More importantly, why are you doing it?
Very frequently exercise discussions turn ugly and people get defensive, but this only seems to happen when people feel that the way they spend their time in the gym is being questioned. Before you get upset, do you question it yourself?
What I mean by this is, why do you do what you do, in the gym? Is your exercise supporting your goal? If your goal is to compete in an iron man triathlon, your time might be well spent practicing swimming, biking and running, in various lengths and environments. Training your 1 rep max deadlift or clean and jerk aren’t a terrible idea, but probably aren’t serving the ironman triathlete well in supporting their goal. On the other side of the coin, plugging in a 5k run everyday isn’t going to help someone increase their powerlifting or olympic total (or help with runs that are any length other than 5k). These are obviously only 2 simple examples.
When you tell me today is “chest and arms” day, unless you’re in a body building program, I don’t know what goal you’re working toward. Tell me what your goal is and we will evaluate whether or not you are effectively working towards achieving it. Simply spending time “doing the machines” or plugging away on the elliptical aren’t an efficient way to work toward your goals.
Always keep in mind the stimulus your training is putting on your body. Your body and its cells don’t know that you want to “get lean” any better than it knows that you want to “bulk up”. The only way to tell your body what you’re trying to do is to provide the appropriate stimulus and environment toward that goal.
As far as the exercise side of this equation goes, it isn’t a new idea that the good stuff of exercise is in the intensity. By intensity I mean YOUR intensity, because some very stupid workouts could be considered “intense”. I’m talking about the intensity directed at an appropriate stimulus. Whether it’s the intensity of a heavy squat, the intensity of the last 500 meters of a 10k trail run or the last round of Fran, it’s putting effort into something you know is going to be difficult. It’s that intense effort that tells your body “next time it’s going to be heavier/shorter/faster”. And in return, your body will respond to that stimulus and you improve.
So, you can’t get upset if you aren’t reaching your goals when the exercise you’re doing does not effectively direct you toward achieving them. Have a plan. Make sure it effectively supports your goal and then stick to it. I believe it is Dan John who said, “the plan is to keep the plan the plan”.
Simple? Yes. Easy? No. But anything worth having is worth working for.