One of the most common questions I get, especially early on with clients, is “why am I not seeing results?” and today we’re going to dive into a couple of reasons:
- Have you given yourself enough time? Change doesn’t happen overnight
- Are you actually sure you aren’t seeing results, or just not the end result you want? Maybe you’ve improved in some key areas like strength, but your weight is the same
- Then the tough question: are you actually putting in the work in a good program?
We’re going to dive into these areas so you can determine if you are actually seeing results, or not and how. How to give yourself an appropriate timeframe, and how to make changes if what you’re doing truly isn’t working.
Welcome back to the Not Your Mama podcast. This is your host, Kelly Bryant, and this week we are tackling a big scary question that most trainers do not like to hear, which is, why am I not seeing results yet? And this is a very multifaceted kind of complicated question.
So I wanted to kind of jump into it in a little bit more detail and you guys know that I’m not all about spinning you BS, so we’re going to kind of break it down and be really honest. So get prepared for a lot of honesty in the next 20 or so minutes. So my first question for you is, when you are thinking, why am I not seeing results, is are you really not seeing results yet because.
How long has it actually been? Is it reasonable to assume that you’ll have seen results at this point? This is a really common question that I get when people start working with me, is how long is it gonna take? And it’s complicated. First of all, uh, typically I say like, if you saw results in a month, that’s possible and would be amazing, but it’s not gonna happen for everyone.
If you haven’t seen results within three months, that’s where I start to get a little bit more nervous. That’s where it’s like, okay, we need to kind of look at the plan, reassess things, make sure that we’re doing everything we should to get you the results that you want. So one to three months is the bare minimum.
That’s like, don’t even, don’t even start thinking, why am I not seeing results yet if it hasn’t been three months? It can still take longer, right? You’re not gonna be at your end goal within three months, but you should be starting to see indicators that things are going in the right direction. The other part of this is are you really not seeing results?
So maybe it’s been three plus months and you’re like, no, I haven’t seen results. And my question is really? Because when clients say this to me, my response is almost always to just do this double take and be like, excuse me, what? Like, you’re seeing crazy results. When you started, you could barely push 10 pounds over your head and now you’re doing like overhead presses with twenties.
That’s a huge, huge change. Uh, maybe you’re not seeing this scale move, but you’re fitting into a different sized pants than you used to. Maybe you used to have urinary incontinence on a daily basis, and now it occasionally happens when you run. All of those things are progress. Are they the result that you ultimately want to be at?
No, but they’re an indicator that things are going in the right direction. So if you’re seeing any kind of results, That’s a positive indicator, and that’s when you want to keep going. Not quit because you haven’t gotten to the finish line yet. That’s like running a 5K and getting to mile one and being like, Ugh, why am I not done yet?
And it’s like, You’re on the route, you’re doing the right thing. You just have to keep going. Just keep going in this same direction. So even if you haven’t reached your finish line, your after where you ultimately want to get, if you are seeing any indicators that things are going in the right direction, keep going.
My next suggestion would be maybe get some quantitative data. So, I do not recommend quantitative data for everyone. And what I mean by quantitative data is a scale, weight, uh, measurement. Even a photo can be, to some extent, a little bit more quantitative than qualitative. I don’t recommend using those kinds of data unless that data is going to positively impact your behavior and only positively impact it.
So my least favorite thing in the world, As a trainer is having a client who feels really excited because they’re feeling like they fit into their clothes better. They are way stronger than they used to be. They have more energy, they physically feel better, and then they get on the scale and they’re discouraged.
I’m like, it is only because I have a microphone on this desk that I’m not like slamming my hands into it because. It makes me so angry. Not at the client, not at that individual person, but at this diet industrial complex that can take someone’s massive successes and just by looking at a singular measurement, invalidate all of it and make them feel like they’re failing.
That blows. And so my professional opinion, this is self-preservation for you. My professional opinion is if it’s not going to positively impact your behavior, don’t measure it.
