6 Reasons Why You May Not Be Making Progress At The Gym

No Progress At The Gym

There are two gym habits that bug me way more than they should. Girls (I’m stereotyping here, but since I never once saw a guy do it, and for reasons you’ll understand in a second, I’ll stick with the stereotype) who sat on a stationary bike, barely peddling, checking email and Facebook, and girls (again, I know) who, while in some class, barely did the moves and totally half-assed it.

Like all good pet peeves, there is no reason these things should bother me.

They don’t impact my life in any way, shape, or form.

They aren’t my problem to fix. In fact, they aren’t even problems.

And yet…

I (again) Try To Reverse Engineer My Pet Peeves

I don’t make a habit of trying to understand my pet peeves. Honestly, I don’t.

The exception is when a pet peeve bothers me so much that it begins to bother me that it bothers me (a little meta, I know). When I get to that point, figuring out why it annoys me often leads to it not bugging me quite as much.

After considering it, here is what I think is happening with my gym pet peeves: so often, the same girls engaging in these behaviors are the same ones I had to then overhear complaining in the locker room about how they aren’t losing weight and aren’t making progress.

I’d hear them complaining and think to myself: ‘you actually have to pedal the bike to lose weight, just sitting on it doesn’t work’ or ‘being in the room where a fitness class is happening isn’t enough.’

No Progress At The Gym

Why You May Not Be Making Progress At The Gym

It is all too common to not make the progress at the gym that you think you should make.

There are a few straightforward (and easily fixed) reasons this might be happening.

Wrong (or Vague) Measures

If you don’t feel like you are making progress, first consider what you call ‘progress.’ If you are only looking at your weight to judge success, you may miss all your successes that aren’t reflected on the scale.

Are classes or moves getting easier? Are your clothes fitting better? Have you stopped using beginner modifications to moves?

Also, be sure you have defined ‘progress.’ If you aren’t sure what your destination is, you’ll never get there.

You’ll never ‘get in shape.’ That is too vague of goal and impossible to measure success against.

What is success for you? Weight loss? Inches lost? The ability to do 10 push-ups or 1 pull up?

Fix: Before you complain about not making progress, make sure that you are, in fact, not making progress.

Social Media

I know, #sweatyselfies are fun.

However, if you are more interested in documenting your workout for social media than actually doing your workout, that is a problem.

Similarly, scanning your Facebook feed mid-workout will lead you to lose focus on what you are doing and your intensity (and results) will suffer.

Fix: Leave your phone in your locker. If you need your phone for the workout, temporarily disable Facebook, email, and similar notifications.

Avoiding the Hard Stuff

Workouts are supposed to be hard. Or at least they shouldn’t always be easy. If you never challenge yourself, you’ll never make progress.

Adapting a move because of injury or because you aren’t physically ready yet is fine (and is encouraged). But you shouldn’t cut corners just because a move is hard.

I’ll confess to occasionally being guilty of this one. I usually default to knee push-ups when I know I could do a few real ones. But they are hard and I don’t like them.

Your body being at the gym isn’t enough. You need to (at least occasionally) push yourself. Avoid the all warmup workout.

Fix: Do the move you hate. You hate it because those muscles are weak. The only way they won’t be weak is if you work them.


If you and a friend are on side-by-side treadmills pushing each other, and you happen to chat at the same time, that is one thing (but be aware of those around you- for a long time my gym was in a business district. While there, I heard many details of business transactions and complaints about bosses and co-workers that I don’t think should have been discussed openly. You never know who is listening).

However, watch out for chatting by the water fountain or in the locker room. That is just a time killer. There always are dudes (this one seems to happen more often with the guys!) who stop and chat when they go to grab towels.

Too much chatting can prevent you from working out entirely. Or, like social media, can make you lose focus and intensity.

Fix: Focus on what you are doing, keep the chatting to a minimum

No Rhyme Or Reason

Another one I have been guilty of: no plan for your workout, and no intentionality to what you are doing.

Lift a weight here, some time on the treadmill there.

While not every workout needs to be micromanaged, when structured properly, workouts can be optimized for the results you want.

Fewer moves and better results.

Fix: Have a plan. Create your own, or hire a trainer (at the gym or online).

Always Doing The Same Thing

If you’ve been doing the same workout for years, I’m willing to guess that you’ve stopped making progress.

While I am a huge fan of consistency, your body will adapt to pretty much anything you throw at it.

Even the hardest workouts won’t get results if you do the same thing too many times.

Fix: Switch it up. Work with a trainer or try a new move or machine (or two).


Sara is a runner, running coach, writer, blogger, and a lover of all things written.

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