Top 5 Reasons Why Your Workout Isn’t Working

You’re working out every day but not seeing the results you desire? Here I break down common reasons why your workout isn’t working.

It’s Fit Friday! Woo-hoo. Today I’m going to switch things up a bit and talk about getting the results you want from your workouts. I hear from clients all the time that they’re exercising their butts off but not seeing ANY results.

I’ve been in this same position before so I can totally relate. It stinks because you feel like you’re doing everything right, but no progress is being made and your body never changes. What gives? Honestly, there are many reasons why your particular routine may not be working for you, but to keep things simple I’ve put together a little list of the top five common reasons people who work out regularly aren’t seeing the results they desire.

Top 5 Reasons Why Your Workout Isn't Working

1. You haven’t changed your diet.

I’m a firm believer that 70-80% of body composition (and weight loss) is diet, the remaining 20-30% is split between genetics and exercise. We’ve all heard the phrase, “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet” and it’s so true. I know sometimes we feel as though working out means we should be able to eat whatever we want, but it’s simply not the case for most people.

You have to find a balance because here’s the reality — if you overeat you’ll gain weight and if you don’t eat enough you won’t have the energy you need and you may even slow your metabolism. Everyone is different so you have to experiment with how much and what types of foods work for your unique body. A good starting point would be cutting out processed foods, limiting refined sugars, eating more vegetables, switching to smart carbs (vegetables, fruits and whole grains) and getting a good amount of protein and healthy fats.

If you already feel like you’re eating a clean diet, you may want to look at your portion sizes. Overeating healthy foods is still overeating and it can hinder your results. I recommend using a food journal or tracker to record what you’re eating, at least for a few weeks. You don’t have to count calories, just writing down everything will make you more aware of how much you’re actually eating.

Just getting started with healthy eating? Check out all my resources here. I’ve got clean eating meal plans, grocery shopping lists and more.

 2. You’re stuck in a workout rut.

You’ve been doing the same workout routine for months, maybe even years. Yes, it’s great that you’re staying motivated to stick with an exercise routine but you have to switch things up in order to see results. Change = change!

You need a little consistency with your workout program (like sticking with a certain number of cardio sessions and a certain number of strength training sessions per week) but it’s best to switch up your program every four weeks or so. This amount of time gives your body enough time to work hard and make gains but not so much time that your body adapts and the exercises are no longer challenging. Changing up your routine can also be exciting and motivating! Not sure how to switch things up?

3. You’re a cardio bunny.

I like zoning out on the treadmill with a magazine just as much as the next lady (and I honestly see nothing wrong with this if you’re using it as a way to be active and de-stress) but you can’t expect to see results if you do this day after day and call it your workout. I’ve worked with many personal trainers (and I’m a trainer myself) and we’ll all tell you that cardio is necessary — it’s great for your heart and it helps burn fat all over but in order to change your physique you have to incorporate resistance training into your routine. Doing workouts that use weights or your body weight for resistance will help you build muscle and create definition.

4. You sit way too much.

This one hit me hard after college when I went from being super active by walking around campus to sitting at a desk on the computer all day. It was so much harder to maintain my weight. Just because you work out for an hour every day doesn’t mean that you can sit at a desk all day and then come home and sit on the couch all night.

After all, sitting is the new smoking.

I still fall into this trap sometimes. Ugh! It’s important to get in as much activity as possible throughout the day — not just during your workouts. Here are some good ways to get in more activity — park in the furthest spot away when going to a store, take the stairs whenever possible, walk/ride your bike to work, get in a quick walk on your lunch break, use a standing desk (I LOVE mine), go for a walk after dinner, clean the house, go out dancing with friends instead of going out drinking, etc. Every little bit helps!

5. You’re not getting enough sleep.

Everyone requires a different amount of sleep to feel their best but most people require somewhere between 7-9 hours. Sleep is known for being one of the most important aspects of balancing your hormones and repairing cells. A lack of sleep can increase ghrelin production (your hunger hormone), which will make you feel hungry even if you’ve eaten enough and are full. I know this is the case for me — if I don’t get enough sleep I’m ravenous the next day!

