A big reason people fail to make progress in the gym is because of the amount of effort they put in. Going to the gym with regularity is good, but just going to the gym and doing something is not enough to accomplish big changes. Like many things in life, the more effort a person puts in, the more they get back.

It is true that something is better than nothing. Making the effort to get to the gym and do anything is better than sitting at home and embracing a sedentary lifestyle. If the only goal is to maintain the level of fitness and body composition a person already has, then regular moderate exercise is fine.

Few people go to the gym without trying to reach a goal. Most gym patrons have a specific improvement they are trying to attain. Perhaps the goal is to build bigger muscles or to tone muscles. A common goal is to shed body fat.

Regardless of the goal, moderate exercise is going to do little, if any, good at affecting change. Yet that is precisely the kind of exercise many people looking to achieve goals perform. That is a mistake.

Too many people exercise to the point that it becomes uncomfortable and then they stop. That means they push themselves right up to the point that they can begin making a difference and then end their workout before the difference can be made.

Imagine digging for a buried treasure and when you are only inches away from unearthing the fortune, you climb out of the hole and fill the dirt back in. Now imagine doing that multiple times a week. You will do a lot of work, but you will never get the gold.

Josh Beckner | The Criterion

That is essentially what many people do when they go to the gym. They dress in exercise clothes, go to the gym and workout multiple times a week. And right when the burn sets in, right when it gets difficult, they head off to shower and change.

It’s not what you do up to the point that it gets uncomfortable that will help you reach your goals. It’s what you do after the burn sets in that matters most. Without that challenge, there is no change. Without change, you are just pointlessly getting sweaty.

It isn’t comfortable to keep pushing when your heart is racing, your pulse is pounding and your muscles are burning. But if you go to the gym to be comfortable, you need to rethink your decision making process.

It’s supposed to be hard. Almost everything worth attaining in life is going to require hard work. Why would the gym be any different?

When anything in life gets hard, the defining mark of successful people is the drive to keep moving forward. Refusing to stop just because it’s difficult will make you a winner, both in life and in the gym.

A key to keep pushing when it gets really hard is to focus on your goals. Hold on to the intrinsic motivation for being in the gym in the first place. Embrace the burn and the difficulty because that is the path to goal achievement.

Self talk becomes huge at these times. Talk to yourself and make a contract with yourself to go for one more second, one more rep. When you accomplish that, make another contract for another second or another rep.

Keep making the small contracts and fulfilling them until you have reached the end of a really intense workout. Doing so, you will find new levels of fitness and you will reach your goals. The more you put in, the more you will get back.

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Chris DeLeon
Chris DeLeon is The Criterion's news editor for the 2017/2018 academic year and a certified personal trainer and military veteran. He is in his second year at CMU, working towards a bachelor of science degree in exercise science before going towards a doctorate in physical therapy. Chris began writing seven years ago but recently brought his love of the written word to journalism.

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