It has been two sweat-filled months of your new fitness program it is time to tally your accomplishments. That painful soreness that bludgeoned you the morning after a workout has receded to a distant memory. Your lifts are trending up and the number on the scale is even heading in the right direction- albeit not as fast as hoped. All the numbers indicate that those hard hours in the gym and discipline at the grocery store are paying off.
Why, then, the frustration when you look in the mirror?
You’ve put in the effort but your goal body is nowhere in sight. What gives?
Working out is hard because it takes time. It takes a lot of time, and we aren’t accustomed to waiting for results. Technology has changed our brains and hard-wired us to expect our desires to be filled instantaneously. Want a hook-up for the night? Done. Sudden itch to travel? Book a plane ticket in minutes. But doesn’t conform to that mold, which is made even more frustrating by our unrealistic expectations on how quickly progress can be achieved.
Attaining your goal physique just doesn’t mesh with our culture of instant gratification. Not only does it require dedication and permanent lifestyle changes, it demands patience. And that’s the hardest part for most people.
Despair not. The six pack and barrel chest may be months or even years away, but there are definite signs along the way that prove you’re on the right track. Identify these signs. Celebrate them. Because one day you’re gonna make it.
Your First Mire
“Have you been working out?” is music for sore ears. It is the objective, empirical proof that your body is indeed improving.
It is easy to miss out on subtle muscle growth or weight loss when you’re looking at your own reflection in the mirror every day. The fact is that you aren’t going to look that different from day to day, or even week to week. But incremental change is happening, nonetheless. Your lats are becoming a little more pronounced, your triceps are getting a little bit bigger.
Run into an acquaintance you haven’t seen in a few months and they’ll notice the difference that has been going on the whole time. The first time you hear it you can rest assured that the transformation has officially begun.
Look Forward To Your Workout
The first few workouts suck. The morning after is a soreness-filled nightmare that makes it tough to even get out of bed. You run out of breath too quickly during cardio and lifting makes your arms shake like a palm tree during a hurricane. Beginners feel awkward and out of place at the gym, and former athletes are demoralized when they can’t lift like they used to.
Then, after a hellish first month, things start getting a little better. There’s no soreness the next morning, and you know your way around the machinery. Your work out isn’t easy, but a trip to the gym is now just another part of your usual routine.
After the “acceptance” stage something crazy happen, something so outlandish your old self wouldn’t be able to believe it. You actually start looking forward to the gym. Your body has adjusted to the extra boost of energy that comes after a workout. You crave the feel-good endorphins exercise releases and want to replicate that positive feeling at the gym.
Once you start looking forward to the gym and view it as positive experience, you have undergone a crucial lifestyle transformation necessary for long term change.
Forget To Be Tempted
Maybe the gym isn’t keeping you from your goal body. The problem is food, in all its glorious tasty goodness, which sucks because you need both exercise and a healthy diet to look your best. This is especially hard for guys trying to lose weight. Every trip to the grocery store is an epic battle of temptation. The Siren-song of fast food signs lure you in to shipwreck. A thousand rationalizations can turn into a large pepperoni pizza at a moment’s notice.
But once you string together enough dietary victories, the whole process gets a little easier. Sure, you may still have fond memories of late-night taco binges, but making the right choice is smoother. You see your favorite snack foods at the store but don’t pause longingly in front of them.
Then, without notice, they disappear from your mind almost completely. A whole grocery trip comes and goes without even a quick stroll down the soda aisle. A bad day at work doesn’t conjure up even a single thought of cheesy garlic bread sticks.
Work out enough times and you start looking forward to it. Keep bad foods out of your diet long enough and see a significant drop in cravings. And when your unhealthy triggers start to disappear, you’ve made another lifestyle coup that leads directly to your goal body.
Crush Your First Plateau
The period of fastest and most intense progress comes when you just start working out. “Noob gains” are the result of muscles exposed to new stimuli for the first time. The amount of weight you need to move exceeds your body’s ability to recover, so beginning lifters can put more weight on the bar each trip to the gym.
This forward-motion is a great motivator for new lifters. It’s encouraging and fun to see rapid gains in your lifts. But this early progress is unsustainable, and linear improvement falls off to a stagnant plateau.
A plateau is just what it sounds like- the amount of weight stalls or you can’t improve your cardio time. The first plateau can be demoralizing to a lifter who only knows progress. This is also the stage where a lot of people give up or start to resent working out.
If you want to get bigger your lifts have to go up, and it sometimes requires a bit of creative problem-solving to get there. You might need to add accessory lifts to your routine, alter your eating habits or even change your routine completely.
Once you burst through the plateau and accept progress is going to be slower from here on out, you have broken through one of the toughest mental and physical barriers standing between you and your goal body. There will be more plateaus in the future, but you’ve bested one and are primed for the rest.
So go on, cast aside any delusions that there’s a quick fix along the way. Know that you’re in it for the long haul, but well on your way. The events on this list are proof that you are stronger than the culture of instant gratification, you’re committed to your goals and, best of all, you’re in the process of achieving them.