focussed.

Keeping your mind in the game is crucial. Concentrate on the movement, focus on feeling the muscles contracting during the movement. Try to articulate the movement better. Try to push yourself a bit further.

6. Exercise-food ratio.

The caloric output through exercise and daily physical activity needs to exceed the intake if you are to lose weight. Balance the two if you want to maintain weight.

When weight gain is the goal, increase the intake of healthy calories.

Once you identify what has been slowing down your results, make the change and see it take off once again!

Images used for representational purposes only.

Brinda Sapat