Occasionally I hear from people who say they aren’t seeing any results. Where is are the muscles? Where is the tone? Why haven’t I broken that 20-minute 5K? Why haven’t I lost more weight?
It’s easy to get discouraged in our exercise regimen if we don’t see the results we’re looking for. Sometimes, though, the problem is neither a bad regimen nor an absence of results. Sometimes the really great results we have achieved go unnoticed because we’re looking for results for which we haven’t really been training.
This is why I stress that having an underlying approach to the regimen is key to achieving one’s fitness goals. We must establish what our goals are and tailor our approach to the goal, rather than determining what our approach is first and then assessing whether or not it helped us reach a goal we never articulated in advance. One needs a very different kind of workout strategy if weight loss is the objective, versus strength training. But if that is the goal, then one must acknowledge it in advance and not look for one’s existing workout regimen to satisfy it ex post facto.
The one thing I have learned about exercise over the years is that it is not a “set it and forget it” kind of a thing. You can’t just take on a regimen and then go on auto-pilot and wait for the results to come in. You have to constantly change and tinker what you’re doing in order to keep driving yourself toward new results. What you did last week, no matter what it is, will always be easier this week, and will therefore yield diminishing returns next week, too.
If I want to lose weight, I adopt a cardio-dominant exercise regimen and a diet consisting predominantly of low fat foods and complex carbohydrates. If I want to build muscle and strength, then I do more resistance training and eat more monounsaturated fats and proteins. If I want to build up speed, I have to hit the track at least twice a week.
Unfortunately, it often requires dedication to a specific goal in order to achieve the results associated with that specific goal. Fortunately, this means that all we need to do to achieve our goals is plan for them and act accordingly. If you want to run a comfortable marathon, you have to put in the miles. If you want to lose weight, you have to focus on lots and lots of intense cardiovascular exercise. If you want to build muscle, you have to keep increasing the weight and eating that protein. If you want to build speed, you have to make it to the track 2-3 times a week and really push yourself.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that goals require constant adjustment to life’s ever-changing conditions. Strength, speed, muscle mass, endurance, weight loss, flexibility, and everything else are features that must be worked-toward and maintained. You’re never really “there.” Working out is a vector, not a line segment, and certainly not an endpoint.