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As a coach, I hear this all the time.

"I'm doing X,Y,Z and I am not seeing any progress."

Beginners first entering the gym will see progress from just picking up a dumbbell - an untrained body responds remarkably fast, and you are guaranteed a decent rate of muscle and strength development from relatively minimal efforts.

The sad part is that this will not last forever - hence the term 'newbie gains'. Once your body adapts to the initial demands of exercise, you will find yourself stall very quickly. Now is the time to get a bit more aggressive in your approach.

Training can be a very rewarding hobby, escape and pastime - but let's face it; the majority of people stepping foot into the gym come in for a reason, which can be rooted in aesthetics, performance or well-being. Clearly outline that reason, and figure out if what you are doing is actually conducive to your goal - this deserves a blog post in itself, so let's assume that you've got your 'WHY' and a rough idea of what you're doing.

Once that's out of the way, the question to ask yourself is:

"How am I doing it?

Here are three basic strategies that most skip because they feel like they are unnecessary - granted, when you've had a good three-year run at the gym and are more aware of your body, eventually these will fall away as fitness becomes ingrained into your lifestyle... but for now, consider these.


Record what you're doing. Every workout, every exercise, every set and every rep. The order of your exercises, how the exercise is performed - is there a tempo, are you going slow, fast, are you pausing, are you going to failure? Weights - are you just guessing the weights you've done last workout and trying to replicate them? The same goes for cardio-based workouts - your pace, your heart rate, your times... without an accurate, honest record of what you have done, there is no way just magically 'remember' all of these factors and conjure them up the next time you come to do the same workout.

Here are a couple of tools you can use:

A physical logbook -

Old school, sure, but this is the simplest way of doing it. Plus, there is something psychologically satisfying about writing the numbers in by hand. Not to mention that it ensures you against pesky notifications on your phone.

Strong App -

Probably the simplest app to use out there. There is not much flexibility when it comes to making notes about the execution of the movement, but the exercise database is pretty extensive and comes with demonstrations (some of which aren't the most helpful but remain a decent point of reference).

ErgZone -

For those into their cardio (particularly rowers, SkiErgs and bikes) - amazing tracker and pacer for interval-based training. Comes with a bunch of workouts and free plans as well.


Nothing beats a good spreadsheet. Here, you can let your imagination go wild - play around with setting up your own logbook, or drop me an email if you're interested in a more in-depth, guided programme. Here, everything is accounted for - the movement, the video tutorial, the tempo, any adjustments to the movement (e.g. wedge elevation for squats) and so on, so forth.


Depending on your starting point, weight loss as a concept is fairly easy. All you have to do is expend more than what you consume - and the good thing is, the more weight there is to lose, the easier it will be... at the start. So - you've made all the small changes and substitutions (e.g. omitting regular soda for their sugar-free counterparts or reducing the amount of take-aways), and made good progress. But now... these small changes seemed to have stopped working their simple magic. What now?

Much like with training, it's time to get more aggressive and get a real grasp on what you're putting in. Eyeballing, 'guesstimating' and pulling numbers out of thin air won't get you far, but instead just prolong frustration and confusion. Yes, weighing out food raw is annoying. Yes, putting it into a tracker is even more annoying and tedious. You know what's even more annoying and tedious?

Throwing the kitchen sink at your body in the gym day after day only to stand in the mirror and observe no change for weeks on end. So do yourself a favour, and take back control over what you're actually consuming...

Food diary -

Old school, easy, quick. You'll have to manually sit down and work out the calories of everything which leaves a lot of room for error; but if you're on the go a lot during the day and don't have time to faff about with a barcode scanner and thousands of database entries, this is an option.

MyFitnessPal -

Fairly user-friendly, gives you the basic metrics (carbs, fats and protein) and is generally quite versatile (especially if you ignore the calorie goals it will try and set for you as they are clearly intended for twelve-year-old children not working, active adults). The database has quite a few entries that are wrong, so you may have to double-check the with the item's label.

NutraCheck -

MyFitnessPal's slightly more upscale UK cousin. It's not free, but the database has fewer erroneous entries and is UK-oriented.


You don't need a super-advanced, expensive Garmin for this. Your phone will do a good enough job, and is probably already doing it in the background as you move with it in your pocket.

The gym is only an hour of your day - on a good week, let's say you've gone four days. That's four hours total - and the week has a whole lot more hours than that. Do you know what you're doing during all of those hours? Are you in an active job, or are you largely sedentary? What are you steps looking like? Every thousand steps can burn anywhere from twenty to fifty calories depending on your size, weight, age and gender; it's a fairly easy, low-impact way of keeping active both for health and weight loss reasons.

Have a look in your phone's settings, and see if you can find the statistics about that. Or, alternatively, purchase a tracker.

Fitbit Inspire -

Easy, budget-friendly and gives you your basic metrics.


There is a LOT of data to be extrapolated and tracked from the human body. Endless numbers and endless metrics its very easy to get lost in to the point of neuroticism. If you are prone to fixation, maybe this isn't the approach for you. However, if you are able to view these numbers objectively, they can be very powerful tools in making a real change in your body composition.

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