So some people actually can feel neutral about the scale. They may want to follow along and see what the scale is doing, and know that if they don’t see change, they’re gonna be fired up to keep going. And if they do see change, they’re gonna be fired up to keep going. That is the only circumstance where I ever want someone to measure anything is if it’s going to have a positive impact.
Either way, if there’s a chance that you could be crushing it, doing amazing, doing all of the right things and making progress on a lot of indicators, but looking at a particular measurement is going to cause you to quit, you should not be looking at that measurement, right? Not if you wanna do this sustainably long term, if you’re feeling better, if you’re feeling stronger, if you’re excited about those things.
Hitting, whatever quantifiable numerical goal you may have is inevitable. It is ultimately inevitable that you’ll reach those goals. If you’re enjoying the process and it’s sustainable and it feels good and you’re hyped up about it, you’ll get where you’re trying to go. So you don’t need to measure stuff, uh, to be inspired.
You don’t need numbers to be inspired, but they might be helpful for when you hit this hump and you go. I’m not seeing progress. You can validate that, right? So I mean the, like if you have a body recomposition goal, the ultimate measurement would be like a DEXA scan, which measures, um, your, like actual muscle mass.
If you have a functional goal, you would track your ability to do that functional thing. So an example would be if you’ve had urinary incontinence and you wanna see improvement with that. Keep a little journal on your nightstand every night. You can either, this applies to any like pain or dysfunction related thing.
You can either grade things on like a one to five, like five is like you completely lost all ba bladder control and soaked yourself. One is didn’t have any incidents of urinary incontinence. Didn’t even think about it, didn’t even feel like you were going to, and again, you can tailor that to whatever it is that you need to measure.
Um, You can track that. You can track, um, just a yes no, right? Like, did I have symptoms today? Yes or no? And you can track that. That can be useful for a lot of other things as well, like overlaying that with your cycle or overlaying that with stress at work or other factors. But that can be a quantifiable way.
Tracking symptoms to see functional improvement. Obviously there’s strength improvement, which is very straightforward. It’s can you lift more than you could before? Those are. Quantifiable measurements and then, you know, obviously scale, weight, body measurements, photos, those are an option. But I actually, I like the DEXA better if it’s accessible and available to you.
If it’s not, you could use a combination of body measurements and um, scale weight. It’s not my favorite, but that would at least allow you to validate. When you feel like I’m not making any progress, can you actually prove that? Can you see that? So that would be part one of this tale is why am I not seeing results?
And my question is, are you really not seeing results? And have you given it enough time? Most of you will be in that camp of either you haven’t given it enough time, you’re doing the right things, you just need to be more patient. Or you haven’t actually measured it and you probably are seeing some kind of results and you just haven’t measured it. But let’s just say for the sake of argument that you have given it six months and you have measured everything and your DEXA scan says that you have not gained any muscle, or your symptoms are exactly the same as they were when you started.
Okay? This next part is for you. Let’s talk about it. And there’s no nice way for me to say, there’s no comfortable way for me to say this. And that is just,
are you doing an effective program to the best of your ability? So in the last episode, I talked a little bit about what is your best effort and how important it is to show up consistently and just do your best today. Even if that isn’t super impressive, even if you don’t think that you’re doing a really good job and I never want someone to use that, I never want someone to reference that podcast and be like, that’s my excuse to do mediocre work forever.
To kind of show up half the time, 60% of the time and give like a D level effort. Don’t take that message of mediocre workouts. And apply that to that end, that message is for the A plus students who don’t know how to do anything but a plus work all the time and get discouraged and frustrated when they can’t.
A mediocre workout is a B minus effort. So if you’re showing up and you’re giving D effort, barely trying pretty consistently, that’s not good enough. That’s not enough to see change. You have to be giving it. B minus effort pretty consistently. Is it okay to have a one-off week? That’s just trash, of course, but you should have just as many weeks that are a plus.
Amazing weeks so that they’re all averaging out. You should be pretty consistently doing a decent job and if you’re not showing up at that intensity, that bears some reflection. Why is that? Is it an energy thing? Is it cuz you’re not enjoying it? Do you need to be getting more sleep at night? Do you need to find a new trainer or a new.
