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Q. How long does it take to get noticeable results from a workout regimen?
A. First, define for yourself what you mean by “noticeable”
This is a very hard question to answer because everyone has a different idea of what they want to see as “noticeable results.” If you mean “reduction in inches” you can see some changes in 3-6 weeks. If you mean “increased energy and decreased hiking times” you can experience that in as few as 2-3 weeks, with gained speed on each and every outing. If you mean “lose the excess 50 pounds and have a six-pack” that could take an entire year or more. If by “noticeable results” you mean an increase in a specific lift (i.e. more pull-ups or pushups) you can see changes in as little as 1-2 weeks. If you are starting your training right now (i.e. in February) for a summer activity, you have plenty of time to strengthen your body for your favorite outdoor activity, decrease hiking times, as well as start to transform the outward appearance of your body.
Second, consider the following variables
There are literally so many variables that affect your training and how your body will react to your workouts. To get started on your way to “noticeable results,” whatever that may mean to you, remember the following five points:
- STARTING POINT
What is your current activity level? Do you know your percent body fat? Most importantly, do you have the right GENES to see fast results? Most of us do not. If you are brand new to exercise, you will probably “see” faster results than someone who has been training for several years, as nearly any exercise plan out there will make a difference when you are just starting out. As your body gets stronger and more fit, “noticeable” results take more time to see.
It took time for you to put on the weight, and it will take at least as much time to lose it (it seems like losing weight is far more challenging for most people than gaining!) Quick fix solutions almost always backfire, so what you really need to keep in mind is that you need to make LIFELONG HABIT CHANGES, things you can enjoy and include for many years to come, not merely a few short weeks. A new habit takes at least 3 weeks to become firmly established; it will take at least that much of a time commitment for most people simply to adapt the HABIT of exercising and eating well, and another 3 weeks to feel and look better. Anytime you are starting a new program, allow at least 6 weeks to “see results.”
- CARDIOVASCULAR TRAINING
Analyze how much cardiovascular exercise you are performing (how much, how often, when, what kind, and how intensely you train). If you are doing the same workout 4 days a week and have been doing so for months, you simply are not providing enough stimulus for change – your body has already adapted to what you are doing and you need to either increase duration of your workouts, up the intensity, or try another type of exercise. See our articles on Interval training for ideas on how to get out of a rut with your aerobic training at www.bodyresults.com/e2fartlekintervals.asp.
- STRENGTH TRAINING
What is your current routine? Are you using strength machines or free weights? Are the exercises appropriate for your training goals? How long are your strength sessions? How many sets, reps, and weight are you using? And when was the last time you changed your routine? If you continue to use the same weight for each exercise and have for months, again, as in number (2) you need to change something about your program. If you usually do sets of 15 repetitions and would like to see noticeable gains in strength, you need to increase the weight you are using and perform sets of 6-10 repetitions. If you have been doing sets of 100 abdominal curls but still have lower back problems and cannot see your “six-pack” showing, not only do you need to include exercises to help strengthen the lower back, but you also need to pay more attention to your nutrition. If your number one goal is to change your body composition (i.e. reduce body fat) but you do not include any strength training, then your top priority should be to start including strength training in order to build lean muscle mass.
For most people interested in “seeing results” and “losing bodyfat,” this is by far the hardest but most important component to manipulate. By reducing your intake by 250 calories a day (the equivalent of roughly a small serving of McDonald’s French Fries or 2 pieces of buttered toast) and increasing exercise expenditure by 250 calories a day (a 30 minute walk or bike ride) you will lose weight at a safe rate of a pound a week. Any adults (21+ years of age) consuming fewer than 1200 calories in order to “crash diet” are literally setting themselves up for suffering from the “yo-yo diet” syndrome: destruction of lean muscle mass and reduced metabolic rate, so as soon as you return to your “normal eating habits” you will likely regain what you lost and then some. REMEMBER, these are LIFELONG HABITS you need to establish now. For more on whether a Low Carb diet might work for you, see our new article at www.bodyresults.com/e2lowcarbdiets.asp.
When starting out on a strength training program, you can literally start to see results in 1-2 weeks; adding cardiovascular exercise can help you feel a difference (increased energy and stamina) in as little as 2-3 weeks, or weekly on some measured outing such as a hike. Your body gets used to whatever workout program you are doing in roughly 3-4 weeks, so if you don't keep changing SOMETHING about your workouts, you may find yourself reaching what's called a “training plateau” and stop making noticeable progress. Rule of thumb: whenever you start to get a little bored with your routine, it's time to change things to keep it interesting and varied. If you are not getting the results you want in 6 weeks, it’s time to make some more dramatic changes!