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So you're doing it; you're in the gym consistently, you're committed to your weight loss goals, you're finally in the swing of a regular workout routine, and you had some great initial success, but now... nothing. The scale isn't dropping, you're getting frustrated, and you don't know how to break through.
Don't stress out! I've got you. Below you'll find the top 3 reasons your workout routine isn't working for you.
1. You're doing the same routine week after week.
So there used to be this guy who would come in to Equinox every day for years. And he always did the same routine, he always got a good sweat, and he always looked the exact same.
That's because even if you're sweating and feel like you're working hard, your body is a master at adapting. It builds the muscle, drops the fat, and creates the endurance you need for that routine... and stops.
So, if you aren't introducing new stimuli in the form of heavier weights, higher reps, less rest, greater speed, or different types of movement, your body has no reason to force new adaptations (like weight loss and lean muscle gain) to accommodate the new imposed demand, hence the weight loss plateau you experience.
Think about those first few weeks of working out (i.e. when you were first seeing results), you probably hit a few moments where you weren't sure if you could do it. If you aren't hitting those moments anymore, it's time to change up what you're doing.
2. Your workouts aren't intense enough.
This is probably the most obvious of the 3. If you aren't working that hard, if your heart rate isn't up high enough, if you know you're phoning it in, you're not going to get the results you're after. Period.
If you want to lose weight you have to burn more calories than you consume, and to burn enough calories to make a dent in the scale... you have to work hard for it.
When you're doing steady state cardio at a consistent intensity (think running, cycling, or swimming for 45+ minutes), aim to maintain a heart rate of 70-80% of your maximum heart rate (subtract your age from 220).
When you're doing high intensity interval training, you want to aim for a heart rate of 80-90% of your maximum heart rate during your "work" intervals, and return to 60-65% during your "recovery" intervals.
3. Your workouts are too intense, too often.
I know, I just told you to keep your intensity up. But hear me out. If you do high intensity workouts 6 days per week, you are never giving your body the chance to fully recover which actually inhibits your body's ability to build lean muscle, lose fat, and increase strength and endurance.
Think about it like a recipe; in the gym we mix the ingredients together, during rest we put it in the oven to bake. If you just keep putting the ingredients together but never give it a chance to actually bake, you'll never see the full transformation into a delicious meal... or killer bod... you get the picture.
And remember, workout is a stressor to the body. A good stressor, but a stressor nonetheless. And when we get too much stress with not enough rest to balance it out, cortisol rises, and signals our body to store fat. NOT the goal.
So how often should you mix up your intensity? As a rule of thumb, without knowing your exact goals and current fitness level, I would love to see 2 days of high intensity, 2 days of medium intensity, and 2 days of low intensity, with 1 day of full rest. So that might look something like this:
Wednesday: total body circuit training, high reps
Friday: heavy weights, low - medium reps
Sunday: steady state cardio