1. Low, slow cardio
I see this in the gym all the time. People on the elliptical or treadmill who are going so slowly that they can comfortably page through a magazine and even talk on the phone. That’s fine if it’s getting you where you want to be fitness-wise, but if you’re dissatisfied with your progress, look here first. If you are trying to be faster, stronger, and heart-healthier, you need pay attention to your heart rate.
To get a general estimate of your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. Your best cardio work will typically be when you get your heart rate up to at least 60-80% of your max heart rate. I try to keep my cardio workouts at 80% of my max, and because boxing requires me to work anaerobically for short bursts, I make it a point to push my heart rate up to the max at least once every 5 minutes or so. As you get in better and better shape, you will have to work much harder to achieve the 60-80% and to touch your max.
2. Same ol’, same ol’
If you do exactly the same workout every single time, your body begins to adapt. It gets good at that particular workout, and you may not see progress toward your fitness goals. So change it up. Get off the elliptical and try rowing. Stop running the same route around your neighborhood and start swimming laps at the community center instead. Get off the bike and give the treadmill a shot. Find three or five new weightlifting exercises and retire some of your old ones for six weeks or so. Not only will your body begin to respond to the new challenges, but you might find you don’t get bored with your workout so quickly, either. In fitness, change is good. Make it happen!
3. Your diet sucks
Exercise has to be supported by good food choices, period. This takes some planning ahead, prepping ahead, and contingency plans as well. My fast-and-dirty rule for eating to support boxing is “one-third, two-thirds.” This means I eat one-third lean protein and two-thirds low-density fruits/vegs (and throw in a little of the good – that means monounsaturated – fats/oils) at every single meal or snack. I also keep power bars (the ones made by The Zone are perfectly balanced already) in my car and in my desk drawer so that I don’t get tempted to drive through the Wendy’s or overload on M&M’s. The good news is, even if you screw up a meal or snack, you can always start fresh with the next one.
4. No goals
This is probably the number one reason people fail at fitness. Quantify what you want to achieve! Put a number on it and set a timeline. If you want to become a runner, sign up for a 5K and start building your mileage for race day. Then set up a gold, silver, and bronze medal goal: Bronze might be “Finish the race,” Silver might be “Finish in under 30 minutes,” and your Gold medal goal might be to beat your top time. The clearer your goals are, the easier it will be to see and celebrate your progress.