Thinking about exercise is a workout in itself. In fact, some people spend so much time thinking about what they’re going to do that they never actually get around to doing anything.

That’s part of a little something I refer to as the 3 stages of starting a workout routine. It’s the conversation we have with ourselves when we go from making excuses to actually making the time to exercise.

The 3 Stages of Starting a Workout Routine

  1. I need to exercise – no matter who you are you know that this statement is true. The real question is whether or not you are willing to take action. You’ll either continue to make excuses about not exercising, so that you can justify your inactivity to yourself, or you will start to think about making a change.
  1. Thinking about exercise – you’ve acknowledged the need for more activity, which is a step in the right direction. But, you’re not actually doing anything yet, you’re still thinking about how you should go about getting started. Right, you’re thinking about it. What you’re actually doing is biding your time.
  1. Pick something and do it – here’s the most important thing you need to know about exercise, something is better than nothing. So the first step is to pick something and do it for a month. Run or bike regularly. Learn how to use a kettlebell. Do a bodyweight routine three days each week.

When you’re first starting out you can’t change your body overnight, so don’t try. Instead, use this time to figure out what you like and what you don’t like, what’s obtainable and what’s unrealistic. Then, begin to build a regular exercise habit slowly based on your goals, schedule, ability, and access to equipment.

Once you’re in the habit of exercising regularly, it’s time to consider a more structured routine tailored to your specific goals. Are you trying to lose weight, gain muscle, run a marathon, or compete in an obstacle course race? Or, are you simply looking to stay active and improve your health? After you figure out what exactly you’re going for, you can make your own workout plan.

The Lifecycle of Workouts

Alright, you’re making progress. You’ve stopped thinking about what you should do and you’re actually doing it. You are owning it, which should be applauded. Here’s to you!

But, let’s not get carried away. Before you know it, things will begin to break down. It might be two weeks or it could be two months. Soon enough you’ll start to doubt yourself.

“Should I be using more weight or doing different exercises?”

“Is my workout still workout, am I getting results?”

“I’m bored with my workout!”

There’s an endless amount of self-talk that could creep in. This is to be expected. What you don’t want to do is freak out and give up. That will put you right back at the beginning of the 3 Stages of Starting, which is a huge set-back.

Instead of starting over, use this list to figure out where your workout is going wrong.

The 6 reasons Your Workout Isn’t Working

1. Doing everything – here’s the thing, if you just want to be healthy and active, you can do it all. Honestly, I recommend it. Get out there, have fun, try everything, and above all else, keep moving. But, if you are trying to achieve a specific goal you’ll have to rein in your routine.

2. Program hopping – once you identify your goals and create a structured program you have to stick to it. Progress is all about consistency. You can’t do CrossFit for two weeks, aerobics class for a week, run the next week and expect to increase your bench press. That’s just unrealistic.

3. Follow the leader – when you’re at the gym there will always be someone bigger, stronger, or faster than you. That doesn’t mean that their workout is better than yours, or you should do what they do. Mind the advice from above; be consistent. Don’t get caught up trying to play follow the leader with the most in-shape guy in the gym, stick to your routine.

4. Going through the motions – be honest, are you working hard at this fitness thing or not? If you’re not willing to put in the effort no routine can save you. You have to show up and put in the work, that’s how you’ll get results.

5. Hit or miss – you workout for three days, skip a week, get back on track for week and then take a month off. Then, you sit around and wonder why you don’t have a six-pack. Really? If you’re going to skip workouts you can forget about making progress.

6. Too much of a good thing – skipping workouts is bad, but so is skipping rest days. Results = work + rest. You have to work your butt off and make time to recover. That means schedule recovery days, enough sleep and general maintenance like foam rolling, tending to injuries, and mobility work.

4 Things You Can Do to Fix It

Alright, now that we know what not to do, here are four things that you should be doing to make progress.

1. Pick a goal – weight loss, sports performance, muscle mass, endurance, speed, power; which is it?

2. Create a plan – once you know what you want, create a plan that will help you get it. There is no such thing as a perfect workout program.  Pick something geared towards your goals and stick to it for at least four weeks.

3. Be consistent – the most important thing you can do, after you start, is to remain consistent. Show up, put in the work, record your workouts and keep challenging yourself to improve.

4. Keep it simple – don’t over think things. There’s a simple solution for every workout goal. If you have a goal, a plan to achieve it all,  and you show up to execute, there’s not a whole lot else that can go wrong.

What’s keeping you from getting the results you want from your workouts?

Let me know in the comments and I’ll respond to every question.