if you’re not making gains, you’re probably not working as hard as you think. We reveal how to turn up the dial to make every session count

You slog it out at the gym four days a week, you work up a sweat and you eat well, but you’re still not getting the results you’re looking for. So, what are you doing wrong? Well, we hate to break it to you, but you’re probably just not working as hard as you think you are. It’s a tough pill to swallow, we know, but your gym habits could actually be working against your fitness goals. Don’t worry; we’ll help you raise your game for awesome results.

You slog it out at the gym four days a week

You slog it out at the gym four days a week

Don’t clock calories

How many times have you been working up a sweat on the treadmill and thought to yourself, ‘I’ll stop when I get to 300 calories?’ Equating the calorie count on the elliptical trainer with that 270-cal latte might be misleading, and could explain why you’re not seeing the results you think you should be explains celeb trainer and WF expert Matt Roberts. ‘Calorie counting on gym machines is just generic. Unless you’re programming them with personal details such as age and weight, it’s assuming that a 40-year-old overweight man burns the same number of calories as a 20-year-old active woman working at the same intensity.’

So, if you’re aiming for a 500-calorie deficit, using the counter on you gym equipment may be misleading. ‘The best way to get an idea of your body’s working output is to buy a monitor in the form of a watch’, says Matt. ‘These can hold all your details and track heart rate, hydration, pace and calorie burn. They’re a great way to track progress and plan sessions’.

But, even watches can’t be relied on for accurate results. According to a study by the University of California, machines overestimate calories burned by around 20 per cent, and watches by almost 30 per cent! They study used a VO2 analyzer to measure the calories used versus calories recorded.

Lorraine Young, a fitness expert at Les Mills, says a better way to gauge effort is to set goals. ‘Everyone burns calories at different rates’, she says. ‘Instead of calories counting, set goals to work towards. The results will speak for themselves’.

Everyone burns calories at different rates’

Everyone burns calories at different rates

‘Everyone burns calories at different rates, so set goals to work toward instead’

Do adapt your workout

It’s important to keep moving the goalposts if you want to continue to make progress with your fitness and physique. ‘When you do the same things every day your body adapts at an astonishing rate’, says Lee Matthews, head of UK fitness at Fitness First. ‘It’s vital that you change your routine after around four to six weeks, otherwise you’ll hit a plateau’.

It’s also important to pay attention to your body’s response to exercise, tuning in to your body’s natural responses is a better indicator of how hard you’re working than any technology, says Lorraine. ‘One method of measuring how hard you’re working is the rate of perceived exertion (RPE), which is based on observing physical sensations including increased heart rate, respiration or breathing rate, sweating and muscle fatigue’, she explains. ‘The talk test is another, judged by your ability to talk during exercise – if you can, then you’re probably working to a low to moderate pace; if you’re breathless, you’re probably working at a harder pace.’

Do ditch the distractions

It’s easier to end up breathless if you’re focused on the task at hand. So leave the magazines in your locker and ditch the iPhone while you’re on the gym floor and you’ll be much more likely to go that little bit faster or that bit heavier. ‘Sometimes it is good to switch off and this would be great if you were in a yoga class during the relaxation section of the class’, says Gillian Reeves, Virgin Active’s national group exercise manager. ‘However, if you’re not concentrating on your workout and get distracted by your phone beeping, you may not be able to push yourself to high intensities and you’ll probably compromise your technique’. But don’t panic, that doesn’t mean your Rita Ora playlist is off limits. ‘One exception is listening to music, which can motivate and inspire you to push harder than you might do without it’, says Matt.

Can’t trust yourself not to WhatsApp your friends while on the stepper? Opt for a group exercise class. If you’re changing the weights on your bar between BodyPump tracks or keeping up with Zumba choreography, you simply won’t have time to check your Twitter feed!

Don’t compare yourself to others

It’s easy to get sucked into comparing your body and workout to the girl next to you, but it’s the kind of blunder that could hold you back. ‘Many people make the mistake of copying others in the gym to measure their own intensity, which can lead to unexpected results or injury’, explains Lee. ‘You could also pick up bad habits and ineffective routines. Remember, other people’s goals may differ from your own’.

Don’t compare yourself to others

Don’t compare yourself to others

Take a moment to consider the facts: sure, you may be doing the same number of spin classes as the girl with the awesome legs, but you don’t have the whole picture. ‘She may have better fitness, an increased muscle mass or strengths that differ from yours’, says Lee. ‘So, it’s important to ensure your routine is tailored to you. Start by writing down your goals and asking a trainer to design the perfect workout to meet them.’

‘Listening to music can inspire you to push harder’

3 quick ways to work harder

1.    Find a gym buddy

Choose someone better than you. Research show the competitive edge will spur you to work harder for longer

2.    Take rest days

Include a light activity such as yoga, walking or a bike ride on rest days to help your muscles recover.

3.    Go high intensity

Interval training will force you to push your body to its absolute max – and you’ll be done in half the time!


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