You’ve been going to the gym for weeks: running on the treadmill, riding the stationary bike, lifting weights—it’s all hard work, but it’s supposed to be worth it, right? Yes, the right workout routine can help you look and feel better. Taking charge of your health is empowering, but what happens if it feels like you’re doing everything right and still aren’t seeing any results? We’re here to help!
Try switching it up
The same old routine can be boring. Most gyms have a wide variety of machines—cardio, weight-training, flexion machines, etc.—that you can learn to use. If you feel stuck on the elliptical, try switching over to the bench or deadlifts. Once you know the proper way to do it, get out there and go for it!
If you're using machines, it’s helpful to do something that makes the time go by faster. If you're on a cardio machine, you can try watching TV. If you're invested in the story, you might work out harder. If TV isn’t working for you, try listening to music. You can make a playlist or find one online.
Or, you can ditch machines altogether! There are so many other ways to exercise. Here are a few examples:
- Try squats! You can do these anywhere, and they’re a great way to build and tone leg muscles.
- Take a dance class! Whether it's Zumba, Vixen or another fitness class, dancing is a great way to have fun and burn calories at the same time.
- Yoga! It might just look like stretching, but it can do a lot more. Yoga increases flexibility, reduces weight, and increases muscle strength and tone. You’ll also learn mindfulness skills that can carry over into other aspects of your life.
Also try going to the gym at different times during the day to see when you have the most energy. Some people wake up feeling energized, but others like to get their day going before they head to the gym.
You also might want to consider talking to a personal trainer. They'll have more knowledge and information on specific workouts that match your goal. If you feel stuck, ask! That’s what they’re there for.
For visible results, athletic trainer Angie Fernandez suggests High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts, in which intense bouts of work are followed by short periods of rest, combined with steady state workouts, such as elliptical or treadmill training. “The steady state workout helps increase blood flow to damaged muscle tissues and boost your recovery,” she says. “So it is important not to neglect steady state workouts."
Look for results in a different way
If you’re not seeing results on the scale, try taking measurements instead. Muscle might be adding weight. However, scales and measurements are not always the best indicators of progress. Fernandez also cites increased energy levels, more restful sleep, and better moods as good measures of progress.
Change your diet
Most of the time, going to the gym alone won’t get you to your goal without being supplemented with a healthy diet.
“For an optimal workout, you want your muscles to be fueled!” says registered dietitian Kelly LeSage. “Besides eating at least three balanced meals per day, you may benefit from having a nutrient dense carbohydrate paired with a small amount of protein a few hours before your workout, like fruit and plain Greek yogurt.” She also suggests trying a nutrient-dense carbohydrate right before your workout, like a banana.
Fernandez also stresses the importance of healthy eating. “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet,” she says.
It might seem like skipping breakfast could lead to weight loss, but breakfast gets your metabolism going, helps you focus, and helps you make healthier eating choices throughout the day. Registered dietitian Ashley Bailey says that skipping meals causes lower energy, which can make you tired, irritable, and much more likely to overeat at the next meal. “Regular meals and snacks provide your body with a steady supply of nutrients and energy,” she says, “which will help reduce cravings, better manage portions, and boost energy levels.”
You also want to make sure that your diet is the right diet. It’s important to eat lots of lean protein and cut down on carbs. It can be helpful to meet with a nutritionist. They know fascinating details and tips about calories, cholesterol and fats that can keep your body from reacting to your exercise routine the way you’d like. You can take the tips you learn to bring a healthy meal to the next event you attend!
You could also try starting a food journal. Writing in a cute journal can be a fun way to track the types of food you eat and look for trends. You can use the journal to plan healthy meals and snacks. If you’re not the journaling type, try an app. MyFitnessPal is a great one, but there are plenty of options to help you track your diet and exercise.
It's important to keep healthy foods in the fridge, since it’s easy to just grab a bag of chips when you’re hungry. Rachna Shah, a sophomore at Dartmouth, suggests almonds and yogurt or fat-free string cheese, while Cara Milhaven, a junior at Villanova, enjoys almonds with fruit or a few slices of cheese with dried crackers.
Reevaluate your goal
If you want to go from a size 10 to a size six or to lose 25 pounds in two weeks, that’s not a realistic goal. It’s not very healthy, either. Bailey, MS, RDN, LDN recommends losing approximately one to two pounds per week for safe, sustained weight loss.
You might want to try breaking down your ultimate goal into smaller, more manageable goals, like how many times you want to work out a week.
Get a workout buddy
It might be more fun for you to work out with a friend. Also, it makes it harder to bail on your gym plans if someone is counting on you to be there with them.
Are you a competitive person? If so, turn your workouts into a friendly competition with your friends. How many miles did you run? Pounds did you lift? Laps did you swim? Maybe set up a fun night to reveal the big winner—everyone could even bring a healthy dish to share!
Make sure to stay focused on your goals, though. While it can be fun to exercise with a friend, you shouldn't spend all your time talking to them instead of focusing on your workout.
Don’t be too hard on yourself! Weight loss and muscle building take time, and you won't see results immediately. Also, make sure you aren’t over-exercising or taking on unhealthy eating habits. The goal is to be healthy and fit.
And just when you think you have tried every possible suggestion, one day you might step on the scale or slip back into an old favorite pair of jeans, and all of your hard work will have been worth it. Be persistent. Results take time, but they can be incredibly rewarding.