No matter what the fad diets and fitness challenges tell you, getting fit is a long-term commitment, and it does not necessarily yield instant results. There’s no way around it: making significant changes to your body composition (and maintaining it for the long haul!) requires sizeable lifestyle changes.
So when it comes to getting healthy and getting fit, many people find themselves falling flat before reaching their goals.
But why is it so hard? Here are the most common factors that might be sabotaging your fitness goals and how you can overcome them.
The 10 Most Common Factors that Sabotage Fitness Goals
Whether it’s physical, mental, or a little bit of both, fatigue is one of the worst roadblocks for successfully reaching your goals.
Physical fitness requires a fair amount of energy: energy to get to the gym, energy to hit your workout, and energy to consistently prepare healthy meals. That, combined with the other pressures of daily life, can make it hard to stay on the grind for a sustained period.
Solution: When it comes to getting fit, you have to remember that It’s a marathon, not a sprint. When you start diving into workouts and eating right, make sure that you’re making gradual but deliberate changes rather than big immediate changes so you can avoid early burnout and maintain those habits over time.
In addition, try scheduling your workouts and meal prep time for the times of the day or week that you are at your most active. For example, if you know that you want to crash at the end of the day and are more of a morning person, try to do your workout first thing in the morning so you can get it out of the way.
Luckily, it can also be a self-fulfilling prophecy since working out often can improve your energy levels in the long run!
2) Lack of motivation
When you first embarked on your fitness journey, you were probably itching at the seams to get started. But that initial spark of motivation can only take you so far once you really get into the grind, no matter how good your reason was for getting started.
So losing sight of your motivation is common, and it’s a big reason that you might start skipping your workouts and falling back into bad eating habits.
Solution: Even the fittest among us know this to be true: you’re not always going to be motivated every second of every day.
When it comes to reaching your goals despite lapses in motivation, the key is to stay accountable to something outside of yourself. For example, one study found that women who were held accountable by a support group or their loved ones were better able to adhere to their fitness routines.
Having to answer to someone other than yourself means that you have another source of motivation, even if you aren’t always intrinsically motivated yourself. So enlist your loved ones, your gym partners, or a personal trainer to keep you on track even if you aren’t feeling it yourself.
3) No Time
Sometimes, keeping up with your exercise and training routine can feel like a full-time job. When you have other pressing matters on your agenda like work, family, and personal life, fitness often ends up taking the back seat.
If you really want to be successful despite a time crunch, it may be time to reprioritize.
Solution: In cases like these, it’s important to remember that many fit people don’t have a wealth of free time, but they find ways to work around that to meet their goals.
If you really want to achieve your goals, you have to make it a priority and factor it in as an expectation, not an option. This might mean rearranging your current schedule and treating it like any other priority on your to-do list!
For example, if you find that you like to go straight to the couch at the end of a long workday to relax, you can make a rule for yourself to not take it easy until you’ve checked your workout and meal prep off of your daily list. Alternatively, you may have to get up earlier in the morning if that’s the only time available to you. Making time for it might not be the easiest thing initially, but it’ll be worth it in the end.
4) Expecting instant results
So you’ve been working out hard, eating the right things, and overall crushing all the items on your to-do list – and yet it’s been two weeks, and you aren’t seeing any physical progress.
For the most part, this is normal. Even if you’re doing everything right and taking on all the healthy habits you need for a sustainable rate of weight loss or body recomposition, you’re probably not going to see a ton of progress day by day. Sticking with your healthy habits long-term will yield those results over time.
Unfortunately, the diet industry often sells us the idea that you can lose a ton of weight really quickly, which can make it demotivating when you aren’t noticing those quick changes on the scale.
Solution: Change your mentality of what results and progress look like to you. Rather than just focusing on the scale alone, try taking stock of other forms of progression, like measurements and body composition outputs, including Body Fat Percentage and Skeletal Muscle Mass.
You can also take a look at your performance progression. Are you lifting heavier weights? Has your stamina increased? Is your performance in the gym way better than it was initially? These are all signs that you’re making progress towards your final goal.
And at the end of the day, know that fitness is not a month-long deal—it’s something you’re getting into for the long haul.
5) Not staying consistent
No matter what your goal is, the biggest changes happen when you make healthy lifestyle changes and develop daily habits that you keep up.
On the other hand, sporadic workouts and the occasional healthy meal probably aren’t going to get you the results you want. You should be making better choices the majority of the time if you want to make meaningful, long-term changes.
Solution: When you first start your fitness journey, it might be difficult to drop bad habits and develop new ones, so one way to establish consistency is by committing to doing something for a set amount of time. One study found that it takes approximately 66 days for healthy eating habits to become an automatic behavior and about 1.5 times this amount for physical activity.
So if you’re having a hard time following your fitness and eating plan consistently, make a non-negotiable schedule for three months and see how your life changes. In this period, you’re likely to develop better habits that become second nature, which will lead to better results.
In short, if you can stick with it for three months, you’ll probably be able to stick with it in the long run!
6) Not setting concrete goals
If you’re having trouble reaching your goals, you might want to take a look at the goals themselves.
Many times, we have a general idea of what we want our fitness to look like, but we don’t make a concrete road map to getting there. We know that we want to “lose weight” or “be healthy,” but these goals aren’t measurable.
