Why People Fail Exercise Programs

Courtesy of NCSF

Successfully reaching most fitness goals takes time, effort and dedication; concepts that are becoming seemingly foreign in today’s “I want it now” culture. For example, losing fat or gaining muscle are both generally slow processes that require notable caloric expenditure, intelligent caloric intake and specific exercise stresses. Many people love to entertain the thought of pursuing such goals, but when it comes down to taking on the actual work that must be engaged, as well as setting realistic objectives - the allure of the challenge can quickly dissipate. Poor exercise adherence or completely giving up on a fitness goal is often based on physiological and psychological factors that limit success.The following are among the top contributors to “fitness failure”:

  • Setting unrealistic goals
    This is one of the most common mistakes. Setting an unrealistic goal is the easiest way to pave the road for discouragement. If weight loss is the goal, make sure you have a genuine understanding of the negative caloric balance that must be maintained. For example, just one pound of weight loss in a week theoretically requires a negative caloric balance of 500 kcals each day.
  • Failing to establish short-term goals
    The best way to take on a challenging long-term goal is to break it down into multiple short-term goals. This allows one to check on their progress down the road to see if they are on track – or if they need to modify an aspect of the program to get back on track.
  • Comparing oneself to other people
    The proliferation of social media and the constant streaming of media-imagery displaying “perfect people with perfect bodies” can create great frustration among those who do not fit the “marketable body type mold”. Each person has different skills, strengths, weaknesses and capacities, so comparing oneself to others often makes little sense. Furthermore, there are fitness enthusiasts who desire to engage in very high-intensity training all the time. A common theme nowadays is “go big or go home”. This certainly does not reflect the best interests of every person, as people will have slightly different goals (even if they are essentially working on the same thing). If you see another person doing an exercise that looks like it would qualify them as an acrobat in the circus – that does not mean you need to be able to do it.
  • Negative thinking
    The power of mind over matter comes into play here. Positive thinking is critical to success in almost any endeavor, while negative thinking often has an opposite effect. Positive thinking and imagery are used by elite athletes for a reason – it is known to improve performance and training outcomes. The impact of emotion on physical performance has been clearly demonstrated, so follow the science and keep an optimistic and determined outlook to increase your chances of success.
  • Having an inadequate total game plan
    Everything you do in the weight room can be sabotaged by what you do outside of the weight room. Most fitness goals must be tackled with a multifactorial approach, where the workouts themselves as well as optimal nutrition and avoidance of unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, promote victory. Consuming processed junk food and/or alcohol after an intense workout can have a significant impact on the benefits obtained during the training session.
  • Scheduling/priority issues
    This can be a major obstacle for some people with time-consuming family and occupational-responsibilities. The key is to make the fitness goal a life priority, and to see what you could possibly do without (e.g., TV relaxation time with your favorite shows). For most people, fitness should be made a habitual component of daily life to optimize results. For those with the most arduous schedules, remember that training sessions can be split into multiple, smaller time segments – or the intensity can be increased (when appropriate) to get more done in a shorter period of time.
  • Failing to be informed
    It does not matter how good your game plan is if you don’t know what needs to be done to reach your goal. For example, if you are trying to maximize hypertrophic gains, you will probably see relatively limited gains if you only train three times each week, in which you only hit each muscle group a single time. In this case, optimal hypertrophy gains would be better obtained by training each muscle two times each week via greater training frequency.



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