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It's happened to nearly everyone with a fitness goal: you set a goal, you plan how to work towards it - and then progress doesn't happen. Or you may see excellent progress for a while, only to see it slow down as you continue to exercise. While there are many possible reasons for progress to stall, many fitness enthusiasts see their progress slow down due to issues that are fairly simple to correct. Below are four things that might be holding back your progress.
1. Your Diet
You likely know that cravings can get in the way of a weight loss plan. And while much of the available advice on diet and fitness seems to be geared toward weight loss, checking in with your diet is beneficial even if you aren't trying to lose weight.
Fitness model Ava Cowan is careful to monitor her total caloric intake in order to keep her body fat low, but she also makes sure that she consumes enough protein and complex carbohydrates to fuel her progress in the gym. And while some people may be reluctant to substitute some of their favorite foods with nutritionally sound choices, you can make healthier versions of your favorites. For instance, Cowan makes a protein pancake recipe that tastes much like traditional pancakes, but with more protein and fewer refined carbs.
If you are not meeting a fitness goal, be sure to look to your diet to make sure you are eating for that goal. If you are trying to gain lean mass and are not doing so, chances are good that you need to eat more total calories and more protein to reach that goal. If you are training for a marathon, a century (a 100-mile cycle race), or other endurance race and find yourself chronically fatigued, you may need to make sure you are eating enough complex carbohydrates.
2. Not Following the Principle of Progressive Overload
While diet is a common pitfall of fitness enthusiasts (there's a reason that many people say that abs are made in the kitchen), it is not the only pitfall. All too often, people fall short of their goals because they eventually stop challenging themselves. This is where the concept of progressive overload comes in. This concept essentially means continually increasing the demands placed on your body in order to make it continually develop.
This concept is frequently discussed in strength training circles Whether you are training for size or strength, you need to continually challenge yourself by adding weight to the bar, adding more repetitions, decreasing rest times, adding volume, or a combination of those things.
The concept of progressive overload holds true for other workout types, too. If you have a home gym, diversifying the exercises you do can help make your exercise sessions more challenging. One way to find these additional exercises is by looking at detailed customer reviews, since reviewers often mention their preferred exercises to do on a given piece of equipment. For instance, if you have a Bowflex or Weider home gym, searching for Weider or Bowflex home gym reviews can give you ideas for additional exercise routines, some of which may have even been developed by the reviewers themselves. Looking at the manufacturer's website may also offer additional information for those looking to expand their routines.
If you've been running the same route five times a week for several months, your body has adapted. In order to progress as a runner, adding in interval training or just choosing a route with more hills is a good start to progressive overload. It's easy to become complacent in your workouts, but adding a new challenge on a regular basis can make a major difference in achieving your goals.
3. Your Goals Are Not Clear
It's challenging to measure progress when you aren't sure what you're progressing towards, and this is why it's vitally important that you define your goals. You will have a much easier time measuring progress if your goal is to be able to deadlift 400 pounds by next October than if your goal is just to get stronger.
Fitness coach Drew Baird explains the importance of goal setting using an apt analogy: starting a fitness routine without a clear goal is like driving to a party without knowing where the party is located. It's ultimately frustrating and unfulfilling. When you know where you're going, you'll get there quickly, and maybe even have a good time.
In general, it is also helpful to set a series of smaller goals leading up to you big goal. This way, you can measure how you are progressing and also feel accomplished as you continue to move closer to your ultimate goal.
4. You Aren't Hydrating Enough
When you're busy going through your life, it's easy to forget to stay hydrated enough. But staying hydrated boosts your metabolism and helps you feel alert and awake. If being or feeling sluggish is getting in your way, making sure you drink enough water can go a long way toward helping you stay motivated and energized enough to meet your goals.
If you are having trouble drinking water, adding a little flavoring - either a commercial flavoring or a splash of fruit juice - can help you feel like drinking more water. And while there are different schools of thought on how much water you should drink, the average sedentary adult should drink between 75 and 101 ounces of water, and the National Association of Sports Medicine suggests that active people drink eight additional ounces per 25 pounds of body weight.
Choosing to work toward a fitness goal is an admirable pursuit, but many people become discouraged and give up if they sense they aren't making progress. With the above tips, you'll be more likely to stay on track and successfully reach the goals you've set.