How long will it take to see results?
The world today is so fast paced that we’re not happy waiting and we’ve got ever more impatient. For me, if my computer doesn’t work fast enough, I start shouting at it (like that will do anything!), but relate that to fitness goals and a lot of people if they’re not seeing the results fast enough, just give up and move on to the next thing. So, how long should you keep up a routine in order to reach that goal you set yourself?
Everywhere you look on social media, you see before and after shots, showing people’s progress over varying periods of time, you see celebs who’ve got their pre-baby body back in record time, and you see headlines like “get your bikini body in 14 days” or “drop a dress size in just a month”. It’s not hard to feel like you need to rush things and that these things are totally do-able.
But I’m here to say, don’t rush it and don’t set yourself unrealistic goals like these. As a rule, if you can lose it quickly, you can put it back on just as quick, if not quicker, so don’t believe the hype of many of these headlines. Yes, you could starve yourself for the month before your holiday (I certainly don’t recommend btw) to look great in your new bikini, but surely you want to keep that body afterwards and ultimately keep yourself healthy, yes? So, what you need to think about is the long term and doing something that’s going to give you sustainable results and ones that don’t make you ill!
So what is realistic in terms of weight loss?
With a new workout and healthy eating regime you can generally expect to lose between 1-2lbs a week. You may lose more during the first few weeks depending on how drastically you’ve changed your routine and what your size was initially. The larger you are, the more weight you’ll likely lose in those initial stages. The weight loss does plateau once your body has got used to the change though, so don’t get disheartened if you’re not shedding the pounds as quickly after those first few weeks. And I hope it goes without saying - don't compare yourself to others. Everyone is built differently, so one person's journey will be entirely different to your own.
But weight loss isn’t my goal
Not everyone is looking for a different number on the scales. Some fitness goals are around improved flexibility, strength, endurance, toning etc but it’s going to take at least a month of consistent work to see any physical changes.
In terms of strength, it will take about 4-6 weeks to build the muscle fibres, if you’ve been appropriately challenging them. Women can expect to put on up to a pound a month in muscle – we’re never going to end up looking like Arnie, purely down to our low testosterone, so don’t worry about that
Changes in muscle tone will improve the way your body looks and how you feel about it, so have a think about whether ‘losing weight' is actually the best goal to go for.
With flexibility, some of it’s down to what you’re born with, but doing something like a yoga or Pilates session a week or a few 15 min stretching sessions a week and you’ll be feeling increased mobility after about 4 weeks. To see the bigger changes you’re looking at over 12 weeks.
Endurance – I trained for a half marathon from a fairly standing start (I’m more a strength person than cardio!) and the first few weeks were slow going, but by doing interval training and gradually changing the intervals I was feeling like a much better runner and going for much longer runs in just a few weeks, so you can see the improvements fairly quickly here.
What can I do to help myself?
As mentioned – consistency is key. Get into the routine and it’ll quickly become habit. Don’t chop and change too frequently, as your body won’t respond well.
Be realistic - don’t start an exercise and healthy eating routine expecting the earth within 4 weeks, as you’ll be disappointed. You'll start to see benefits such as improved sleep, better mood, more energy etc fairly quickly, but the real change takes time.
Don’t go full pelt - There’s no need to do marathon workouts every day. Your body needs to rest and the muscles need time to repair, so make sure you spread out your workouts and don’t over train.
Add in some high intensity - Just doing gentle cardio isn’t going to get you the results you need very quickly, so make sure you mix it up with some high intensity workouts to fire up your metabolism. High intensity is different for everyone, so don’t be scared by the words – you just need to be working to 80% of your maximum heart rate (basically to the point where you’re finding it difficult and feel like quitting, but have that little extra power to keep going). Plus high intensity isn't the same as high impact so don't worry about having to jump loads!
Get some balance - Make sure you’re not just doing exercise or not just doing the healthy eating – you need both to succeed at this!
In summary, relax, and give yourself time. Keep up the good work, stay consistent and patient and your hard work will pay off!
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