Studio or a new gym so that you can feel excited about being there. There’s lots of workarounds for that, and that’s not gonna be the topic of this episode, but make sure you’re really invested and you’re showing up and you’re doing your best effort today. Whatever that is, do your best progress, your weights lift heavier, try the heavier weight.
Right? This is something I had to really work on with myself that like I tend to. Put up the weights that I know I can do. I rarely, very, very, very rarely bail early on a set. And what that tells me as a coach, if I’m just examining the facts, what that tells me as a coach is I’m probably not trying heavy enough and I’m probably leaving a lot of gains.
Un, un gained. There are gains to be gained that I have not gained because I am not, I’m not actually pushing myself hard enough. If I don’t care about getting progressively stronger or I’m not trying to gain muscle mass, that’s fine. If you’re just moving to feel good or you’re moving because you know that it’s good for your body and you just want to, or it’s good for your mental health, you don’t have to keep progressing your weights.
But if you’re trying to see a specific tangible results and you’re not seeing it, I would ask yourself, am I really pushing myself and am I. Consistently pretty consistent, right? Not to be too redundant there, but decent effort most of the time. A few bad weeks, a few really good weeks. So I feel like a D bag saying that, but it’s possible you need to try harder, and I hope that you take that with like all of the love it’s intended with and the fact that I’ve been there too, and really apply that.
That said, that’s not the only reason. There’s also applying that effort to a good program, right? So if you’re showing up to group fitness classes and you’re doing the same routine over and over again with three pound weights, maybe it’s not exactly the same, but it’s more or less the same. Over and over and over again, and you’re not seeing results, you’re not progressing.
This is why we do progressive overload, strength training programs in my classes. Um, I want you to be pushing yourself lifting more each week. That is what exercise science has found is necessary to, um, effectively get stronger or gain muscle. So if those kinds of things are within your goals, You have to actually do the same workout a few weeks in a row, and you have to actually get better at it.
You have to progress, you have to lift more weight, you have to do more reps. And if you’re not following like an organized training plan, that’s the first place I would start. Not with your level of effort, not with your frequency, but with actually following an organized plan. And then the last part of the actual, you know, just the program and the execution of your plan is frequency.
So there is a ideal frequency. Most people have in their mind an ideal frequency. Some people tell me seven days a week, and I’m like, y’all are monsters. Some people it’s five days a week. Some people it’s three days a week for an hour. And if you’re consistently not hitting your ideal frequency, I would pause it.
But that’s not your ideal frequency. There is I, I coined this in my, uh, In the last week with a client, the zone of suck. The zone of suck is the place where you’re hitting 50, 60% of your workouts all the time. And the reason that it is the zone of suck is because most of us have some really shitty self-talk when we’re in that range, right?
When you’re not hitting all of your workouts, maybe you give yourself grace for like a week. You’re like, oh, was that on my period? Or I had like a really rough work week. Okay, cool. You give yourself a pass, and then if it keeps happening, you start to say really shitty things about yourself, and that’s real sucky because you’re doing work.
You’re actually showing up and doing several workouts a week, multiple, usually like two, three workouts, but you’re never getting the emotional payoff of being like good job self. And so if you’ve put yourself in the zone of suck, you either want to change. Your plan to say like, okay, instead of doing forties, I’m gonna do three.
Or instead of doing 45 minute workouts, I’m gonna do 30 minute workouts. Change something so that it’s more doable, or change your mindset around it and try to get excited for whatever it is that you did. Whatever you completed, get hype about it. Cheer yourself on. Be proud of yourself for what you have done as opposed to what you haven’t, and.
That is a great way to kind of get out of the zone of suck, which is ultimately gonna allow you to probably unlock a new level of consistency. So that is the program component. If you’re not seeing results, you need to be following a structured, logical, progressive program, giving your best effort and hitting workouts consistently.
Now, this is not gonna be a nutrition podcast, but I wanna talk about the nutrition side of it. It. And with all of these kind of self-assessments that I’m asking you to do, I wanna, uh, say something that my coach, one of my mentors, uh, Jill Coleman says, which is, get clinical, not critical. We’re not interested in uncovering these truths so that you can be like, Ugh, I suck.