They’re also broad enough that they can look like different things. Only having a big, vague picture of what you want to accomplish can then make it hard to plan how to make it happen or to see any actual progress along the way.
Solution: One of the best strategies for goal setting is to set “SMART” goals. The acronym SMART stands for:
Making sure your goal-setting falls into these parameters gives you a much clearer picture of what you’re trying to accomplish and also affords you less wiggle-room so you can achieve it much sooner.
- “I’m going to go to the gym and work out for one hour, five days a week this month”
is a lot more specific and measurable than “I’m going to work out more.” It gives you a clear guideline of what you need to do so you can set yourself up for success.
Body composition analysis is also a great tool for setting and achieving SMART goals. Knowing your Body Fat Mass, Skeletal Muscle Mass, and other measurable factors can establish a baseline, let you set achievable goals, and see your progress along the way.
7) Not factoring in rest
Frequent, consistent trips to the gym are obviously vital to achieving your goals. However, you may also see your progression slowing down if you’re working out too hard.
You may be putting in the work while you’re in the gym, but the real progress happens when you’re resting. Rest allows your muscles to recover and grow, while not allowing your muscles ample time to recover can lead to overtraining syndrome and slow down your progress.
Solution: Make sure you take a couple of days every week to rest and recover from your workouts. This is especially important after high-intensity exercise sessions like high-intensity interval training when your muscles need time to replenish their fuel.
You don’t have to be completely dormant during this time, either. Walking, practicing yoga, or other forms of gentle exercise gives your body time to recover while still keeping you active.
8) Getting too comfortable
You might have had a lot of success doing the same workouts when you first began, but you may notice over time that they’re getting easier, and thus, you aren’t seeing the same rate of progression.
That same workout routine, using the same weights and equipment, is only going to get you so far. While that routine might have helped you see a ton of progress at the beginning of the journey, you have to remember that you’re getting stronger and improving your fitness levels, and you have to continuously challenge yourself to avoid falling into a fitness “plateau.”
Solution: Frequently change up your workouts so that you can continue to challenge your body! If you start to get a little too comfortable with your current routine and it becomes less challenging, you can:
- Increase the weights you’re working with or the number of reps you have in each set.
- Change up the tempo. You can shorten your rest period between each set to keep your heart rate high or slow down your lifts to really focus on your muscle contraction.
- Experiment with different kinds of sets. If you’ve been doing the same kinds of lifts, try drop sets, supersets, or AMRAP (as many reps as possible) to challenge your muscles differently.
- Do new exercises altogether. For example, if you’ve been doing a lot of weightlifting, experiment with some plyometric body exercises. If you’ve been focused on high-intensity interval training, incorporate a long run or bike ride instead.
Changing up your workout routine will keep your body challenged, and that’s great news for making progress.
9) Not prioritizing diet
Fitness is not just about hitting the gym. If you want to really start seeing results, your diet also matters.
Take this study: researchers evaluated how exercise without dietary change would help women and their fitness levels. They found that the women in the study who didn’t change their diet actually gained fat mass, despite exercising consistently and improving their physical fitness levels.
The adage “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet” is very true. Whether your goals are to lose fat, gain muscle, or increase your performance, eating a healthy and balanced diet can make all the difference.
Solution: Make sure you always have access to planned healthy foods that align with your fitness goals. You’ll want to pay attention to portion sizes and calorie count, especially if you’re looking to lose or gain weight. You’ll also want to make sure that each day’s diet is balanced, with the right servings of high-quality carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
This may mean setting aside a dedicated time each week to plan out recipes and meal prep. You can also use a fitness-oriented meal prep delivery service that plans out the macronutrients and calorie counts.
10) Giving up at the first setback
As nice as it would be to always stay perfectly on course, the reality is that life sometimes gets in the way. You’re probably going to come across situations where you can’t eat the “right” foods or have to skip a workout session.
It’s an all-too-common scenario: it’s Friday, and you decide to treat yourself to a drink with your friends. But one drink turns into two, which turns into an appetizer, and before you know it, you’ve eaten your entire calorie count for the day. Then, you decide that you might as well let loose since you’ve already “messed up,” and your whole weekend spirals away from you, and you decide you’ll just wait until Monday to get back on plan.
Solution: Don’t fall into the trap of waiting until Monday to correct any behaviors. Make the right behavior changes right away—an occasional cheat meal won’t undo your progress if you’ve been consistent otherwise but letting your cheat meal turn into a weekend-long affair might.
Get into the habit of minimizing the negative self-talk in these situations. Don’t think of it as “messing up,” but rather as a normal lapse that can be easily corrected right away.
The Bottom Line On Making Your Fitness Goals A Reality
Getting fit might conjure up images of hitting the gym and eating salads, but real progress is all about making long-term behavior changes. The best way to ensure that you are doing everything you need to succeed is to establish healthy habits, look beyond short-term goals in favor of the bigger picture, and track your progress in performance, body composition, and lifestyle changes along the way. This way, you’ll be able to stay accountable, know your milestones, and see your goals all the way through!
Erica Digap is a freelance writer specializing in nutrition science, fitness, and health. After receiving her BSc in Clinical Nutrition and working in the corporate diet industry, she decided to set forth and use her experience to inspire readers to make lasting, healthy lifestyle changes, one healthy meal and workout at a time.