Sleep loss has also been shown to increase cortisol, the stress hormone that is frequently associated with fat gain. Sleep is also essential for repairing your muscles after a hard workout and replenishing your body with energy. Want to learn more about sleep? Check out this article about why sleep is the number 1 thing for a better body. It’s a good one!

Have you ever hit a plateau or felt like you were doing all the right things but not seeing results? If you’re going through this issue right now, do any of these scenarios resonate with you? 

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    1. Scarlet
      August 12, 2016 AT 2:59 pm

      True! 5 of the reasons why some workout’s aren’t working. Working out have rules that you have to follow in order to get what you want.

    2. Painmkr
      August 25, 2014 AT 12:14 pm

      I often wonder if people aren’t getting enough sleep because they have their electronic devices (smart phone, tablet, TV) on while they are trying to shut their brain down before sleep. I had issues with this, and it messed up my sleep. I committed to not having any electronic devices on in my bedroom, and started reading for 30-45 minutes before bed. It may take a while to break the habit but will be worth it. Your body and brain will thank you.

    3. Nicole @ Squash on Squash
      August 22, 2014 AT 2:09 pm

      Great post! I’m such a believer in the effect that diet has on performance…not only does it help your body comp results, it also helps you feel so much better during the workout!

    4. habitudefitness
      August 18, 2014 AT 11:37 am

      Great post and I think you nailed it! It may not be all of these things, but looking at each point and doing a little detective work is what I try to do when I am stagnant or not happy with where I am at. Cut this, bump up that, sleep in, de-stress. I believe hormones AND calories play a huge role in our results and our habits will after both of those things! Great advice. Thanks for the check in!

    5. sweetsandbeets
      August 17, 2014 AT 2:22 pm

      Number 4 is so me. I just started my first full-time job post college, and am totally struggling with this! I work out, but you’re right – it doesn’t feel like enough! Great post!

    6. Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment
      August 16, 2014 AT 12:04 am

      Really good tips! Reminder that you cannot workout enough to compensate for not eating well.

    7. Sandy
      August 15, 2014 AT 11:54 pm

      Hello all, I have been told over and over again that sleep is the most important ingredient in a healthy diet, because the lack of sleep can cause me to slow down during the day and usually skip my workout altogether after work. Also, menopause doesn’t help either. I plan on going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning until I can learn to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.

    8. aladygoeswest
      August 15, 2014 AT 5:22 pm

      All these points are totally valid, and I agree with them all. As a trainer, I try to tell my clients to get up and walk around as much as they can while at work. And most people don’t realize how their lack of sleep is messing up their fitness, as well as their energy levels. Plus, weights are our friends. Preach on!

    9. Traci
      August 15, 2014 AT 5:20 pm

      These are great tips. I have the hardest time with the one about sleep. It’s easy to logically understand that sleep makes a difference in everything, including making workouts more productive, but when it comes down to it that’s always the thing that I skimp on.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        August 15, 2014 AT 5:50 pm

        I feel ya! We’ve been staying up way too late every night watching episodes of Breaking Bad. The show is good but my sleep is suffering. :/

    10. Beth R.
      August 15, 2014 AT 5:19 pm

      I’ve been following a very rigorous triathlon training schedule for eight months and have seen very little changes in terms of body composition. That’s been very frustrating. I’ve changed my diet several times–much to the chagrin of my coach–and I try to aim for at least seven hours of sleep, but I know I don’t quite frequently.

    11. Daisy Green
      September 24, 2014 AT 8:47 am

      I am also very guilty of this one LOL It has been a routine of mine to always check social media accounts and the news on my phone before going to sleep and now, I cannot sleep without doing it. Lately, I have been drinking warm milk before sleeping and it is doing good. Sometimes, I also drink a cup of chamomile tea.

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