This is why I’m not seeing results. I’m the worst. This is so stupid. How did I not know this? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. This is so that you can go, huh? Interesting. Let me dig into this, because the reality is your body wants to adapt. Your body wants to get stronger. It wants to actually respond to whatever you’re giving it.
Whatever impetus you’re giving it to change. It wants to adapt and change, and so if it’s not, we have to get clinical about why that is. And nutrition is one part of that, and this is something that I also have to check myself on from time to time. So if you are feeling like I’m doing all the things, I’m crushing it in the gym, I’m doing really good work.
Either you are undereating or you’re overeating. It’s one of the two. Right. I know I’ve really narrowed it down for you, but I’ll give you a couple examples. There’s one side of things where it’s like, You are, um, feeling like your muscles are constantly sore. You’re constantly fatigued. You’re doing the work and you’re not getting any stronger and you’re putting up the same weights and you’ve tried going heavier and your body can’t do it.
That would suggest that you are maybe seeing, um, a little bit undereating. You are not getting enough protein, perhaps, specifically. So that’s an experiment you can try. What what would happen if I ate? 40 m grams of protein than my normal, and you’d have to define my normal, whatever that is for you. Um, or I like a hundred grams as like a great kind of baseline goal for most, um, women.
So that’s part one is like, are you eating enough and are you eating enough protein specifically so that your body actually can build muscle and recover from the workouts that you’re doing. And then there’s obviously at the other side of it, which is are you overeating? If you have a, this is particularly for people who have a body change or recomposition goal.
If you want to lose fat, gain muscle, anything like that, you either have to crush it in the gym and gain a lot of muscle and eat your maintenance calories. Or you have to eat, crush it in the gym still, yes, maybe not as hard, but eat a little bit under your maintenance calories at a slight deficit. And I’ve talked more about calorie balance in a previous episode.
Um, so I’m not gonna dig into that too much. But you have to find that calorie balance. And something that I know for myself is that sometimes I need to just do a day of food logging a couple days to like kind of reality check myself again, because. A lot of us do what I am going to call lifestyle creep.
That’s a personal finance term, but like it’s nutritional lifestyle creep where we think we we’re like, oh, I always eat clean. And then you actually look at it and you’re like, okay, I used to have a beer like once a week and now I’m having a beer like four days a week. Or Oh, that, uh, little treat that I give myself on special occasions has become a kind of large treat that I give myself seven days a week. Right? That’s like a, oh shoot. I’ve actually kind of like slowly allowed my calorie intake to creep up. And I have a theory that this is actually responsible for a lot of, when we say like, oh, I just, you know, I’m aging and I just have started gaining weight since I hit my, fill in the blank.
Right? Since, as I hit my twenties, since I hit my thirties, since I hit my forties, I’ve just put on weight, um, Yes, there is definitely scientific data that shows that that is, um, in large part due to losing muscle mass. But I also think a lot of us are probably seeing a little bit of lifestyle creep too, where now the kids are in sports four days a week and so we get takeout or fast food and we don’t have as much control over how much we eat or what, um, ingredients we’re eating or.
Things like that, where it’s like slowly, slowly, slowly, we’re eating more foods that we’re not thinking about. And so just checking in and logging for a couple days can be a really useful tool to gut check yourself. And I’m gonna leave it at that because I have done that whole other episode about calorie balance, but that’s where I would start.
If you’re in this camp of feeling like, I’m not seeing results, I’m doing all the work, why am I not seeing results? That would be my gut check for nutrition is are you eating enough specifically protein, and are you. Overeating specifically, look at like a couple days and get a realistic sense and make sure one of those is a weekend day.
Get a realistic sense of how you typically eat. If you are in this camp of saying, why am I not not seeing results? I really hope that this is helpful for you, that you’re getting clinical, not critical about your results because your body is 100% capable of adapting, capable of change, and. I hope that you are able to kind of love it and support it through that process as opposed to getting frustrated or feeling bad.