Workouts that work

By: Alison Dunn Jan 28, 2011

Going to the gym but not seeing results? You might not be exercising as effectively as you think

You’ve been heading to the gym diligently a few times a week, but you’re still not seeing results? It turns out you might be wasting your time.

By doing the same workout all the time, your body eventually gets used to it and you just won’t be working hard enough, says Paul Plakas, a fitness specialist and star of Slice Network’s X-Weighted.

“The human body is designed to be lazy,” he says. “It’s all about conserving energy, so it takes a mentally strong person to push themselves to the point of exhaustion. That’s why the fittest people in the world are professional athletes and Olympians. They take their bodies to levels the average person would never dream of doing.”

And while that’s not easy, if you don’t keep pushing yourself, you will definitely plateau, Plakas says. “It’s hard to do, but if you’re patient, you get used to the discomfort,” Plakas says. And, more importantly, you’ll start seeing real results.

How can you make your workouts more effective? Plakas offers these tips to bust out of your workout rut:

Combine strength training and cardio. Research shows that the most effective method of weight loss is to do a combination of strength training and cardiovascular workouts. That means it’s better to do a combination than to just run, bike, or hit the weight machines without doing anything else. The key is to expend a lot of calories, Plakas says. He recommends doing full-body circuits with free weights, linking one exercise after the other without rest. (For demos of full body circuits, check out Plakas’ “Bodcasts,”.)

Change the workload. Eventually, your body will adapt to any form of exercise, so Plakas recommends you change your workload as you go. Say, for example, you usually do 15 pushups. Try doing inverted pushups (feet raised slightly above the head), or changing your arm position to make pushups harder. Whatever you do, keep challenging yourself to reach new heights.

Buddy up. Grab a partner and work out with someone else, Plakas recommends. You might find that you work harder than usual just having someone else with you. “I know for myself, if I work out with a friend, I push myself more than I would on my own,” he says. “I push myself pretty hard, but I always go a little extra when someone is with me. They spot me, or get me to do an extra rep or two.”

Try something new. Don’t just change the workload of your exercise; try to change up your workout itself from time to time. For example, if you usually run, why not try biking or a boot camp class to shock your body a bit? Just make sure you’re working out at the same intensity as before, Plakas warns. You can’t go from an intensive boot camp-style workout to a gentle yoga class and expect the same results.

A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.